Category Archives: family

origin of love


the children made a book (we used blurb, which is what we use for all our photo books and krampuslauf yearbooks) this year for about twenty friends and family members as holiday gifts. it is the illustrated and handwritten lyrics to “origin of love” from “hedwig and the angry inch”. very lucky people got to have the children serenade them after they had opened their book. you might just want to put the song on spotify.


also, if you have the option to view in a two-page spread, it does look nicer.

now that everyone has received their books, we wanted to make the children’s effort available to everyone. we think they did a beautiful job. ben and i literally cried every time one of them “turned in” a drawing for the project. and claudia did a LOT of writing.


“origin of love” handwritten and illustrated by claudia and béla (PDF)

four new christmas stockings


late october or so, it occurred to me to make the big guys xmas stockings. almost simultaneously, i recognized my longstanding dissatisfaction with the knitted stockings i’d made béla and claudia when they’d first arrived, and decided to make new ones to match the boys’.

it did seem a pretty clear example of holiday mission creep, to want to make four entire new stockings by christmas when i had started around halloween. i did not get them all done. asa’s and béla’s were done. claudia’s was finished christmas eve day and was still damp enough from blocking that santa, worried that her gifts would block it out of shape, just left the stocking draped over her stack.

tucker’s stocking got cast on on xmas eve day, but only out of stubbornness. on christmas morning, he had gifts in a store-bought stocking from target chosen by our friend liz. i finished his stocking about a week ago, and it is out now still because some of his birthday gifts are in it.

asa’s stocking was first, fastest, and easiest.


it’s also the only one of the four blocked with the heel folded at the side; the name chart and octopus chart were both small enough that i doubled them and there is one on either side of the stocking. it’s the only one like that. (thus far.)


both big boys have a scottish military button on the loop at the top of their stocking.

béla did not have any single thing in particular that he wanted on his stocking, but was willing to choose from a number of suggestions, eventually going with the hattifatteners from the moomin books, which we are reading. i found this chart online, made for mittens, and it was a bear to make. but it came out so great.


it was, however, so long that, if i was basing the size of the new stocking’s on asa’s completed one, i now had no room for the name band. at least not on the front. so béla has a vertical name band on the back of his stocking.


he also has a tassle on his toe.


claudia was just too obvious — we had to make her a pink stocking with hoogah on it!! i say we because tucker was called into service to chart hoogah for me…


absolutely perfect.


the thing about tucker is, if you say “i want to make/do something for you, how would you like it to be?” he will give you a baffling and ambitious answer, but he will also be happy to foot part of the bill. he wanted a magpie — so, he charted a magpie.


his magpie also has another of the scottish military buttons i’d gotten, in its beak.

we were both of pretty strong mind that tucker’s stocking should be grey, and while all the other stockings had name bands bounded with black check, we felt just as strongly that tucker’s box needed to be more open. so it is.


he also wanted, on the foot of the stocking, a quote by mogwat the magpie from the book he is currently reading the children, perloo the bold. Of all challenges the greatest is to be yourself. tuck charted that too; he did not use any printed charted alphabet, he simply made it up on his own. there’s no way to get a photo of the entire quote, but trust me, it is lovely.

i am working on ben’s stocking now, i know what mine will be as well, and actually tucker and i are doing some research on something for his and asa’s daddy. i am sure that by the time those are finished, i will know who is next.


halloween (sort of) 2013

it has been a really long time since i posted here. nothing to say about it except that life got big, and our family got bigger. all is well.

this year, both claudia and béla wanted store bought costumes. béla, in fact, knew nothing about what he wanted to be EXCEPT that he wanted it to come from a store; claudia is very into monster high right now (sigh) and has used all her tooth fairy money (four so far) on those dolls.

she wanted a monster high costume, he eventually chose a ghostbusters costume (having just seen the movie in a hotel in richmond, virginia) and they enjoyed their dance school party, regular school party, and trick-or-treating.




tucker has been reading d’aulaires’ greek mythology to claudia since the summer. (béla wouldn’t sit for it.) and we convinced her that, even if she didn’t wear it anywhere, that we NEEDED to make her an athena costume. just for the sake of doing it. and for pictures.

so we did.

as my friend bryan said, “i’m not angry about war or happy about war, it’s just what i’m the goddess of, the end”.





so even though no one but her family saw her, we had our little goddess of war. plenty more photos available here.

crop rotation

i’m a big believer in making the empty space — even though empty space can be scary — for new things to come into your life. i think filling up life with so-so activities and so-so projects leads to a so-so creative life. still, sometimes there is work that is worth doing in the short term, and when the time comes to end it, digging the roots out, even though they may not be as deep as others, is a pain in the ass. 2012 was a lot about that for me.

naturally, one of the biggest things in me is writing. i’ve been doing more non-writing than i ever thought i would, but writing is still a primary impulse for me. however, much of the writing i have been doing in the last few years– much of it nonfiction and for parenting or cultural publications — has not been meaningful to me the way it had been when i was feeling out being a parent. my kids will turn five in 2013. they are not babies. they are not people i need to write about — at least not in articles, columns, not even much in blog posts. in fact, the world of parenting-writing, and adoptive parenting-writing-blogging-social-networking, wore me thin pretty fast. it’s just not my world. i’m a mother, but “being” a “mommy” is just not one of my “hats” (and i really smirk at that whole hat-wearing analogy).

i had tried it before, but i knew it was finally time — for real — to stop writing regularly for korean quarterly. all the columns i wrote there — a series entitled “creation myth” — used to be on this site as a separate page, but i have taken that page down as well. it’s not part of where my head is now and i don’t think of it as having much to do with my creative body of work, although it was certainly important to my early parenting process. the pieces themselves are still available through korean quarterly’s back issues, and anyone who wants to read them should buy the back issues through KQ directly. i am grateful that they were as well-received as they were. i’m grateful for my continued relationship with the KQ family.

ceasing to report, in print, about my kids and my family and how i felt about parenting — in a balanced, nonfictional way — had immediate benefits. it got me writing about a lot of other things in a deeper way. a scarier way. a more savage way. and to be honest, a more truthful way. this does not mean that i have no plans to write some nonfiction work in relation to parenting, ever again. there are irons in the fire where that is concerned. but they are fewer, and much heftier, irons than the work i’ve done so far. and i’m glad i’m on the handle-side of them.

but i’m really trying to keep the writing a fully creative outlet.  i’m already involved in one of “the year’s coolest literary magazine innovations” (as previously reported earlier in the year).

and although it only began in 2012, i petered out before the year was over as a crafts editor for InCultureParent magazine. i knew i was stretching it thin. i knew i’d want to use that craft-ingenuity (such as it is) for krampus stuff, just as i knew i wanted to use all my writing mind for fiction. i did what i could. and then i stopped. and not having to come up with crafts on the calendar has allowed me the freedom to stew for the festival that i use to work through my own monsters, and and i am gratified when it does something for others. i hope it continues to.

here's our krampuslauf family, by the amazing len peralta.

here’s our krampuslauf family, by the amazing len peralta.

and speaking of that “krampus stuff”. after krampuslauf in 2011, i was sure that i had found something that mattered to me enough to continue with — something that was now part of my calling, my job, whatever it is that i do and am. and i felt even more sure about that in 2012. the needlework i do this year may be 90% related to krampuslauf.

the other change that was made was that i needed to change the conditions under which i continued to grow in my spiritual korean drumming practice. again, 2012 was when the epiphany happened, and again, in the form of “i can’t contribute to this group project any more, i need to do something for just me.” i know — what a pain in the ass, right?

except it got me drumming. and things are moving ahead in a new way. i can’t make this a new year’s post if i wait to write about that until i’m ready to do so, but i’m very satisfied. there will be more to come.

2013 could be a very interesting year. my meditation:

on the day after new year’s i took claudia to the hair salon and found boy george heralded as a “legend” in the year-end issue of OUT magazine. we all know how i feel about boy george. this quote from him took me back thirty years — to the real beginning of me:

“If you go back to the beginning, part of my whole plan was to create this universal family of disenfranchised people…. It wasn’t just about sexuality, it was about anyone who felt odd.”

having kids spreads you thin. it — or people — can make you believe that, to do it right, you need to lose some of your edge. i’ve seen folks lose themselves entirely, and i’ve seen people scramble to get that edge back, or pretend that losing it hasn’t happened. i had to make the changes i made, when i made them, to accommodate for my own evolution. but the shape of things has changed again. there is a lot i’ve taken back. and the ground is very fertile.

halloween costume preview 2012: ozma of oz and jack pumpkinhead

as you may recall, last year was an oz halloween as well. the kids were, at that time, very interested in the old MGM film, which, while i think it’s fine, has never really fostered much in my imagination.

but the kids received all the oz novels for christmas last year (as well as an oz-themed tarot deck) and they have spent all year having these read to them. what trippy books these are! i think they are on the tenth out of fourteen.

by may of this year, béla was sure he wanted to be jack pumpkinhead. claudia initially wanted to be general jinjur (a girl who commands an army of other little girls armed with knitting needles; i had started to work out a kind of janet jackson “rhythm nation”-inspired costume) but then switched to princess ozma, a princess who began her journey in the oz novels as a little boy named tip. yes. a transgender character of childrens’ literature. (sort of. and not all that self-directed. but still.)

here’s ozma as per one of the books’ original illustrations.

and here’s claudiozma.

i made the dress, which was a real skill-builder for me. godets (which almost got hemmed out of existence.) box pleats. lots of ruffles. a lot of being hunched over on the studio floor listening to steely dan, that’s what ozma’s gown is for me.

ben made the scepter and the crown, and did an amazing job.

here’s the original jack pumpkinhead and his friend the sawhorse.

and here’s jack, being a little crunk at FDR park. with sawhorse behind him.

we had to make a sock/shoe color switch. seriously, no turquoise chucks in kids’ sizes? i made the jack head, and ben made the harness that keeps it on (which is pretty ingenious, although this is still not the most carefree béla’s ever been in a costume. now that i think of it, he’s never really very thrilled to have anything on his face or head, but that’s kind of the name of the game). ben also made the sawhorse, who obviously cannot be dragged along trick or treating. but he’s great for photos and is probably going to be in béla’s room for a good long time.

now that the pictures are taken, the kids can put their costumes on for trick or treating with their classmates on wednesday, and i don’t really have to care what happens to them now (the costumes, that is).

i’m certainly very happy with these and so are my boy and girl.

the scariest things ever (and how i passed the first of them onto my son)

here is the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me:


i remember the first time i saw this on prime-time tv, at home one evening with my dad. i was, i guess, eight. i remember watching it in actual horror, and then looking immediately to my dad, who looked — well, impressed, i guess is one way to put it.

at that point, i had watched a lot of things that kids younger than me would not have tolerated. i had been a big fan of kolshak: the night stalker and loved the spookiest halloween things, never going for princess, clown, or hobo (can you imagine kids today dressed as hobos or clowns for halloween? my god, i think kids were still dressing as COWBOYS sometimes when i was a kid!).

anyway — i don’t think anyone would have guessed that evening how wretchedly all-encompassing that clip would become to me over the next few months. i had never known fear like that before. the poster for the movie was at the mall; i had to work to avoid it. the new editions of the paperback novel with the movie tie-in covers were in bookstores; i had to avoid those. every evening i had to sit in front of the TV with an afghan at the ready, and any time a show went to commercial, i had to get the afghan over my head AND get my ears plugged.

my charlie mc carthy doll, whom i had had for years and for whom i had never felt anything but affection, was put away indefinitely.

eventually, i got over it all. i reclaimed charlie with the hopes of passing him on to my children (check!). in my late teens, while babysitting, i rented magic and watched it on my own. it’s a good movie; i’d call it underrated. vent figures are fertile territory for terror, but i haven’t seen it done any better than this.

so a few weekends ago we were in asbury park for the zombie walk.
and there were literally thousands of terrifying, live beings all around us. béla had one brief dance with terror during this day — very brief, but loud — when his own fudge-fueled tantrum coincided with the appearance of a very elaborately costumed glow-eyed skeleton thing, and i suggested that it was a constable of sorts, checking out misbehaving children. whoever was inside the costume went along with this idea more than béla would have liked him to. but really, it was a blip in the day.

so who would have guessed, that an innocent — and APPROVED, at the time, by béla — purchase of an asbury park tillie shirt:

would turn into the scariest thing about a day when we were literally surrounded by fifteen thousand of the undead?

who would have guessed? — well, why wasn’t it ME who guessed?

i tried to put the tillie tee out for b.’s clothes the day we got back from asbury park. he balked, asking to instead wear his bloodspattered monroeville mall shirt. i said he couldn’t wear that to school — tillie was nice, and school-friendly, didn’t he want to just wear tillie?


he continued to sulk about tillie, but only when i asked why he hadn’t worn it yet. offering to buy him a packet of snickers pumpkins IF he wore the shirt almost worked. but he continued to hold his ground. i’d take it out; he’d say no; i’d put it back.

until this morning, when he wouldn’t even open his drawer to get ANY shirt out, for fear of seeing tillie.

now i knew where we were. i just couldn’t believe i had so unwittingly bought us the ticket.

when b. got home from school i told him i had hidden the tillie shirt and that he wouldn’t have to see it anymore. he was happy that i had tried to save him from the shirt, but this “hidden” thing… he had to know exactly where it was. so i told him. he wanted it further away than that.

claudia, with a cheery machiavellian equanimity, suggested that SHE just take ownership of the tillie t-shirt. it was all too easy to picture claudia, at two in the morning, wearing the tillie shirt and squatting at the foot of béla’s bed, willing him to awaken just so she could terrify the shit out of him. no claudia. you don’t get the tillie shirt.

we talked, at dinner, and i told them the story of the movie commercial that i had seen when i was little, and how afraid i had been of that puppet, and how much that puppet had reminded me of tillie. i told this story by way of apology, but neither of them were interested in my apology. they wanted details. WHAT did this puppet look like? show us. what was this VOICE you speak of? do the voice. is this on the computer?

obviously — or maybe not so obviously, since i AM the mother who sicced a skeleton on my son and bought him a terrifying grinning silkscreened rictus that made him unable to open his own bureau — i was not going to show them the clip from magic. and i did not show them the clip from magic.

there are a very limited number of things that have terrified me over the years. a surprising number of them were made in 1978 though. here is a clip from the tv movie “the mud monster”, which also nearly destroyed me (this is sometimes credited as being released in ’77). neither this film, nor this clip, have been retained very distinctly in my memory, but for the sake of history we should get this down.


1978 was also the year that this scared the shit out of me:


i still have a hard time watching that.

and although trilogy of terror was made in 1975, i didn’t see it until i was in my twenties and NEVER made it with my face uncovered to the end of this final scene until i was, well, forty. (if you want to skip to the meat of the thing, start at about nine minutes.)


that’s about it for film. and after all our talk about film at dinner, as we prepared to go to all hallow’s read at woodland cemetery tomorrow, béla scrutinized our offering — arthur machen’s the great god pan — and wanted to “see the pictures”.

but he still doesn’t want to see tillie.

and now i have this premonition of a thirty year-old béla, driving his luxury car to my house in the dead of night and trying to get in bed with ben and me, because he’s just finished reading the great god pan.

halloween season 2012

i think we’re getting the full measure of excitement, pleasure, hard work and anticipation from our halloween season this year. the kids, both of them four now, know what to anticipate, enjoy seeing our own family’s decor come out of the basement, and also enjoy the new things…

i mean, if you had a treadmill desk, you’d decorate it for halloween too! or at least, if you don’t have one, you don’t know that you wouldn’t.

the season kicked off early with our trip to asbury park for the 2012 zombie walk.

and i had the very personally fulfilling experience of seeing béla model my own halloween costume from 1974, which my mother made. i’ve saved it for thirty-eight years!! béla and i talked about this and he was excited to wear something that he saw me wearing when i was a four year-old.

we are all enjoying repeated viewings of the wine-tasting scene from roger corman’s “tales of terror”:

and the only disney movie i have EVER sought out with excitement — the legend of sleepy hollow, narrated by bing crosby:

in a couple weeks, we will do our halloween costume preview here! the sewing part is complete, but there is still a lot of engineering for both costumes, which is mostly ben’s department. anticipation is high!