Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Take two, they're small.

I dropped off my daughter this morning at dance camp and asked about the skirt I made for her. Is it the right fit? Is this like the others? Is it the right length? At that point, the teacher asked me, "You MADE that?" Yes. "Did you make it last night?" No. I made it this morning in about 20 minutes.

Now, this is just a circle panel skirt in a fabric that doesn't need to be hemmed. There is no seam. The only sewing was attaching a waistband. It took me longer to research and ask people about it than it did to just sit down and do it.

$9 worth of fabric. Retail - these skirts go for $32.

The director came in and asked me about doing seamstress work for her and some other people.

This is my blessing... my curse (as Monk would say) :o)

I seem to collect jobs. At any given time I have two or three of them at a time.

Because of my shiny object syndrome (SOS, if you'll remember), my interests are varied - as are my jobs.

Earlier in my blog posting I hinted to listing some of the jobs I've had. It's important to note that I've never been fired or asked to leave a job. My average time on a job is 2 years (or a little more). I started working when I was 15 and desperate for my own money.

My first job was working with ODU's Annual Giving Dept. This was basic stuff - filing, organizing, etc. Real "no brainer" activity. Closer to home, I decided to get a job at McDonalds. That lasted about 4 weeks before I broke my foot and could no longer work there. I had an "open toe" now and couldn't work with a cast for safety/health reasons. (A blessing in disguise, really.) I spent the rest of the summer doing cold-calls for Nationwide Insurance. BORING!

The next summer had me working as a hostess in a Japanese restaurant. Easy enough. I learned some basic Japanese, learned to tie an authentic obi and how to properly wear a kimono. I was even yelled at for wearing my hair down once. All of 17 and I had no idea that it meant I was "available". The Japanese businessmen were apparently interested. LOL A brief stint of modeling. It's really not as easy as it looks to sit and look vacant. :o)

I took my money and went cross-country to California. Wow. What a great time. One of many trips to the northern coast.

When I came back, I had another job lined up with ODU again in the Annual Giving/Development office. This is the office that does fundraising for the university and processes it. I was one of those processors (accounting assistants). I was so fast at data entry, we used to get calls from the computer department asking me to slow down because I was stacking commands so quickly that the mainframe was crashing. (I still type 160+ words a minute). That job came to an end when the governor (Wilder) started abolishing positions. My job had gone from Hourly to Classified and was now a "new position". All new positions were gotten rid of to save money. Thankfully, they put me in another. Unfortunately, it was one I hated with a passion - atheletics. This job lasted 6 months of me enduring sexual harrassment, verbal assaults - it was horrible. My supervisor was later fired (about 6 months after I left). I was the sixth assistant he had had in 2 years. Finally, someone took notice.

Okay, so after threats from Larry Leckonby that I'd never get another job on campus, I landed one with ODU Ballet (now non-existant but it was wonderful in its day and the only job I truly miss.) I was a theatre production assistant and did this for 2 years. I spent mornings working at a local talent agency organizing and afternoons and evenings at the ballet. It was great.

Then I found out I was pregnant and had no health insurance - neither did my husband so a friend of mine got me a job working at a nursing home as a computer specialist. Easy peazy. Slowly, I started doing less computer work and more patient care. Pregnancy took me out of the job and while on maternity leave, I was offered a job at my son's pediatrician's office as a medical technician. I did basic patient care three evenings a week.

Meanwhile, my trips to Botanical Gardens earned me a position as a paid docent. I spent mornings at the Gardens and evenings at the doc's office. I had a nanny for a brief time (an hour each day I worked) but then hubby changed his schedule so we just "tag team" parented. Mornings, I could either take him with me or my mother would watch him. Perfect.

Alas, Jake got sick... and he got sick because I brought home rotovirus. It was terrible. I put in my notice at work. I couldn't bear to think that I could bring him something worse.

Botanical Gardens worked out for about 4 years. I liked it but quickly grew tired of ill-mannered public schooled children. I went on my maternity leave early after having to break up a fist fight between kindergarteners and getting hit in the stomach while pregnant with my third child.

A friend called me with a job offer to work at Ritz Camera. I did this on and off for 6 years. I really liked working in the photo lab. Maybe it's the voyeur in me, I don't know. :o)

In between, I worked as a wine taster for Broudy Kantor (now National Distributing, I think.) and did a brief stint at J. L. Hammett (a teacher parent store) for the 30% off of books and supplies for homeschooling. They went out of business while I was on maternity leave with my second child and Broudy Kantor stopped having wine tastors after another company's employee drove home while intoxicated. (There's always someone who has to ruin a good thing for everyone else, huh?)

My same friend from Ritz eventually left them to work in the medical field. My invitation followed shortly. This time I worked at an urgent care. Much more exciting. Unfortunately, I seemed to catch everything that came in. My final straw was catching Croup (at age 32) while pregnant with my second child. It made the decision to resign easy.

Somewhere in all of this, I started a charity group (All Crafts 4 Charity) and this remains a passion of mine over a decade later.

I've left out a few here and there. There was the balloon selling job when I was a teenager (strolling the boardwalk selling balloons - it's trickier than you'd think!) The home health care I did for some of our area's wealthy seniors.

The thing is, I've never been without a job and I've never had to look for one. They always find me.

Now I have to think about what it is that brings them to me? Law of Attraction? My openness and willingness to help? I'm not sure. Whatever it is, I want to teach it to my children so they too will never have to go looking for a job. I think if you like what you do (even if it's many things) jobs will find you. People like to know you are confident in your work and like doing it.

The old question, "What color is your parachute?" would have to be rainbow colored. There are just too many facets.

Of course nowadays, I teach art locally as well as teaching cake decorating. As long as people have birthdays and get married, I've got a steady source of income. I like having my own money and not relying on hubby to give me an allowance. And while he assures me that he works so I don't have to work outside the home (and that my job as home educator and mother is the most important of both of our jobs), I still don't like being dependant on someone like that. I want my own spending money without having to ask for it.

I don't see a time when I'll ever not be working - not because I have to (truth is, my current job costs ME money) but because I want to do new things.

So when my friends ask me about my career path and choices, I have to tell them to sit down. "This will take a while." And when they are amazed at all I do, I remind them that most of these have been part-time with children and that's how I can do two jobs and still call myself a SAHM. I can work two small jobs as long as I make room for the big one - motherhood.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The park with caged animals

I couldn't think of a cute little title for the zoo post. Lots to talk about, though.

First, I've already made it clear that I don't particularly care for the zoo. More on that later, though.

My first hesitation came when we drove into the parking lot and I saw a fleet of buses. Ugh. Thankfully, they were lining the kids up to leave as we walked in. Huge buses of public school or day camp kids is never a good thing. The employees agree (see above), the other parents agree, and I'm sure you'll agree.

But that was quickly averted, as I said.

Connor was like a kid in a candy store. "MONTEES!" and "OSHIJ" for everyone. (Monkeys and ostriches if you didn't quite catch that toddlerese.)

A jaunt around the zoo takes a couple of hours. The children were thrilled and excited. I've never seen Connor so lively. I started to realize that even though I hate this little menagerie, I may have to visit more often just based on his enthusiasm alone.

First on the agenda were giraffes. Always a fascinating creature. Once thought to make no sound, we now know that their sound is just at too low of a frequency for us to hear. A three foot long prehensile tongue (look out, Gene Simmons) is pretty impressive too.

Next item up for bids? Elephants. This is where I start to get ticked off when I'm in a zoo. Elephants are social creatures matriarchaly run. That is to say, a female leads the herd. These herds are normally large and made up of many grandmothers to granddaughters. They are also social and intelligent animals. They need stimulation. A tire isn't going to cut it.

When I hear of stories of elephants on the rampage, I can often imagine how it would feel to have someone wanting something from you all day and offering little to know appreciation in return. We call it "Motherhood". They call it "performing" I know that I'd personally run around attacking people if I had no other outlet. Is it any wonder that these intelligent animals do this then?

So, I mentioned I dislike zoos. Hard as they may try, they just cannot replicate "the wild". While on display, the "habitat" looks wonderful. But when the tourists are gone, I suppose they stay here:

Still, it's not often you get to see a mandrill up close... pacing, looking for others... trying to establish dominance in a habitat about 1/16 (if that) of what he'd have in the wild.

Supposedly the ostriches and giraffes live together in the wild. I'm thinking not in quarters close enough that the ostrich would continually peck at the knees of the giraffes walking by. The giraffes, that in the 20 minutes or so that I watched, paced that confinement over half a dozen times - being pecked the whole time.

The lions seemed content enough. They were sleeping anyway. A couple stood next to me concerned that the lions could escape. My limited knowledge of their jumping and climbing ability told me they could easily but probably stayed because they were well fed... like any other house pet.

It's amazing to be that close to so many animals but I really could forgo it to know that they were in the wild where they belonged.

I'm okay with documentaries and nature specials if it means that these animals that we give human names and apply human attributes to could go back to being what they should be... wild.

Ain't no sunshine when they're gone...

This last week has been a dead zone. No crafting (well, I did cast on for a toy elephant for Connor that goes with a Noah's Ark set by Alan Dart).

Honestly, I haven't done a lot of anything that didn't involve keeping vigil in front of the computer.

My two eldest boys are at camp. Blessing or curse, one of the teens in the troop has a laptop and keeps a running blog. The blessing is, I can see that everyone is still alive and there are no broken limbs. Curse is, I keep checking it every 15 minutes to make sure that everyone is still alive and there are no broken limbs.

All of this computer time has been a little productive. I've served a legal letter to a cybersquatting company for trying to take my domain name for my charity (All Crafts 4 Charity). While I own the Dot com, they have squatted my Dot org and I'm letting them know forcefully but politely, I want it back.

Connor has really bloomed into quite the talker while the boys have been gone... God help me. He doesn't stop. He's become fascinated with all animals and has pulled out almost every stuffed animal in the house to have elaborate plays, story times, and create impressive biomes in the living room.

I think the confusor (computer) and I need a break from each other today. In lieu of Connor's new found love of animals, we shall visit the zoo. Now, I'm not really one for caged animals in unnatural habitats but I do recognize the importance of having endangered animals in protective custody. Still, a jail's a jail. I'd much rather them be in a natural habitat and not cooped up all day... like me, keeping vigil in front of the computer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jane of all trades...

and master of quite a few of those trades!

The weekend produced some cute bags that I made, the loot bags for Caleb's party, two cakes (a pirate ship and a treasure chest - No. No pictures of the cakes. I got over doing that about 200 cakes ago.)

No yo-yos although I may work on those this week.

My new shiny object is getting ready for the "upcoming school year". I'm organizing curriculum, tweaking, and re-organizing. I'm making preparations for Jake to go to have his first college experience. As I look for ideas, I'm reading my e-mail lists and a subject keeps coming up over and over again and it leaves me wondering, what is it about co-ops that have some people flocking to them?

Now, in theory a co-op is a marvelous idea. Especially if you are new to homeschooling or do so out of desperation of having no grasp on any academic subject. It really starts to surprise me when I see parents with older children in co-ops - especially teens, though.

I homeschool because I want freedom to be on my own schedule, to have control over my children's education (as opposed to public government run institutions telling me how much and when and what), I want a tailored education for my child, and did I mention that freedom of my own schedule? So I take them to a co-op where they decide the schedule, books, curriculum, and how much, when, and what my children learn? Nope, I don't get it.

Okay, from another angle, I find that these co-ops can help parents who are too left-brained or too-right brained with other subjects. Again, though, it's the whole fitting into someone else's schedule thing. Maybe I'm too anarchist. :o) Maybe I'm too anti-establishment. I still think that if I'm paying for a co-op teacher (This is another sticking point for me. I always thought co-ops should be moms and dads helping each other - not charging each other but maybe I'm better suited living in a commune). I'd be better off paying for a tutor to come on MY time and in MY environment on MY watch. At least THAT way, if I didn't like the teacher or approach, I can fire them. Not so easy with a co-op. You must sit and take it until it's done or lose your money.

Truth be told, there's not a lot I don't know how to do already (as you can tell from my blog) - and that includes finding qualified mentors for my children when needed. In short, we're a pretty educationally self-sufficient household. That may sound arrogant but it's far from that. As parents, we are WELL aware of our weaknesses but that's also another strength in my opinion.

Our familial interests are diverse and many and sometimes short-lived. (We all suffer from "shiny object syndrome" in this house from time to time.) Paying for long term co-op classes offers nothing sparkley to me. They also usually offer nothing I can't do myself and save the money, gas, and materials. (You should see my craft closets, shelves, garage, under the beds, book cases, etc. LOL)

And there's a whole world to explore to experience the things we want to learn instead of again being locked in a classroom to learn. (Isn't that part of why we homeschooled? To get away from that unnatural age-segregated confinement?)

Society often cites "It takes a village to raise a child." In actuality, though, this village mentality is usually used only when we selfishly WANT something (like childcare) for free. In a REAL village, we also wouldn't charge for knowledge. It would be an honor to pass it on to the next generation... just ask an American Indian. It would be a given that you teach your trade to others - pass on your knowledge - lest the knowledge die with you. In a REAL village, your thirteen year old son would be well on his way to being a man. The Elders would have taken him aside and shown him how to hunt, gather, and provide. He would be taught to make a home, hunt for and create a family.

In today's society, we infantilize our children until they're 18 and then expect them to know what it is to be a man or be a woman. Like that public school mentality, we expect to flip a switch and then voila! You're a man! Nice to know you. Have a good trip in life. What do you mean you don't know what to do now?!?

Well, they DON'T know what to do "now". No mentor or elder has taught them HOW to be a man or moreover, what it MEANS to be a man. (or woman)

Like that aforementioned public school mentality, we've been taught (notice how public school had this long lasting effect on us and our parenting too?) that "school ends" at 18. No more learning. Turn off that switch. You're done.

Realistically, we should be preparing our children for a LOVE of life-long learning and not that education is something you "finish" in a pre-determined time frame.

Mentors. Where do we find them? Well, hopefully the parents are the first stop. Second, find a Guild, a Scout Troop, Youth Group, Volunteer Group, Church Group, or apprenticeship that can help your child grow.

What they need at that age is to learn how to grow up too. In essence, I've seen the village and I don't want them anywhere near my children as a collective - they still clamor and grasp to retain those public school mentalities. Instead, I'll help my children pick and choose their mentors and help them learn how to surround themselves with people who challenge them to grow and nurture their love of learning... on THEIR time table.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Have sense of humor. Will travel.

Today is a silly day, I'm happy to say. I'm trying to use up my fabric stash on making "Green Bags" for the grocery store. The "Green Bag Lady" has a free pattern or you can join my charity group "All Crafts 4 Charity" and download the pattern in the sewing files area.

As I was rethreading my serger (which is a Macgyver contraption if there ever was one), I was thinking of things to do this weekend - craft-wise.

I need to make some "loot bags" for Caleb's birthday party on Sunday. I also need to make the cakes. Those are the easy things.

Craft-wise, I think I'm not sure what I'm going to work on. I'm thinking about creating a yo-yo bonnet pattern for my charity list. I have a 4-H meeting next week and I think I shall teach them to make yo-yos and do some basic hand sewing. Four yo-yos can be a coaster. Maybe we'll turn bandanas into cool ties. (Yes, I like that idea.)

These are yo-yos:

These are yo-yos too :o)

Today's theme, as I said, has been a silly one. You see, I like to assign themes for the day. The weirder and odder a theme is, the better. I've done this for years. Mostly, the themes are assignments for my husband to do at work but we also participate in the fun.

Some themes have included:
  • Talk like a pirate
  • Stand at your desk all day
  • Make every movement have a noise day (like making oral sounds when you write)
  • Hum day (hum as you speak, ie. HmmmI ummmmmlike hmmmthe way mmmm you hummmm.)
  • Laugh hysterically when someone asks you to do something day
  • Use "motivational speak" day ("What I sense from you is that you're asking me if this will work. Am I understanding you?")
  • Inside out clothing day
  • Answer with a song lyric/title day
  • Eat enthusiastically loud day ("OMG, this is GOOD! MMMMMmmm! OHHHHH!!!")
  • Look at people like they're crazy and you're afraid when they speak to you day
  • Animal Colloquial day
  • No lights at work day (and you have to cringe or be melodramatic when someone mistakenly turns them on)
  • Talk irritatingly loud day
  • Talk irritatingly quiet day
  • Opera day (everything has to be sung)
  • "In my OLD job" day (You can probably figure this out)
  • Egocentric day ("Yes, but how do *I* fit into all of this?" kind of statements)
  • Surfer day
  • Religious sayings day ("You know, the Dalai Lama says...")
  • Lose an imaginary item day
My husband only has two people in his office and they are well aware of the themes for the day. Sometimes, I call THEM and have THEM do the theme and hubby has to figure them out. They've come to look forward to them and it's a pleasant diversion from normal and mundane work.

Think THAT'S funny? I'm just getting started. My favorite game that I invented is "What's my theme song?" This is one of my favorite games. As an ardent fan of Pop Culture, I'm quite good at this one. My large mental library of music insures that I never lose at this game. This is a game that requires good observation skills, people watching, extensive music knowledge, and a quick wit.

To play, you sit in a place where there are TONS of people. The first time I played, I was by myself waiting for my husband to pick me up and I needed to entertain myself. Okay, honestly, I was sitting outside of traffic court having just had a traffic ticket dismissed (stupid, worthless inspection stickers!). This environment was WONDERFUL for people watching of all kinds of characters! I saw political figures, homeless, and every day Joes and Janes. A shopping mall would work well too. The boardwalk here in Virginia Beach is another great spot. You know your area and where the great "people watching" spots are.

The game is to come up with a song for each person that walks by.

Courthouse steps? Easy! Mad women walking by yelling at their partners, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T". Sheriffs walking by - "I fought the law and the law won." The "COPS theme" by Inner Circle. Country songs were just a natural fit. Songs of heartbreak. Songs of fury. But sometimes just their personalities or eccentricities sparked a funny song. The well-endowed woman (solicitation charges, maybe?) in tight satin hot pants and tube top, "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts."

By the time hubby came to pick me up, I was cracking myself up. "Sometimes I just think funny thoughts." (Arthur) I'm sure that somewhere, others that knew of the game were thinking songs about ME, too. "Now she sucks her thumb and wanders by the banks of her own lagoon."

Okay, so there are TWO games you can now play without even rolling dice!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mindless fun

It is no secret in my house that I don't care for video games. Huge time sucks, in my not so humble opinion.

However, I do recognize that people like them - even my children. So, here are some that I can "tolerate" that my children play:

Portal is one that I can tolerate. It does require logical thinking. No first person shootings, carjackings, or pimps. It's a maze game. Don't let that fool you, though. This game is also on the verge of being anti-government. It's messages are clear. GlaDOS wants you to finish your "test". When you do, there'll be cake.

Little by little, you see messages on the wall, "The cake is a lie." and you realize this game is something more sinister.

It's not often that a video game spurs such a creative following but even the likes of one of our personal favorites, Jonathon Coulton, had his talents enlisted to write the theme song for this game.

As an aside, it is my personal goal to have JoCo (as he's known to his fans) play here. He's a great guy (as well as talented) and even helped Jake earn his Communications merit badge. His songs are so creative - so fun. Think "Weird Al Yankovich" meets "Yanni". Many of his songs remind me of School House Rock but for adults. And speaking of the "adult" aspect. Be sure to preview his songs first. While 95% are fine for the whole family. There are that 5% that may make you cringe.

Where else can you hear a song about a half-pony/half-monkey monster? (Hapomomo as JoCo calls it.) Or zombie office politics? The creative mind behind this is enticingly sick and welcoming. It fits quite well with my odd sense of humor. Take a moment, enjoy the following:

("Well technically, I am." That's just hilarious!)

I just love him. "I Feel Fantastic" is a poke in the eye to the pharmaceutical companies who promote "Better Life Through Chemistry". And there's not a mother in the world who wouldn't fall in love with the song, "Stroller Town". I smile just thinking about it.

Taking a step away from JoCo, even the toddlers have sites. Kneebouncers is a fun site for babies and toddlers to play and press keys to find out the cause and effect.

If you want something tame, beautiful, and even poetic, Orisinal:Morning Sunshine is the site for you.

The thing is, there's a whole world outside. Go outside and play! I don't want to see you until the streetlights come on.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Education of Mommy

I don't want to be "Mommy" today. My children are irritating me, the animals (not the human ones) are being needy, and I'm generally in an anti-social mood.

Appropriately enough, my eldest son is playing Pink Floyd's, "Welcome to the Machine". It's that kind of day today.

Erma Bombeck once wrote, "If you want to get your children's attention, sit down, look comfortable, and pick up the phone."

Every time I take a breath, I have another child wanting something (this time it's the baby wanting me to put a diaper on Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House. Apparently he has bladder control issues of which I was unaware.)

Today is a day I'd rather be alone but truth be told, as soon as the children left, I know I'd be wondering what they were doing and eventually missing them.

With that said, I'm working today to plan a little camping bash in November. I have affectionately named it "Camp Granola" and have invited some pretty groovy people that I like to come along with their families. I'll be researching crafts, games, menus, and camping ideas for the kids (bored kids are miserable kids) but also know that they'll need the same thing we do as adults: time to unwind. Keeping that in mind, I'll make sure they have "nothing to do" time too.

My hopes are that this little retreat will be a way to rejuvenate the soul, connect with nature, unplug from modern stress, and get back to the roots of talking with people - no offense to the electronic communications world.

Tom Brown comes to mind in this quest for knowledge. I have many of his books detailing living off of the land. Tom Brown's book of survivalism/tracking for children is a boy's (or adventurous girl's) dream come true. Lots of practical advice. It goes beyond what they'd learn in scouts to present life-applicable knowledge in even minor emergency situations.

Kamana is another great resource for teaching nature to children. These courses go beyond field guides and camping to really understanding nature around us and learning to read the signs of animals to find food, water, shelter, or even anticipate weather changes. It was through them that I first learned of North vs. True North. (Nope. You're gonna' hafta' look it up. I'm not doing your work for you.) Kamana also teaches a spiritualism worthy of any student of Zen. I was immediately intrigued and impressed with the Thanksgiving Day Prayer in its pages.

This spirituality isn't so much about worshipping the world around you but worshipping how great the place you have in the world is. Your harmony with nature. Your place in the great plan of life.

The other thing I enjoyed about Kamana was creating a "sit spot". This program that teaches you to enjoy nature to the last detail by experiencing the same spot through the seasons. At first, this may sound boring but I assure you, you learn to find wonder and magic in the little things around you.

It's funny because I never thought I'd know as much as I do about nature, living off the land, or any of that until I had boys. Even now, I'm confident that should they ever get lost in the woods, they'd be fine.

I think about the first time that Jake read "Hatchet" . He hated it. Not because it was poorly written. On the contrary, it's a wonderful book. Jake was furious that this boy could be so well... to put it in Jake's words, "Stupid about the world around him." And it's true. The main character of the book is woefully ignorant of the world around him. He lacks basic common sense in most areas. Jake had no patience for him.

It reminded me of a movie I saw when I was younger called, "The Earthling" starring Ricky Shroeder who was maybe 10 at the time. His parents are killed when they are camping when the RV (that's camping?) goes off of a cliff. Ricky survives only to meet up with a "Mountain Man" who doesn't want to give him the time of day. Little by little, the mountain man takes him under his wing not to rescue him but to teach him how to survive. I wish they'd put it on DVD. I think my boys would really enjoy it.

I think I shall introduce him to the book, "The Mosquito Coast". This book always struck me as the ultimate in teaching irony or hypocracy. To escape one's life only to recreate it elsewhere.

I'm looking foward to our "Camp Granola". Once I get plans solidified, I'll share how I went about creating this camp.

Perhaps I should listen to the teachers from Kamana who teach that what you need when you're at your worst is to go outside and reconnect with nature. Disharmony become harmonious. Disconnect becomes connectivity. Cacophony becomes symphony.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

2 trips to the country in one weekend...

For a city girl that doesn't *do* country, I've been spending a lot of time there lately.

Saturday, we decided to take a road trip to Kerr Dam in Buggs Island. The drive was very pretty, hubby at the helm, children in the back, cooler packed with fruit and cheese. Our intent was to spend the afternoon at the Dam, check out the sights, and have a nice picnic while the children swam.

Mother Nature had other plans, however, and our dam experience turned into a damned experience.

The sky opened up and it rained so hard that you couldn't see across the water.

Then the lightening commenced. I love thunderstorms. I love the sounds, the lightening, everything about them. I was quite impressed. Not the day I was hoping for but still fun to watch.

We sat in a parking lot - us and two other cars, and my parents drove up beside us. My children were thrilled. We sat and chatted through cracked windows as we waited for the rain to subside. It never did. My father informed me that I wasn't allowed to pick his next vacation spot. :o)

Highlight - driving across the dam itself. VERY impressive. We will definitely be going back to camp. Low points? Of course the rain. The rain also made driving BACK across the dam a little more anxiety ridden (another part of agoraphobia is a fear of driving over bridges, I might add.)

Regardless, it was a nice day. We stopped at a mom & pop guitar shop to get Jake some strings for the traveling guitar. We watched parents let their children run in the torrential rain during the lightening storm and had a homeschooling lesson on Darwin.

It's about a 2.5 hour drive from our house to get there but it's definitely worth the drive. The destination as well as the journey is lovely. We'll definitely be back. I can see this being a fantastic scout camping experience. Maybe even a friend and family campout.

Today I went to Wakefield to hear a minister speak that may be preaching at our church. This church (more like a chapel) was TINY. There were 10 people there - two of them were myself and my traveling companion for the day. It was very rustic but quaint. There was a man who sang hymns as "special music" and gave a wonderful bluegrass rendition of an old hymn. He was great. If you like bluegrass and that sound, you'd have loved this guy. I couldn't help but smile as he sang. It was something out of "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?". Just charming.

Again with the open acres of land and houses miles apart, though.

One has to wonder, what do these people do for entertainment? Is there something to be said for quiet entertainment? Do we really NEED to be sensually occupied all of the time?

It got me ta' thinkin', though. A day of absolute silence and solitude. I will endeavor to experience that before the year is done.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Arts Bash! Pencils Ready? Go!

The Book Arts Bash contest is now live and happnin' !

From their site:

The Book Arts Bash is a brand new writing contest for homeschoolers, unschoolers, upschoolers, and outschoolers! Our goal is to have fun writing and illustrating, and to stretch book arts across the curriculum.

The deadline is October 1, so get scribbling! Explore 20 categories, and enter as many as you like! There are five age groups, from kindergarten kids to homeschooling moms and dads. Are you into it? Fill out our interest survey and let us know what you think.

My children are VERY excited about this contest!

I just have one question. What is an outschooler? :o)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It sparkled so I picked it up...

And made little soot sprites!

These adorable creatures are from the movie, "My Neighbor Tortoro". Such cute little things.

You can see them trying to be brave enough to come out of the fireplace behind them.

Those jugs? Well, they're earnestly beaten up. These are jugs/jars from the 19th century Civil War Era. One of them is 18th century Revolutionary War Era.

I have to make sure that the sprites don't breed in the jugs. The jars are very delicate and they might break if there's too much activity going on in and around them.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck

I eluded before to the fact that I have horrible woodworking skills. This is pride/ego crushing to me on several levels but extremely humorous to others when I share the stories.

I think it's mostly funny to other people because I am blessed to have the gift of being able to learn how to do most anything and do it very well. Before this sounds too pompous, I recognize this as a gift. I know how fortunate I am to be able to do these things.

With that said, every now and then, God finds it funny to watch me "fall". (Pride goeth before destruction.)

So is the case with my woodworking skills. I'm not sure why I can't get this skill down pat. Maybe because it works in absolutes which makes it "not art" in my personal book. Art needs to have space to have "happy accidents". Alas, a happy accident in woodworking may mean your house falls down.

It is with great apprehention that I attempt the Little Great Wheel. But I really want to do this and I would love a spinning wheel and this just seems the time. You have to understand my trepidation, however.

My first attempt at woodworking came about 15 years ago when I wanted to make a drum box thingy. (It's called a "tongue drum".) I saw it at The Heritage store and I was convinced that I could make this. I believe it was something like $200 for this drum (which, imo at the time, little more than a box with lines sawed into it that you hit with a mallet.) Boy, was I wrong.

I measured the box sides and top and bottom and I was ready to recreate this at home. This is the part that if you have woodworking experience, you start to chuckle immediately because I measured all the pieces at once on the same piece of wood. Tic marks straight down the wood. Those of you that are equally wood-impaired won't understand this until I explain to you that each time you cut a piece of wood, you're actually shortening it (because you're sawing through it and making it shorter). Only the first piece was the size it was supposed to be. The subsequent pieces lost length up to a 1/2 inch because I didn't remeasure the piece. That's HUGE in woodworking terms.

Hence the term, "Measure twice. Cut once."

My second attempt was actually a decade later (that's how hard I took it.) I went to Boy Scout Leader Training (called "Wood Badge") and our community service project was to make bird houses. My heart sank. Surely they needed someone to sew a sleeping bag or cook over the fire? Possibly, I was able to crochet a hammock? Weave first aid bandages? Nope. Birdhouse it was.

We were given pre-cut pieces of wood. I felt a little better. But then there were the directions. Written like stereo instructions. I stared at the picture diagrams. I watched the guys around me start right in. I just laughed. You see, out of 100 or so people, there were only half a dozen females at this training. We already felt we needed to prove something. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to prove myself with the creation of a birdhouse.

I look up again and half the guys are on their second bird house. I'm working on putting two pieces together at a right angle on my FIRST one. Devastation. Humiliation. And apparently woodworking retardation.

I did finally manage to put mine together. Everyone else had built around six during the time it took me to make one. But I did it. The most fun for me was painting them afterward. I rocked at that part. :o)

Now, if you ever get a chance to go to Pipsico Scout Reservation in SW Virginia, you'll see little gray birdhouses everywhere. If you look for the one with the "condemned" sign on it, that'll be mine. I imagine the male bird to be in a wife-beater shirt, the female will have her hair in curlers and wearing a house dress at 3 in the afternoon. The children birds will all be filthy and have no birdie shoes. They'll all be sitting on the porch-perch discussing moving up in the world - to the local bird trailer park.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Basket Case

I learned something remarkable when I wasn't cursing out this *@&$ basket.

Sometimes, you have to go with the flow and trust yourself. In other words, you can't over think art and expect it to happen.

So there I was.... 11 o'clock at night and I'm determined to get this basket done. I re-read the directions (because I'm a HUGE fan of RTFM). I stare at the pictures. I put my basket in the same positions as the pictures. I put my hands in the same positions as the pictures. Nothing sparks.

I ask hubby to read it aloud. All it does is irritate me because now I can't concentrate with him talking. (She says, chuckling) Too much input.

Finally, I just let go. I'm going to trust my hands to know what to do. I'm not going to over think this. I'm not going to beat this to death. I'm going to eat this elephant one bite at a time.

And through some kind of channeled basket-making zen, I completed the basket.

Of course, I find a million places it should have been better or straighter or tighter or whatever but that's okay. It's my basket. It's my first plaited basket. Now, I must seek out strange new lifeforms - go where no other basket maker has gone before. I'm thinking about my irises and using those leaves. I'm wondering if willow will work. Corn husks? What's in the "jungle" (the untamed area along my back fence). What can I find there that will work?

I think ahead to the holidays and how everyone will be getting a basket filled with some other project I undertake. Yeah, right. I'll make three or four and satisfied that I can do this with ease, I'll find something else shiny. I just know it.

Btw, the photo is courtesy of my eldest son, Jake. The lilies are from "The Jungle".

Darling, I love you but give me Park Avenue...

I had an absolutely wonderful day today.

Have a seat while I reminisce. Pinot Grigio? Merlot? Cab Sav? Make yourself comfy.

I have to admit that my day started last night in the form of anxiety attacks at the thought of my upcoming day. I don't usually do long drives and definitely not without my husband but we had an invite from a friend to go to (what I would call) "rural" North Carolina for a kid's play date.

The thought of me driving to North Carolina by myself (No, my children don't count in this. I mean grown-up people who can take the wheel or resuscitate me should something happen.) made my extremities turn cold. Yes, I'm serious. If you promise not to tell anyone , I'll let you in on a secret. I have agoraphobia but not the "I can't go out of my house" kind. I have the fear of wide open spaces. Rolling fields of nothing are suffocating to me. I recently watched a Western called "Prairie Fever" where one of the women complained that the "Sky was too big and it was going to crush her." I knew immediately what she meant. I was a wreck when I drove through Kansas and Nebraska in my younger days.

Lack of strip malls, as silly as it may sound, starts to concern me. I have a standing joke that I don't want to live anywhere that there's not a Pier 1, Taco Bell, or 7-11. The holy trinity of suburbia. ;o)

But, I want to conquer this silly fear so I accepted. I really, really wanted to go. I really like the chick who invited me. I really like the others that were also invited. I thought this was a wonderful chance for my children to have some quality time with like-minded kids while I had quality time with like-minded adults.

With Juanita programmed (my GPS), AAA card in my wallet, cell phone charged, cooler packed, extra clothes, car gassed up, hubby called to know where I was, I was ready for my 2 hour play date. WHAT!?!?! This was a big step for me!

The drive was familiar for the most part. It was only the last 15 miles that were unknown to me so that helped a lot. having an 80s block party helped too. There's something about INXS singing me through my anxiety to make everything alright again.

Past downtown Norfolk, past P-town, into Suffolk... those fields started cropping up. I concentrated on the road and the cars around me. 10 miles feels a lot longer when there's only corn to ogle. Little by little the houses became farther and farther apart. I wondered, "Do they even SPEAK to their neighbors?" My mind continues to wander. "What happens if they run out of milk in the middle of the night?" "Is there a Taco Bell out here?" I laughed out loud to my own joke. The roads get smaller and smaller. You have to veer over if another one is coming this way. "I wonder how many people end up in these ditches?" Of course at that time I spot the makeshift memorial on the side of the road. Apparently a few.

Someone in the van is asking about bananas and I snap back to what I should be thinking about... driving. "They're in the bag behind my seat." I answer.

Juanita is now hopelessly lost. She's giving me the checkered flag that we've arrived and she's joyously exclaiming, "Destination ahead on right" but it's a lie. I remind myself not to trust her implicitly anymore. North Carolina state line. I've done it! I'm almost there! I've driven to a whole other state without my husband in the car! I'm looking at mailbox numbers to see the address and EUREKA! There it is!

It was a great day. The children created artwork, played with can after can of shaving cream, science experiments, slip-n-slides, and there I was... having great conversations with the moms. Moms I often chit-chat with but never get to really know. I felt relieved and happy and welcome.

On the way home the children chimed in about how much they liked being in the country. "Could we move to the country?" they excitedly asked. Jake answers immediately, "NO!" He'd miss the guitar stores, I'm sure. Katy and Caleb, though, they were right at home with the farm animals, the rolling fields (remarking how they were all planted in such straight lines and how'd they do that?). Me? I now know the way to my friend's house and so I'm comfortable with the drive... and the company was enough to entise me back many more times.

While I don't see myself moving to the country, I think I'm finally okay with the visit.