search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

update on college/home life (long, as always.)

updated fri 13 oct 06


primalmommy on thu 12 oct 06

It's week 5 of the MFA. In Tuesday night's grad studio seminar, students
from various disciplines went from studio to studio, discussing each
others' work -- an incredibly useful, informative, and sometimes
bewildering experience.

When we talked about what we are learning, my self assessment was
uncharacteristically humble. I explained that, though I once considered
myself pretty accomplished, the new space, new clay, new glazes, new
goals, new standards, and instructions to forego my old rodeo tricks,
have taught me that I can't find my ass with both hands.

Another student looked up with similarly work-weary eyes, and said,
"YOU'RE using TWO hands?"

The other highlight of my week was something I overheard, walking into
the MFA studio. (The generous profs gave up their roomy, well lit office
space to cram desks into a little entryway, so the MFA students could
have the big room.)

I had been making and scrapping pots and making more, cutting off parts
of pots I liked to leave on my table as a visual reminder, and making
lots of pots in the EMU studio and my own, to bring in for crits. Many
-- OK, most -- were discussed as interesting learning experiences, with
a seed of idea, but deemed unworthy of the kiln. So when I heard Diana
and Lee at my table, raving over something lovely that should be fired,
I puffed myself up and elbowed in to see what had passed muster.

Turns out it was my scrap pile. I had cut the rim off of one pot, tossed
a few trimmings in the middle of it, and then picked it up to dump it in
the slop before getting interrupted and putting it down.

They knew it was my scrap pile, but pointed out the accidental
loveliness, elements of un-plannedness, un-sketchedness, un-carefulness,
un-fussiness, un-controlledness and un-all that other stuff they are
trying to beat out of me ;0)

It was hilarious. It's in the bisque now as a reminder. "Honey, guess
what? I made something that got a good review!"

Don't get me wrong -- Diana is all about form, form and form. She's not
the type to encourage students to make conceptual work or write flowery
statements about a lump of s'crap. There was just something about the
undulating boat-shaped rim, and the randomness of its fillings, that she
wanted me to see, so I could loosen up and allow for the occasional
happy accident in my work. She is amazed that I am a tight, controlled
thrower, as it seems to ill suit my personality.

I have to admit that while I feel the challenges of the MFA are not
insurmountable, I am quickly losing my sister-mary-sunshine predictions
about how smoothly things would go at home. After five weeks the wheels
have begun to come off the wagon. Household duties neglected for five
weeks begin to pile up. My kids are so over the novelty of this new
routine, and just want me home. Three nights a week I am in Michigan for
dinner... one night a week I am teaching at the guild to pay my tuition.
We have never missed family dinners together, not since they were old
enough to sit at the table and rub peas into their hair. So this is new,
and they are weary of it.

Homeschooling done on Tuesday at Grandma's is generally on the "Cat's
away" plan, rushed through because Grandma has air hockey and a pool
table and lets them eat Froot-Loops and watch cartoons and play nintendo
until their eyeballs fall out of their heads. I end up on Wednesday
mornings playing catch-up for Monday and Tuesday, trying to get
everybody back on track before I'm back on the highway headed for
Wednesday night class. Plus there's laundry, bills, meals, appointments,
and whatever else my truly helpful and hardworking hubby can't wedge in
after work -- as he runs kids to Tae Kwon Do, scouts, gymnastics and
lego robotics, negotiating their suppers and showers and details.

Molly now follows me around the house all day long, carrying her
homeschooling to wherever I am so she can be nearby. I made her a
calendar but she asks almost daily, "Are you going to be home tonight?

So I keep readjusting my approach. I made a new rule that school work
not done well on Tuesdays will be made up on Saturday mornings. I have
started getting the crew up at 8 for a big sit down breakfast with mom,
so we can talk and enjoy each other, and then all get our school work
done before lunch. We have always had a chore chart with little ring
tags to flip, but now jobs well done without reminders are points toward
"screen time" -- (limited amounts of educational CDs/games/programs
during the week, and brain candy/nintendo/game boy on weekends.) The
chore chart is on my website, -- (somebody always
asks). Don't look at the pots.

My next project will involve a thin board on the closet wall for each
kid, with seven clothes pins screwed to it -- M-T-W-Th-F-S-S. One pair
of clean matched socks per kid per day, to be sorted and "loaded" on
Sundays. My kids put on and take off socks all day long, and I find them
under couch cushions, on book shelves, under the computer, under the
piano, everywhere. Then when it's time to go to gym class nobody can
find a pair. I suppose before long I will have to hang up our little
clothespin-board for clipping mittens by the back door, too.

I am realizing that I organized my life so that I could divide my time
between my own schooling and the kids' schooling. What I didn't do is
allow any wiggle room -- "what the heck, let's go pick apples today"
room -- spontaneous picnics and art projects -- lie in the papa san
chair and read together time... nor did I consider the time I usually
spend on birthdays (Tyler was 13 on Monday, Connor's 11 in November)
home made halloween costumes, house projects, grown up social life and
mommy's sit-quietly-and-just-breathe moments. The bread oven in the yard
is collecting spider webs.

Two years, Jeff keeps saying. You can do anything for two years. But
then Molly looks at me with her big bambi eyes and asks if she can sleep
with my pillow at night because it smells like me... and I think about
how long two years can be when you're a third grader.

Readjustment, that's all. I'm home with my kids every morning but one, I
do half my work in a studio fifty yards from my house, and we're all
pretty lucky. It's just hard for me to remember that. I am the classic
firstborn, needing to be good at everything. I have to be a good
student, a good potter. But then mommy guilt makes me overcompensate by
trying to be super-mom as well. I gave up chickens, garden and a few
committees but I'm looking around for other things I can jettison to get
more altitude. (The kids are not an option.)

After we put a chimney on the salt kiln and chained up the new tanks on
Tuesday, Diana made us all omelettes at her house for lunch. When I told
her I hadn't made or canned the winter's applesauce yet this year, she
looked at me like I was nuts. Oh, yeah, I think. I can buy it at the
store. For two years.

When I worried aloud, last weekend at the women's campout, that Jeff's
suppers -- grilled cheese, hot dogs, french toast, and pizza -- are not
too nutritious for the kids, I was almost laughed out of the fire ring
by a couple of women friends who described family dinners as "throwing
the bag of french fries over the back seat at the kids". When I told
them that some homeschoolers have been critical of my decision to go
back to school and "abandon my kids", they told me to get real. One had
her kids in day care from six weeks old, and the rest described
schedules where the only conversations happen in the car on the way to
after school activities -- with a kid engaged with ipod, cell phone, and
game boy.

So I am blessed by reality checks all around. My profs have not showed
up at my house to crit the unmopped kitchen floor and my boys are
enjoying their grown up responsibilities and independence.

Now if I could just get Molly off my ankle... ;0)


Kelly in to bed. Breakfast is at 8, scrambled eggs, grits,
bacon, fruit, yogurt, and juice.

Get the Free email that has everyone talking at
Unlimited Email Storage – POP3 – Calendar – SMS – Translator – Much More!