Walk, Annie, acorn, coffee, chit chat

On a hot summer Saturday I took to the streets of Clifton, trying to walk out my woes. At one point during this pandemic, my pastor David Meredith suggested stomping out my anger on a walk. But it was in the high 80s, so stomping seems hard.

I head to the park near my house – Burnet Woods. This gem (and sometimes misunderstood) of a green space has been a real gift during the pandemic.

The shade of the giant trees felt like a reward after my climb up the hill to the bandstand area. Trees surround this gorgeous structure and last summer was home to Wednesday evening concerts. Kids would run and play while adults danced, toe tapped and socialized.

bandstand in park

The Burnet Woods bandstand.

In early August, acorns are already falling. I stop to breathe and think about how Eddie and I would bring the boys here when they were toddlers. They loved picking up acorns and putting them in their wagon. The day of Calvin’s fateful but life-saving MRI, we did this walk to distract him and ourselves, I suspect.

Now we’re all dealing with COVID and things often feel hard and uncertain. I pick up an acorn and think, ‘Calvin is now ok. It will be ok.’ Certainly the days and months to follow were a series of highs and lows as he navigated brain surgery, chemo and recovery but he’s almost 11 now, healthy and happy.

I held an acorn and felt better. So, this is where I end my story with some advice that I know we’ll all get through this, yada yada yada but I’m not wired that way.

kids in wagon

The wagon days. I miss those little Justin Timberlake hats.

I walk down the hill back into the neighborhood. I see my friend Annie in her car and she pulls over. Annie emanates joy and comfort wherever she goes. Sure, she has her struggles but there’s something special and magical about her. She asked me how it was going and through my mask, I started to cry. It’s not like I forgot about the acorn and the wonder of Calvin but my problems didn’t leave in those 10 minutes. I’m not that Zen. But perhaps Annie is because standing in the hot sun, I feel better. Sometimes we just need to be heard and loved.

I walk to the local coffee shop and find my neighbor at the register. I often see this woman and her roommates walking her dog; during the shut down my entire neighborhood seemed to bond. We chatted and you know what, I felt great. Something had been restored.

Walk, acorn, Annie, tears, coffee, chit chat.

Maybe it’s my new mantra.

Stay safe friends.

Back with the books next time. 

Baking with Sarah Varon

We bought a lot of butter last week.

After reading Sara Varon’s delightful and touching graphic novel Bake Sale, the kids and I felt hungry for baked goods.

Varon’s book features Cupcake, owner of a bakery, and friend Eggplant. It’s a story about dreams, friendship and a lot of baking in Cupcake’s shop. Her illustrations are both charming and funny.


Eggplant and Cupcake inspired the Rush kids.

Calvin suggested we follow Varon’s recipes and it seemed like a good Saturday morning plan. Of course, Max and Calvin couldn’t agree on a recipe, so I let them each pick one. Max chose cupcakes and Calvin chose the brownies – both requiring a lot of butter.

We set out to Clifton Market to buy the ingredients. Before we left, we read the recipes and made a shopping list.


Calvin checks out the brownie recipe.


Max made our shopping list.

Baking with little kids is an adventure and I summoned my most yoga-like self as they cracked eggs and helped me measure. We started with the cupcakes.


Calvin tests the cupcake batter.

By the time we started mixing up the brownies, the kids lost interest but I carried on like the sugar addict I am.

The results were delicious. Max thought the cupcakes were best, Calvin liked the brownies. I think the cupcakes may have been my favorite.



We love this story and its adorable illustrations. Here are the recipes below:


Cupcake recipe.


These brownies us a lot of butter! Yummy.


Varon also has a recipe for peppermint brownies in the book.

I’m not the only blogger who has featured this book. Read Jama’s Alphabet Soup for a very charming description of this book.


Dreaming of Art

I’ll always be able to spot a Modigliani painting.

This is because I had an excellent elementary school art teacher. Betty Rhoades required us to name an artist before we were dismissed.

Amedo Modigliani was famous for long faces. Grandma Moses was an easy name to remember. Shel Silverstein drew funny pictures and wrote great stories.

Like Miss Rhoades, I have a secret agenda with my own kids. Hers was probably to make us into artistic environmentalists – we were only allowed to use one piece of tape when we wrapped our homemade Christmas presents.

One of mine is that I want Max and Calvin to have an appreciation for art. (And respect women, be good people……)

Here’s where writer and artist Jeanette Winter is a wonder.

I adore her. Her unique art and storytelling capture the lives of artists and their works. Some of her beautiful stories make me tear up.

Thanks to Henri’s Scissors, the story of Matisse with a focus on his late in life paper cut outs, my kids can spot and call out a Matisse any old day.

My Name is Georgia, Winter’s story about Georgia O’Keefe is a Max favorite. He loves that Georgia found and painted BONES in the dessert. After the reading the book he’s told me, “I want to be a painter too.”

I learned about Joseph Cornell through Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. He created beautiful scenes in boxes. When he was discovered children remained his favorite audience. At his shows, his boxes were hung so a child could see them. He also served his favorite snacks – Cherry Cola and brownies  – a detail my kids love.

About a year ago, I had the well-intentioned desire to create our own dream boxes. But sometimes, the craft gods don’t align and that day we didn’t get very far before other things captured my kid’s interests. I was left alone at the kitchen table with my own box.*

But sometimes, good parenting intentions stick when you don’t expect it. We were at the Contemporary Arts Center one day visiting the children’s UnMuseum. We spotted an artist’s work in playful boxes.

Max yelled, “Look! Those are DREAM Boxes!”

Soon after, Calvin got up in the middle of the night. As I tucked him back in, he pointed out his nightlight shining on a book, “It looks like Mr. Cornell’s dream box.”

I hope Miss Rhoades would be proud.

Miss Rhoades passed away last February. Read the obit about this cool, unique woman.

*Check out this blog post for a craft that did work.

Max learns a fine art from Curious George

Sometimes a tutorial from a first grader hits the spot.

Max perfected a childhood art form this summer. He revisited the book Curious George Learns to Count from 1 to 100 by H.A. Rey.

One of the pages gives step by step instructions on how to make a paper airplane.


Max went a little crazy with it.

Max and planes

Max and his planes.

Here’s a video of Max sharing his wisdom:

IMG_4702 from julia mace on Vimeo.