|C & O Canal Trail at Swains Lock|
|Swagger Muffins with Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett|
|Tom Angleberger and Jon Scieska with adoring fans|
|Origami Yoda being drawn on a Swagger Muffin shirt|
|Jon Klassen making his mark|
|Tom Angleber, Cece Bell, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, a proud Swagger Muffin, and Jory John|
It doesn't matter how many author events I attend, I am always blown away by the power of humor, creativity, and good people. If you ever have the chance to hear/see any of these fabulous authors. Do not hesitate. Take your kids, take your neighbors, or just go by yourself. I promise, it will do you good.
For Addictive Podcasting: Serial
For National Adoption Month: Flip The Script
For Thanksgiving: my favorite stuffing recipe
For Creating: hand-made gift ideas
For New Orleans Scenes and A Catchy Tune: Littlest Birds
For Playing: Qwirkle
For A Taste of Home: speed traps and Turducken
For Watching: I Am Eleven
For Traveling: Through a Lens Sharply
All of these things were happening right around the time we started homeschooling which was also around the time I was taking an on-line class in project based homeschooling. Regardless of how it all started, the biggest lesson for me has been to just give her time, space, and supplies.
She had initially worked so diligently; hammering and constructing in intense chunks of time, but then the final pieces just sat for a week or two in the driveway. I started to wonder if that was the end of it until yesterday when I asked Camille if she wanted to try out some new paint. Without hesitation, she headed outside and returned to her primary piece with an idea already brewing in her mind.
Since last night she has been painting in concentrated spurts of time. Adding layers, deciding she likes the acrylic paint the best, directing me to add a few stripes while she mixed a new shade of green, and leaving things to dry before re-assessing and adding another layer.
We are not solely project-based homeschoolers. We do have structured learning time and an eclectic curriculum that we use, but this creative work, this on-going project work of hers is so very good. I see her savoring this time to do her own work, in her own way. I see the ebb and flow of ideas punctuated with triumphs and fails. And it's been a good lesson for me to step back and just let her work.
Wind tunnels made out of embroidery hoops. Kites of all shapes and sizes. An animation studio. An hour long chat with an inventor...all of this and more are just down the road from us. We finally had the chance to visit the new KID Museum and we were not disappointed. It's not a huge place, but it's all hands-on and the perfect mix of maker space, science lab, and art studio. In fact, if you are searching for us this winter, it's where you will probably find us!
Birthday Breakfast: biscuits, presents, number nines hanging all over the house, and lots of kisses
Birthday Dinner: ice skating, hot cocoa, tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, sparkly pink plates, cupcakes baked and decorated completely by Camille, matching purple scarves, and surrounded by her favorite friends
Happy Birthday, Camille!
Breezy beach, sandy discoveries, and boat friends. We had a fabulous time yesterday with Cindy and her crew. So nice to finally meet after all these years of "knowing" each other via the blogging world. It's always a surreal experience when these meet-ups happen. Immediately prior to the meeting, my gut is filled with a bubbling concoction of giddiness and anxiety. What if it is feels weird? What if we don't get along? What if? What if? And yet, as soon as I meet that blogging friend in real life, it all just feels so comfortable and right.
Yesterday was no exception. Cindy was just as a warm and witty in real life as she is in her writing. Her children are full of life, curiosity, and charm. And her boat world is just as enchanting and interesting as I have always thought it would be.
As I was driving home after our day together, I kept thinking about this process of getting to know people through blogging prior to ever meeting them in real life. I've come to the conclusion that it is the modern version of a pen pal...learning about a person through what they share in words and photos, being able to respond immediately through comments or direct e-mails for a more personal exchange, and yet never knowing what their voice sounds like or how tall they are. Blogging has created connections and friendships that I never could have anticipated and with our nomadic lifestyle that on-line community has been such a source of comfort and support.And happily, each time I have had the opportunity to meet a blog friend in-person it's been a good experience: Karen in Sicily, Juniper in Malta, Jean in Asheville, Wendy who is constantly on the move, and now Cindy on the water. Makes me wish I had kept up with my childhood pen pals in Japan!
I didn't know until my father died that he and his mother exchanged letters every week. They didn't always have an easy relationship, but they always wrote to each other. My dad and I didn't write to each other every week, but his letters meant a lot to me and I saved all of them. I have other family letters that I have saved over the years. Letters from my mom, my grandmother, my aunts, and my sisters. It's a lot of paper to haul around every time we move, but each one is a tiny time capsule preserving those distinctive voices, that familiar handwriting, and those nuggets of family news. I keep them because I like being able to hold bits and pieces of my people in my hands.
Camille will be turning nine later this week and that means that I will soon be mailing a letter that is never easy for me to write. I like writing letters just as much as I like receiving them, but this particular letter always causes me to stumble and stammer. It's the annual birthday letter I send to Camille's maternal birth family in Taiwan. I never really like what I write because it feels too superficial, this accounting of her recent activities and her current interests. It makes me sad to think of how painful it must be for her family to open these letters highlighting all of the milestones and happy moments they have missed with her. And yet what I really want to say feels far too intimate. We share a strange family connection, but we don't really know each other.
Last year, Camille received a birthday card from her birth mother. It was very brief, but it was the first and only piece of mail she has ever received from her Taiwanese family.That pop-up card with penguins bursting forth to share birthday wishes brought an unexpected jolt of reality to our lives. After the many years of one way communication, here was written proof that they wanted to reach out to her. Those cute little penguins didn't just bring an envelope full of wishes with them, they also brought an envelope of questions and intense, conflicted feelings.
Today while I was writing the letter to her family, I suggested several times that she might want to send her own letter or drawing to them. She said she didn't know what to say. I tossed a couple of ideas in her direction, but she didn't latch on to any of them and I have to admit that if I was in her shoes I would feel a bit stymied by it, too. How do you write a letter to a mother you don't remember meeting?
One of the reasons we adopted from Taiwan was that we liked the idea of an open international adoption. We welcomed the access to family and medical histories. We liked imagining how nice it would be for her to embrace both her Taiwanese roots and her Jewish American identity. And we really did enjoy meeting her family during our two trips to Taipei. But this current state feels awkward and full of unknowns. It doesn't feel right to force Camille to write letters, but how else will a connection be formed? It doesn't feel right to send superficial listings of accomplishments, but how else will they know that we are taking good care of her and that she is thriving? It doesn't feel natural to write these family letters and yet I will keep doing it.
Last month we made a big decision. We withdrew Camille from the local public school and officially entered the world of homeschooling. It's been an interesting transition with several twists I hadn't expected and most of them center around the process of sharing this news with others. We had been so caught up in discussing and researching our decision that I never really gave any thought to how to share our news with others. In fact, the first few times I found myself entering into conversations about our decision, I stumbled about looking for the right words and wondered if this was how it felt to "come out". I found myself inhaling deeply while trying to quell the desire to just rush through the revelation and leap ahead to their initial response. I quickly realized that I needed to come up with a "spiel", not unlike the ones I have crafted over the years regarding Camille's adoption or our nomadic life as a military family or the story I tell about how a Catholic Cajun girl ended up raising two Jewish kids. I needed to have a handy little snippet to share with folks and the more I recited it, the easier the telling would become and the less I would worry about others' reactions. And so I did that.
But then I jumped into the pool with the homeschoolers and that's when the cold water shot up my nose and the sputtering started all over again. Suddenly, I was telling my story and realizing it was being prodded from a different angle. Like a new puppy at the dog park pool, I had been so eager to meet others who were homeschooling that I naively thought I would automatically be a member of the pack. If I had been paying closer attention to Hugo's recent dog encounters, I would have been able to anticipate that I would have to be carefully sniffed and inspected before any frolicking/connecting could begin. It doesn't matter how unconventional or rebellious one's decision may seem within the mainstream context, there still remains a deep-seated and very human need to place others into recognizable boxes. I soon realized that I would need to not only be able to identify the type of homeschoolers we would be (secular, ecclectic), but also defend our decision to homeschool and explain why we hadn't always been homeschoolers. So once again, I found myself crafting a story that would be told and re-told until it began to feel a bit easier to recite while doing a bit of my own sniffing to see if this might be a good fit for future homeschool connections.
This recent homeschooling plunge has been a funny little trip into the weird world of human dynamics and an educational reminder that regardless of one's experiences or opinions on school/homeschool, there is a hard-wired and very human desire to examine others' decisions in the context of your own. And in the midst of all this there is my naked insecurity sprawled like a panting dog desperately wanting to sound smooth and coherent, while sputtering and slipping in the piles of anxious drool. Would this all work? Were we doing the right thing? Would we regret this?
None of these probing examinations or my attempts to respond really matter because the reality is that Camille is suddenly smiling again, happily diving into books, writing up a storm, asking strong thoughtful questions, and having fun. This is clearly the right decision for her at this moment in time and I am taking my cues from her (and Hugo) by shaking off the muddy questions and anxious slobber to dive in beside her.
August 23, 2014
Within seconds, Jon had the crowd roaring with laughter. Seriously, he is a very funny guy. I loved watching the kids' faces because he had them hooked the entire time. And during the signing session, his good humor and kindness continued. Jon not only took time with each kid, but he made a special presentation to the Guys Read Group....he gave them an advanced copy of the newest Guy Read book (coming out Fall 2014). The boys have been so excited about that special gift with it inscription to them with their official name: "To The Swagger Muffins and Co" and they are taking turns with the book by handing it off each month at the meetings.
And with summer quickly approaching, here's a plug for the audio version of "Knucklehead". Add it to your list of necessary items for upcoming family road trips. It is really one of the best audio books and guaranteed to make all ages laugh out loud.
|Kenwood Neighborhood, Bethesda, Maryland|
Thursday evening stroll with Camille. Planning to head back this evening for a Japanese-style picnic (hanami) and early birthday celebration. Missing yesterday's flight, means we have more time to enjoy cherry blossom season which is always a good thing.