posts tagged with 'art'

Elijah's celebration

Lijah's friends around the kitchen table

a crowd to celebrate Elijah

As I mentioned, we cleverly scheduled Lijah's birthday party before society closed down. He invited six friends—appropriate for a sixth birthday!—and those friends brought along enough family members to bring the total number of folks in the house, including Archibalds, to 26. Pretty good! The party had a dragon theme, officially, though as the day got closer the birthday boy decided he wanted to give unicorns equal billing. The short notice didn't bother me since I didn't have any particular dragon-based activities or decorations in mind anyway; he wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting so options were limited in that direction, and I was too overwhelmed with other life to think too much about activities. (I did make a fantastic rainbow unicorn card that I gave him on his actual birthday on Friday.)

kids and a dad working on making construction paper puppets

craft table

Of course, with all those kids in the house we needed to do something! As the kids arrived we had material out for them to make puppets—or any other project they cared to attempt with construction paper and lunch bags. I had prepared a dragon puppet as an encouraging example. Lijah made a unicorn puppet (with terrifying sharp teeth); there were also a couple other dragons, a knight, a dog, and two penguins. The more active kids played outside on an obstacle course that Zion and I had set up. Then we had lunch—plain pasta and chicken nuggets for the littles, home-made pizza and African food for those with more discerning palettes (who am I kidding, the kids ate most of the pizza too). After lunch I sent them out on a treasure hunt to find a dragon's hoard hidden in the yard (totally not a pirate treasure: that was last year). They couldn't figure out one of the clues but it didn't matter: they brute-forced it by blindly searching the whole property and finding the clues out of order. I knew I should have buried them! The prize was a bag of candy for each kid.

Which hopefully they didn't eat right away because next we had cake. No ice cream, but there were also chocolate chip cookies... does that count? After the cake Lijah opened his presents, and besides the musket and knife from his parents he got so many beautiful and thoughtful dragon-related gifts. A Dragonite doll, a dragon puppet, an amazing homemade costume, an embossed leather journal... He was delighted.

Lijah in his new dragon costume exclaiming at a Dragonite doll

exciting!

It was a three-hour event; the morning of I was actually worried I scheduled it to be so long, and I wasn't sure what everybody would do. I needn't have been. The folks who absolutely had to be somewhere else tore themselves away after three and a quarter hours, and everybody else stayed for four. Maybe we had an inkling we wouldn't be partying together again for a while?

Lijah and four friends on the roof of the playhouse

birthday boy and his cool-kid friends

more

not feeling the superiority

We attended a Super Bowl gathering on Sunday evening—one that was well suited to our level of interest in the game. The invitation went, "So I guess there's a Super Bowl... want to come over and pretend to care?" The email went out on Friday, and I wasn't even sure exactly when I was being invited to attend... I was pretty sure the Super Bowl happens on Sunday, but was it thisSunday, or the one following? (no worries, the internet had the deets for me). Now, I don't want to sound like I'm coolly disdainful of the whole thing—that's just obnoxious. There was a time when I knew all about football and cared quite a lot about who won the title. But time has mellowed me (which is to say, left me uncool and out of touch) and neither professional sports nor television are now any part of my life. Parties are, though, so I was more than happy to go! I brought rocky road bars and cheddar jalapeno biscuits.

We kicked off the festivities at 5, which meant we had time to watch almost a whole soccer game (Bayern Munich defeating Real Madrid back in July, because if you haven't seen it before it's new to you!). Then we watched the first 30 minutes of the American football on tape delay so we could skip the bad commercials (it turns out they were all bad except the Smart Park one, which was at least worth discussing). Then we went home. In between the watching we ate hamburgers and chili and chips, and then ice cream sundaes. And biscuits and rocky road bars. And the small children played football and soccer amongst themselves, which is much better than watching it (the bigger children were more drawn to the television screen). It was a good time all around.

I understand from a tweet from our president that the Chiefs ended up winning the thing; congratulations to them, and I hope everyone playing had a good time!

more

it's my party

The advantages to hosting an event is that you can make everybody do all the things you like to do. So when we celebrated the solstice with our homeschool co-op today we started with a walk in the woods, then sat around a fire for a story, then had a gigantic pot-luck lunch, then came back to the fire to toast marshmallows. Well, some people toasted marshmallows: it was pretty cold out, so about half the group felt done with sitting around outside, even right next to the wonderful blaze I had created. Of course, there was also a good group playing on the roof of the playhouse, so it can't have been that cold.

Of course, the flip side of having a party my own way is bearing the brunt of the stress. Some families were ready for the walk and getting chilled while waiting for others to arrive and get their gear on. Some kids found the lunch table a little stressful (to be fair, it legit was—13 happy hungry kids can make some noise!). And everybody was cold at one time or another. I felt all that, since I wanted everyone to enjoy themselves, even with my idiosyncratic activity choices. It took me the rest of the day to recover. And that's with some significant help with the dishes from a couple of the parent attendees! Yes, it was lovely being in charge... and now I'm glad tomorrow's party is at someone else's house!

more

if you want people to join your group, offer chocolate

I thought we were impressive with our 22 people for wreath-making last week, but today our second co-op event just blew that out of the water with 35 people at our friends' house for a hot cocoa bar and board games. It was a little chaotic at times, but our hosts showed a perfect combination of elegant preparation and obliging equanimity as their house was being overrun, and everyone had a great time. How could we not, with this spread to greet us when we arrived?!

fancy accompaniments for hot cocoa

we're part of a classy group

Zion and Lijah very briefly played some of a board game, played with their friends' toys, and romped in the snow outside. Harvey was convinced to join a Monopoly game and did that for three hours, questioning his life choices towards the end. At least he was winning when they had to stop! (naturally, they weren't able to finish the game). And we all drank lots of hot chocolate—even better, hot chocolate covered in whipped cream and other chocolate—and ate cookies. There was even something called "liquid truffle", which is basically hot chocolate but more so. Since the chocolate was basically the purpose of the gathering we jumped right into that at 10:30, so needless to say the kids weren't super enthusiastic about their lunches. Hopefully I restored them to health with soup for supper.

It was awesome to have so many people come out for the event. I now have 11 families on the co-op email list, and there was one other family there today who's not on the list yet. So I've got to feel that our efforts to build a learning community are going pretty well! Now all we need to do is find out how we can afford to rent a space that'll fit all of us...

more

Halloween details

I was too tired last night to write much about our celebration; I'm still pretty tired now, but I can't let the words go unwritten! So here are some more details.

The Costumes

The boys planned their costumes a long way out this year, but then didn't do much about it and mostly forgot about their plans. But they were pretty certain on what they wanted to be, at least: a bat, a ninja, and a wizard. Lijah's bat costume was along the same lines as Harvey's from last year, and just took a hooded sweatshirt and a half-hour of sewing (on Leah's part this year, thank goodness) to add ears and wing membranes. Zion was a ninja last year as well, but lost every part of his costume; he does own black clothes, but Leah had to make him a new mask and sword belt, while I crafted a pair of wooden katanas. I did that Wednesday, so when he broke one within the first two hours I could glue it back together. Leah made an incredible black hooded cloak for Harvey; under it he wore his Easter jacket and sweatpants cuffed up to look like knee-breeches. And he had a wand. Then yesterday was warm enough that he could go barefoot, to be a hobbit wizard. I wish I'd taken better photos.

The Trick-Or-Treating

Despite the terrible forecast the weather was actually great for trick-or-treating. It was mild—hot, even!—and the rain mostly held off. Despite the warnings we didn't head out until nearly 6, which was as soon as we could get our gang together. We had thirteen kids between the ages of 4 and 12, with one of them in a wheelchair, so there was a wide range of speeds; but with some encouragement we mostly stayed together, and the slower kids didn't have to skip more than one or two houses. There were lots of other groups out after dark, and with that and all the decorations in our neighborhood it felt very cheerful and celebratory. The kids got lots of candy.

The Party

We had a potluck with all the folks who went trick-or-treating with us, plus a couple others. There was tons of food, and despite no planning or communication before hand it was all thematically quite unified: chili, chicken tortilla casserole, quesadillas, and Spanish tortilla. Also a couple soups and bread and biscuits. Not that any of that was really relevant to the kids; all they wanted was to get at the candy. They brought it all upstairs to trade (and eat, of course), and after the party Leah and I were witness to the devastation they had wrought. The wrappers you expect, but there was also a good bit of half-eaten—even partially chewed and spit out—candy all over the rug. I guess that's how you know it was a party!

The Glow-sticks

Since all three of our kids were in costumes that were almost entirely black, Leah ordered an awesome collection of glow-sticks. We wore them with pride on our trip around the block, and the other kids took lots of them home, but after the party there were still plenty left for us to play with. So we turned out the lights, put on "Thriller", and had our own little family dance party. Super fun. (That was before we found the candy mess upstairs.)

All in all, it was a terrific celebration. Lots of work—besides the costumes and cleaning I think I did more cooking than I do for an average Thanksgiving!—but well worth it. I'd be happy to do things just the same next year.

more

happy halloween

We celebrated the heck out of Halloween today. Costumes and baked goodies at homeschool coop, visits from both grandmas (treats direct to our door!), a giant party at our house with all of the friends we hadn't already hung out with, and a family glow-stick rave to end the day. And of course the trick-or-treating.

lots of kids in costumes posing on the street at dusk

most of the kids

A wonderful day. Happy Halloween everybody!

alternate art hike

On Friday we had big plans to go swimming at Walden Pond with lots of friends. Even when the day dawned gray and chilly with rain threatening we weren't deterred. However, we were absolutely deterred when we reached the pond and found it closed. With five kids in the car and another three planning to meet us in a couple minutes, we had to find something else fun to do! Luckily Concord's Hapgood-Wright town forest, featuring Fairyland Pond, was just down the hill. So we went there instead.

Zion wading in Fairyland Pond

any fairies in sight?

Not, actually, to swim. Besides the cold weather and cold water, it was also pretty muddy and weedy. It would have been enough to walk around and explore, but as it happened there was even more fun to be had: the woods was the site of an "Art Ramble" organized by the Concord Umbrella Community Arts Center.

the kids looking at a birdhouse-like structure with animals peeking out from the doors

art!

I love art, and I love it even more when it's integrated into the natural environment (like at the wonderful Old Frog Pond Orchard sculpture walk). And when you can play with it! Here are the kids climbing on a giant hand, and obeying my instructions for the picture: "give me the finger!".

kids climbing on a big hand sculpture holding up fingers

all the fingers

We spent the most time at the Clootie Tree, a metal tree-like sculpture where the artist invited people to hang strips of cloth on which they had written their hopes and wishes. It was just about filled up already, though the younger kids found some space to add their own cloths. I enjoyed reading some of the wishes already up there. My least favorite was the guy who wished for a job where he could make "boatloads" of money doing something people would respect him for, and my most favorite was, "I wish I had a different snack." I guess I like realistic wishes. Lijah's was not realistic: he wished that he was the bunny from Sing.

Besides the art, we also did some fun hiking. The woods is small but very hilly, so even though we didn't go far we got to feel like we were climbing mountains. And some of the kids felt like we had gone far enough that we were lost, which is always exciting. Also there was deep mud to play in. And of course, at the end of the walk, the kids who hadn't changed out of their swimsuits after the disappointment of Walden went in the pond. All in all, I think we were quite satisfied with the alternate activity.

more

invitation to art

the boys posing with the posable figures

in the midst of beauty!

Today we got to check out a new spot in West Concord called Art Gym. To let folks know about their offerings they're holding some free introductory sessions; when I read about them on the homeschoolers mailing list I knew we had to go! There were lots of cars parked outside when we got there so I expected a full house, but as it happened everyone else was visiting the bakery downstairs; we were the only ones there for the art. That was fine. The boys take up a lot of room when they're being artistic!

The artist in charge was very welcoming, and invited us to dive right in making art with the materials she'd put out. Zion and I explored with soft pastels, and Harvey made some idiosyncratic Valentines Day pictures. Then the boys got interested in the wooden drawing model guys, and got some help to kit them out like knights. And the only one who minded when they got a little rambunctious with the rolling chairs was me.

I love doing art, but sometimes it's hard to concentrate on it at home. So when I visit someplace dedicated to creative work—like Old Frog Pond Farm—I'm just filled with inspiration. So much better if said place gives me paper and pencil and invites me to get to work! I'm not saying what I made over the hour and a half we spent there is any good, but I feel good about myself for taking the time to work on it.

Zion working on painting a rainbow

concentrating on the work

I hope we'll make it back to work on some more focused projects; my art muscles need a workout!

more

is it still a party when nobody comes?

Last month when we were discussing the future of our homeschool coop I got carried away and said I'd organize a gathering in December to play board games. A couple days ago I realized we were rapidly running out of December, so on Sunday I sent out an email inviting everyone to come over this morning for play games, run around, and have brunch. I don't know if what the lateness of the invitation, the business of the season, or the fact that we just aren't that cool, but nobody took us up on it. Never mind! The boys and I enjoyed the quiche and the apple muffins (well, only Harvey and I had quiche actually) and spent a happy hour playing Dragonwood together.

It was fine. We do lots of things with other people; it's nice to not, sometimes. Still, it was a little disappointing. One of the reasons I hadn't managed to get the invitation out earlier was because I was worried that it wouldn't get an enthusiastic reception, and I wasn't interested in dealing with rejection. Given the choice I only want to invite people to things I know they want to come to! That's the best thing about planning with friends: you can establish first that, yes, you want to do something—then work on the details as you go. When I'm thinking about coop events I wish I could check in with everybody ahead of time about their availability and what they're into, but of course that's not how it works. So sometimes we strike out. Now it's someone else's turn to organize!

more

total kids artwork

Some of the small portion of my life not devoted to being with my own kids is given to directing the Elementary Kids Church program at Reservoir Church in Cambridge. The first year I took on the role I thought it would be fun to put on a Christmas performance. It was fun: so much fun, in fact, that everyone just assumed we'd do it again the next year. So we did! Yesterday was our fifth such production, and it went off beautifully.

a portion of the painted backdrop

a portion of the backdrop, stage right

My idea with the show is to give the kids as much ownership of both the process and the product as I can. Originally I hoped they'd even write the script, or at least collaborate with me on it. That didn't happen, but every year I leave it open for the actors to make any changes that they want. And there have been a few! More importantly, the kids have also been responsible for creating all the props, scenery, and even costumes. Some of them take that responsibility really seriously! The last three years I've especially loved watching the kids who decide that they're going to be in charge of costume creation set up their space and invite the actors in for fittings. Even a first grader deciding that there needed to be a donkey in the show, and that she would be that donkey, didn't faze this year's crew in the least. I just wish I had taken a picture of the donkey suit!

Naturally, there was music in the show too. That's what I worked on, and Harvey and Zion joined me. We started the performance with a candlelight procession, singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (also traditional by this point), and did three other songs as well. Harvey was one of the two recorder players (the one without the solos..) and we had two kids on trumpet as well. All of the young musicians were super focused and enthusiastic this year, and it was lots of fun working with them.

As I slowly relaxed in the hours after the show, I had a thought about what made it so good. I've often admired kids' artwork, especially abstract pieces made by smaller kids. We have a beautifully spare piece up in our living room, created by Elijah Archibald age two, which is a great example. I've tried to make art like that myself, but I can't do it. The art comes out of the innocence in which it's created; if you're trying to do something like that, you can't. (Unless of course you're a talented artist in the modernist tradition, in which case you've put in years of practice and study.) Our whole play was like that. Considered by professional standards—or even polished elementary school play standards—it wasn't very good. But since the kids created it themselves, with their own mix of beauty and humor and seriousness, it was delightful. Wonderful. Perfect.

At least, I thought so. We'll probably be doing it again next year, if you want to check it out!

more