Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adventures in Baby Sitting

I kept my first visit with Ruth short since I knew my sister, Carol, was waiting downstairs to come up. When I found myself alone with her two very energetic kids, ten and eight years old, I asked them if they would pose for a portrait. They agreed and then fought each other as they climbed into the same chair. They posed for maybe five minutes. Anna tried to keep a wide-mouthed smile on her face the whole time. She soon lost patience and decided she wanted to paint as well. I let her use my palette and one of my brushes and soon all three of us were busy painting. I continued to work on my painting as they worked. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of their eyes or the gentle curl of their hair and I would add it. Kristen did a silly drawing of me with an oval head and a big hooked nose.

Perhaps an hour later, Carol came back down thinking I would be at my wits' end. Anna said, "Don't worry mom, we are having fun. Why don't you go back up?" Babysitting my nieces turned out to be quite fun, perhaps parenting isn't the distracting challenge I always thought it would be.
The next day I watched my nieces at my stepmom's place while Carol drove to the hospital to visit mom a second time. Once again, they took to painting like fish to water. I sketched Anna as she worked on a painting of Reeses, the family dog. She also did a painting of me, and from her sketch, I am one scary looking uncle.

We later decided to go for a hike around the small frozen lake my stepmom's house is next to. I devised a way to keep Kristen's sneakers from getting wet using grocery bags and two bungee cords from the back of my truck. The bungee chords acted as suspenders for the bags. I think she got a kick out of wearing them. The kids ran the whole time through the three inches of snow. Anna kept falling every time she ran. I kept warning her to slow down, but she just kept falling. I finally gave up telling her, since she never seemed to get hurt, and just got back up and started running again. Anna then did the one thing Carol had warned me not to let her so, she ran out onto the frozen lake. My heart stopped. I had no idea how thick the ice was, and it was warm out, with small puddles of slush all around her. I screamed for her to stop and walk right back the way she had gone out. I couldn't go out after her since we might both crash through. She just giggled willfully, but then I told her we would have to all go back in the house if she didn't get off the ice. I also told her that if the ice broke, I might not be able to get her out before she froze to death. She finally came back to the shore.

I decided we could continue the hike, but when we came to a small frozen stream that fed the lake, Anna once again stomped out onto the ice. Just as I caught up to her, and started to demand that she get off, her foot crashed through and her leg got wet up to her mid-calf. I think this lesson might stay with her. This time we all went straight back to the house, where I had Anna change out of her wet pants and we placed them near a radiator to dry off. Our walk ended with a rousing snowball fight. I don't think I won since it was always two against one. I also think I will leave parenting to parents.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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