So a Spider and Alien Went to the Hospital

Photo Jul 14, 7 24 03 PMThe hospital. Why is it a massive cow? I don’t know.

Photo Jul 14, 7 25 29 PM“This is a sew-er. It’s not for sewing up shirts or anything like that. It’s for it’s for sewing up skin. I call it a Dragon’s Tooth.” – Miranda Grace

Photo Jul 14, 7 26 32 PMThe tools used to perform surgery on the Spider and Alien. “Alien’s nose needs to be sewed. Its nose is too big. Its nose holes are too big so the Tylenol drops into them. We don’t need Tylenol slurping in there…. This thing speeds the spider around and makes the animals very upset when the doctor takes it off.” – Real dialog from my kiddos.

Photo Jul 14, 7 23 53 PMThe two Doctors in action.

Atticus Arrives

967896_10104965202870509_452403013_n My son arrived about 36 hours ago. He is healthy, beautiful, and strong. I’m thankful and awed. A few hours after he came, I posted the following image and words: 10454386_10104960823950899_6612423471633883460_n “I nominate Atticus Garrett Ballou to eventually take awesome color pictures, or paint wonders, or write down glories, or sing high praises, or dream strange dreams, or tread with golden feet on far flung vistas, or wheel through the galaxy on spatiotemporal-controlling power… Or at the very least to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. 11/29/14, 3:01am”

My friend Frank (a great educator and thoughtful dad himself) commented, “With a name like Atticus, how can he help it?”

Well, here’s hoping that when my son reads about his namesake he will feel empowered. That we, as his parents, will believe that we’ve done something to impart the thread of grace and understanding that makes Atticus a worthy name to hold.

With a name like Atticus, how can we help it?


In the hours that have passed, I’ve had the chance to reflect on the epic person my wife is. I’ve now watched her through two pregnancies and one adoption (processes that are surprisingly equivalent and strenuous, believe me). She is someone who exudes a quality of character and force of will I’ve never had the chance to really know in anyone else. When Miranda was born, I got to see Alison’s movement through labor and delivery with eyes of terror and amazement. This weekend, however, I got to be a calmer, more aware viewer. I was much more keyed into what she needed and what she was doing. Seeing her come into full alignment with her body and her second-by-second progression through the final hours of pregnancy was inspirational. Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.52.29 PMAbove Left: Alison just toward the end of heavy labor, around 2am, less than an hour before Atticus was born. I was putting counter-pressure on her lower back and calling out the peaks and troughs of each contraction. Above Right: Alison, exhausted but calm, less than 5 minutes after giving birth. Often during labor she looked like this; totally within herself and focused on the event.


 …and just a minute or so later, Atticus got that precious skin-to-skin contact with his momma.


I was pleased to get some wonderful down time with the two of them after the delivery. We were, I think, able to enjoy that first day in a way we were too blown away to when we had Miranda or came home with CaiQun. Something tells me that ease will be a hallmark of our experience of Atticus. He’s such a relaxed yet alert baby. I think those qualities are something we are all hoping to manifest.


I got to draw a portrait of him in the early hours today. I love this first little document of looking at my boy. I hope you do, too.


Last, but not least, here are those new big sisters. They’re enjoying (and being generally confused by) their new baby brother. Glory. Thanksgiving.


Light Study

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Above are two studies of light effects I made last week while traveling to visit family. Left is from sunlight glare through a window onto a wall/ceiling in the Fine Arts Building. Right is from a tableau of multiple light beams through an empty PBR case. Click the image for a large version.

I almost always carry a special art-making case of paper, gouache, collage material, and colored pencils with me on vacations to visit family. Got some good stuff this time.

More later.

Remembering the Shapes and Textures of China

In just a few hours we’ll be leaving the People’s Republic of China. We are ready; home and friends and family call to us.

Right now, though, CaiQun sleeps nearby. She has no way of realizing how much her life will change. We don’t either. As I looked into her eyes tonight, giving her a final bed-time bottle in her native land, I thought about how rich and beautiful and strange and amazing her country of  birth is. We leave it, and hope to return. She is beginning an amazing journey. I’m priveledged to go on it with her, for at least this part.

As we depart China, I again make a post that features some (for me) lasting images of this Land. Two and a half weeks is certainly not enough time to really know much of anything about a country, but we will be forever changed by what we’ve seen, heard, felt, and known here. These images are just part of the rememberance I’ll take with me.

Enjoy. Click to enlarge. Visit China. Hear her sounds and see her sights. Love her people and acknowledge her history.

We’re a part of this world.


The Dragon Suit

She came to us in a dragon suit. I think we’ll keep this coat forever. Yeah, maybe Keith would say it’s a dinosaur suit, but this is China and thus dragon is more appropriate. Either way it’s awesome.

Note: the red dot on CaiQun’s forehead is a gesture wishing good luck to her in her new family. A touch for hope and peace.





First Firsts

First bottle as a Ballou, first nap as a Ballou. First totality as a Ballou. Much more to come later on – from how she came to us dressed like a dragon to how new sisters shared snacks. All in time. We are napping now. :)



Working It Out

There’s my daughter Miranda doing some complex equations on the chalkboard. She’s working out something profound there.

I’ve been trying to work things out, too. We’ve got a new daughter in China – Madeleine Cai Qun. We just found out yesterday. I’ve been thinking about it, trying to work out how it feels this time – this time being a dad. In some ways – between all the different sorts of work that I do, and trying to be a good dad, and trying to be a good husband – I often don’t know how I feel. My mind is usually full of research, various readings, lesson prep for 4+ classes, a whole range of concerns with my graduate students, community projects, church stuff, family stuff, house maintenance stuff, following up with friends stuff, the logistics of just being-where-I’m-supposed-to-be-when-I’m-supposed-to-be-there, and on and on… Often I don’t know what I feel or if I feel things at the proper proportion because I’m not being reflective enough – not being present enough, really – to have full awareness.

I know this is a season of my life and I know it’ll pass. But when I think about Madeleine and Miranda and Alison, I want to be totally clear.

When I see Cai Qun’s arm raised – little Madeleine Cai Qun Ballou – I’m perfectly clear. Let’s go get her now. I’m ready. I want to be her dad RIGHT NOW.

I guess that’s all I feel: let’s get this flight planned and the paperwork filed and roll. It’s transition time. It’s life-change time. I thank God for my awesome wife who has had the passion, dedication, intelligence, and intensity to follow through and pull this off. This is the sort of adventure we looked forward to a decade ago when we decided to get married. We never knew the specific character of the challenges or what particular form the dreams would take, but we worked it out. Sovereign movements indistinguishable from chance and incomprehensible without faith.

In Which We Sat In Captain Picard’s Chair!

Last Saturday we traveled to the Saint Louis Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. It was worth it just to sit in Captain Picard‘s chair!

The Center itself is also really interesting – Miranda was enthralled! Here she is looking down on the traffic below through windows in the floor of a bridge…

And here’s how much it would cost to send her into space!

There she is, peeking around the limb of Mars!

It was a super fun family day – and Miranda has been shouting “ENGAGE!” ever since…

Making My Work Mean So Much More

My wife, Alison, and I are beginning the process for an international adoption. It’s something we’ve thought about for a long time and something we’re excited about.

Above: me and my daughter drawing. 

There are a lot of reasons we’re interested in this and there are a lot of logistics and options to consider. There’s tens of thousands of dollars to raise, most of which we don’t have just laying around. My wife is much more skilled than I am at holding all of these different issues in mind. She’s able to plan and strategize at a level that I can’t really even understand. So in the midst of this process I really just want to be able to DO something, to add something to it, to help make it happen. 

As I think about this huge thing we’re getting into, I really just want to make sure that one of the other huge things in my life – my art-making – plays some role. I want to make my work mean more than perhaps it would on its own, more than it would do just hanging on a wall. I want my work to actually do something about the nearly 150 million orphans in the world. If, by some miracle, my artworks could help us bring one or two kids to a life of love and intentional care, then I want to do whatever I can to cause that to happen.

Above: Seven Mandalas for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings, #5. One of the pieces for sale to help fund our adoption. My daughter Miranda helped me make this one.

So I’ve opened up a little etsy shop that features about 50 different artworks, with more to come. My hope is that I can have these works – images that I love and worked very hard to craft – become part of the means by which Alison and I do a different kind of work in the world… something that can make all the difference to a child who needs a mom and dad. 

If you resonate with this sort of thing, I hope you’ll consider going to my etsy shop and purchasing a work. If you don’t see anything there you’re interested in, please check out my flickr and my main website as some of those works are still available as well; I’d be happy to hear from anyone who’s interested in any of the works.