posts tagged with 'art'

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!

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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farm culture

details on a metal and wood sculpture

art

We missed out on visiting Old Frog Pond Farm last year during the month it was open, which was disappointing after how much we enjoyed it the year previous. So I was happy to be able to schedule a visit this past Friday, a day when all five of us were available to take in some art and some beautiful fall weather.

the boys running up a path at the sculpture park

excited about art

There were lots of new pieces to marvel at, but the first things we noticed were old favorites: the "porcupine egg" and the teapot, now floating in a rowboat with a chickenwire figure emerging from under its lid. Delightful! It was also delightful to pull up to the farm and see the "Open" sign flying despite the complete absence of anybody there to, say, take our money or show us where to go. I like that kind of trust in an establishment.

The boys were big fans of a very realistic late-dinosaur-slash-early-bird, maybe six feet tall and made almost entirely of natural materials, but Leah and I were very taken by an installation back in the woods called "Tales from the Fells". It was centered on a sort of mossy troll figure with giant thistle flower eyes, but there was so much going on beyond that. It was all so beautiful and natural that none of our photos of it look like anything at all, but you can trust we spent plenty of time taking it in. (You can see some photos from last year at the artist's site; but they give just a piece of the experience.)

Leah looking at a forest installation, Zion cuddling

interacting with the materials

Then there were more lighthearted interactive pieces, where we got to be the sculptures ourselves! Thanks to Harvey for the photo here.

Leah, Lijah, Zion and I posing as statues

interactive

As I said to Leah at the time, one of the best things about viewing sculpture is it makes you look at everything around you in a new light. We finished the walk ready to run home and dive into practicing some artistic creation of our own! But we needed lunch first. Luckily we're already good at that.

the boys eating a picnic lunch at a table by the pond

picnic by Old Frog Pond

Old Frog Pond Farm is open for another week, if you want to check it out. I highly recommend it!

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Harvey's Lego day

Harvey blowing out his candles amongst a delighted throng

happy birthday

Last Sunday Harvey celebrated his birthday with his friends. He wanted a Lego theme, and he was only interested in inviting five peers—which meant that, with siblings and parents, we had 14 kids and eight adults sharing the fun. As a group of mostly homeschoolers, the kids would have been fine entertaining themselves, but a themed party needs activities and I was there to make them happen. We started off with "brick tag" (blob tag, but more thematic), and then I invited anyone interested to try and spell out "Happy Birthday Harvey" with the big pile of Duplos we'd dumped out on the lawn. They managed it, and even added an exclamation point!

many of the kids on the stage with the Duplo

saying happy

Up next was dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. After we ate it was time for the main event: the building contest. The kids got together into teams—well, mostly; the bigger kids all chose to work alone—and I asked them to think of a theme they'd like to focus on for the contest and write it on a slip of paper. Picking out of a real hat, I drew "castles", and they were off!

kids building with lots of legos on the living room and playroom floor

the best kind of work

Harvey picks his friends well—almost all of them, ages six to eleven, could have kept building indefinitely. As it was I let them go for about an hour, which gave the adults some nice quiet conversation time to themselves outside. Unfortunately, the judging process—which I left to them—was a little disappointing. They didn't entirely appreciate the energy and effort the kids put into their creations, so the prize delivery was a little underwhelming for the kids. Still, Harvey and Ollie's flying castle-ish pirate ship quite deservedly won best in show... and then we had cake. I wished I could have gotten the frosting on a little smoother, but even with the indifferent texture I'm still going to go ahead and say it was the best yellow one-by-two brick cake anyone there had ever seen. And pretty tasty too: chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and buttercream frosting. Harvey approved.

Harvey, Zion, and the gang with the Lego cake

Legolicious

So he's totally eight now. And we have even more legos in the house. Maybe we should have given some away as party favors?

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