Tuesday, February 26, 2013

a firefighter is a person in your neighborhood

firefighters are heroes.  they are community helpers.  they're the ones we want our kids to run to, instead of away from, in times of emergency.  (young children tend to hide from firefighters, which makes it so much more difficult to rescue them, according to the guys we talked to.)

a good way to get to know more about firefighters and the equipment they use is to visit a fire station when it's not an emergency, like we did.  we may not have released all the kids' fear, especially ander's when he saw and heard a  firefighter completely geared up with 50 pounds of safety equipment, but giving us all the opportunity to explore and ask and listen and learn was reassuring and eye-opening.

what was particularly special about this unit was its responsiveness to our kids' interests and comfort levels.  all the alarms were temporarily silenced for our visit, no sirens were sounded.  we got to see where the firefighters live and work.  ander was hoping he'd get to slide down the pole, since he does it so well and so often at the playground, but that was off limits.  what he did get to do, though, was climb up into the brand-new pumper engine, and try his hand at spraying water from a real fire hose.

i think this trip did have a positive impact on ander; when we saw (and heard) several emergency vehicles coming near to us at the park this afternoon, he didn't bat an eye of concern about the firefighters pouring out of them.  i think he understood that they were around to help.

thank you so much, woodland fire station number one, for all the things you do to make this a safer neighborhood to live in.

photos not taken by me are courtesy of our visiting friend, shari.

Monday, February 25, 2013

if you want it, you can build it yourself

diana has participated in several sessions of weaving classes with verena borton at the davis art center over the past few years.  she's learned to use two-harness, four-harness, and eight-harness table looms.  she's also used inkle looms, getting to warp them herself.  she's made bookmarks, belts, pillows, scarves, and all manner and size of blankets/rugs/table coverings.

she loves weaving.  it's concentration-intensive, requiring attention to the parts of the loom, visualizing where the threads needs to go, patience in pulling with just-enough-but-not-too-much tension, trust that the emerging pattern will turn out as expected, or even if not, it will turn out with a sense of beauty.

it can sometimes be anxiety-provoking, especially with fumbling fingers or equipment that breaks down.  but mostly, after things are warped correctly and the process has begun, diana finds herself in an almost-meditative state, finding calm in the gentle, steady movement of her shuttle.  she gets into csikszentmihalyi's flow.  she loves the feel of the threads

she's wrapped up her last class with mrs. borton, who has been a wonderful teacher and guide to diana.  diana appreciated the chance to make her own decisions and ask for help when she gets stuck.  she loved how mrs. borton plays soft classical music during the class.  she learned more about herself and how she relates to others (there were similarly-aged children in the classes, and occasionally adults).  she could enjoy both the process and the product of her efforts.

i think we would both like having a loom of our own.  that desire runs in our family; steve's mother, diana's namesake, had multiple looms and wove beautiful creations that we still use every day in our home.  oh, the times they could have had together, that girl and that woman, if the elder had not passed before the younger's birth.  but i see and feel the connection, and that's enough for me.

it should not have come as a surprise to me when diana announced that she was making her own loom.  admittedly, i dismissed the idea in my own head when she first mentioned it. i thought, "that won't work, but i'm not going to burst her bubble by saying so. she's proven herself often enough to have warranted my belief in her."  but outwardly, i simply wished her luck and waited to see what would happen.  she makes lots of things.

trial and error.  an emotional roller coaster of frustration, joy, fear, hope, anger, and finally, pride.

she started the base with the simple hand loom mrs. borton had made for each student in their very first class.  heavy cardboard and wooden dowels.

add cardboard, tape, straws, rubber bands, and experienced knowledge of levers/pulleys/working parts from weaving and LEGO engineering and scientific study and she made...a loom.


i learn a lot from my daughter.  that fact releases me from a lot of concerns i used to have about homeschooling her.  i homeschool with her.  in fact, i can just say we learn together, because that is what we do.  we build what works for us; we build it ourselves.

update: i was excited that my post was worth noting on lori pickert's project based homeschooling facebook page, and then on her blog.   

Saturday, February 23, 2013

jelly belly

this is a post about the candy, not the state of my midsection.  the two have nothing (ahem) in common.  at all.

the jelly belly factory tour in fairfield, ca is fantastically fun.  i like factory tours*, as it turns out.  i enjoyed going on one in ohio for longaberger baskets, for example, in my way, way, way long-ago years.  i am curious about and impressed by the efficient, quality-controlled systems built up over time.

unlike the crowded tour seen in the link below, our early-arrival group contained fewer than 10 visitors.  instead of watching videos, we had the fortunate advantage of a tour guide talking us through our visit.  he pointed out what was going on at the time in different areas of the floor.  he told stories about which flavors were currently most popular and why, and how the preferences will go in cycles.  he allowed us to examine and taste jelly bellies at different stages of their manufacturing process.  he amazed us with his explanations of how flavors are incorporated into every part.  though we were not permitted to take photographs during the tour itself, i will be hard pressed to forget the images of winding conveyor belts, metronome-precise mechanical arms moving to and fro, endless stacks of boxes, more than a rainbow of stunningly vivid colors, and gigantic tumblers for mixing or polishing or sorting out all but the perfectly-sized-and-shaped bean (the others are all "belly flops" and are unceremoniously packaged into bags, anonymously, to be purchased at half-price by cost-conscious parents like myself).

there's an art to this, he told us.  just like grandmothers cooking their recipes in their kitchens, the employees pay very close attention to making these complicated confections.  they have to inspect and test and verify and tweak each and every batch to make sure the candies don't stick together.  ingredients, humidity, and other factors can make a difference.  knowledge, experience, dedication, and a desire for things to measure up to jelly belly standards combine and culminate in morsels of unparallelled deliciousness.  except for the beanboozled ones.

did you know there's a tasting counter?!

one of the things that stopped me in my tracks, though, were the massive mosaics.  what an enterprise!  so, of course i had to purchase a sufficient poundage of imperfect pieces as raw material for our art.  and our consumption.  ten pounds seemed reasonable at the time.


our at-home efforts were not highly ambitious.  diana initially wanted to create carl sagan's head from jelly bellies.  i suggested something smaller, to start with. at least.

diana started sorting by color, on my recommendation. she ran out of room fairly quickly
those wonky shapes were so interesting

shari had the brilliant idea of starting with a slightly sticky base to keep the pieces from moving around after they were placed.  we put down clear pieces of contact paper, adhesive side up, onto the table.  it was a bit of a pain to work with, like a large piece of unruly packing tape, but with enough hands and blue sticky stuff, we wrestled it into submission.


that was all well and good until it came time to remove the art from the contact paper.  i had thought mod podge would be great - dries clear and hardens to a shiny shell.  unfortunately, it also runs the color right of the candy.  good thing we started with a sample.

this had been an adorable vw bug before we inundated it with mod podge.

we thought hot glue was worth a try.  it worked, in that it did stick the candies together and did not remove the color, but it had the unfortunate effect of showing through the holes between the candies.

after consulting the google for ideas, we decided the next thing to try would be to coat a piece of cardboard with washable craft glue, then place it on top of the mosaic, allow to dry, and peel away the contact paper.  we actually have yet to try that, and i'm fairly certain we have moved on to other projects enough that we won't be coming back to this.  besides, i am not packing this art and moving it across the country, so i'm better off saving my cardboard boxes for moving instead of cutting them up for art.  photographs are much better for preserving this art.

diana's jellyfish

shari's bicycle
and mine?  no, i didn't make one.  i was too busy eating the materials or keeping them out of ander's mouth.  mostly.

if you, dear reader, want to try your hand at such a mosaic, i highly recommend this set of instructions i came upon.  i have several leftover bags of belly flops in case you need supplies.

* factory tours are not for everyone.  it was quite loud while we were viewing the various machines at work.  i asked our guide if the employees on the production floor needed to wear ear protection; he assured me that they could if they wanted, but that the decibel level was much higher where we were observing.  perhaps we should have brought our own headphones to drown out the sounds.  in any case, for those of us who prefer a quieter, less chaotic method of seeing how things are made, ander recommends watching "how people make things" in mister rogers' neighborhood at pbskids.org.  he particularly likes the bread, fortune cookies, and crayons.  i enjoy the music that accompanies mr. rogers' and mr. mcfeely's voices when describing what happens in the manufacturing processes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

i love what she sees

my friend shari came to visit last weekend.  actually, longer than just a weekend, thankfully.  she loves us so much that she actually takes vacation days from work just to fly to see us, no matter where we move to.

she's been doing this since we met during my first year of college.  or maybe second.  not that it really matters.  she's known me for approximately the same length of time that steve has, and she hasn't abandoned me yet, so i guess she's in for the long haul of friendship with me.

something culminated in me during this visit.  we always take pictures and share them with each other.  the ones she took this time, though, made me catch my breath.  i cried when i first saw some of them in small form on her camera's screen, and i'm crying again as i look through them on my computer.

they are photos of me.  me with my children.  me with her.  me alone.

i'm crying because i am happy.

you may recall my word for the year is release.  i recently reread some posts which are included on my "things i mull over" tab, on staying in the picture and telling my kids i am beautiful.

shari's quiet, gentle, patient capture of my image releases me from my worry over how i look.  my body is soft and round.  it is the body that comforts and reassures my children and makes them feel safe and loved.  i need not be ashamed nor proud, just willing to accept and love it.

shari's presence at all the moments of our life for the days she was here allowed her to photographically record what i do.  her effort releases me to recognize that what i do with my children is visible, tangible, powerful.  i can easily sense my love and my joy in these moments.  she has thoughtfully ensured that they will be deeply etched into my memory.

so it turns out that i do love what she sees.  truly.

thank you for that priceless gift, my friend.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

they might have been hidden, but we found them

hiking in hidden falls regional park: a pictorial. 

photos of me, or those not taken by me, are courtesy of our visiting friend, shari.

oddly enough, though diana was with us, most of the pictures were of her brother.  maybe it's because he decided to be the leader and set the pace for the rest of us.  nicely done, everyone, for going up and down a decent amount of elevation on the hilly, red clay terrain for over three miles.  i'm sure the chocolate frogs at the midway point didn't hurt any.