Monday, May 25, 2009

Traditional Arts Weekend

E blowing dandelions in the setting sun.

My sixth Memorial Day Weekend at Wheatland. It was just me and the kids this year -- doing some art, doing some dancing, watching others do these things, and enjoying music, music, music. As a dancer first, TAW is such an amazing treat for me as all classes have live musicians and those folks are very much a part of the class. I even did a couple of partner classes: swing with E, contra with E, and intermediate Cajun with someone I just met (I totally lucked out here... he actually knew how to partner dance already, so we breezed through the two-step waltz, and Cajun jive pretty easily!).

The kids played like crazy, as usual. O found a little gang and they built a wood fort and a stone fort along the paths at the edge of the woods. E was a loner this year...happily in her own head for most of the time. She is so different at 10: she went back to the camper to read and then tidied it all up and made the beds, she didn't want to come to clogging with me but then appeared at my side 20 minutes in and stayed the rest of the time, she ate food she did not particularly care for when it was served for her and didn't complain... Wow.

O was a different story. He was all about the peer group and it was interesting to see who he choose. He made plenty of mistakes, but he was so desperate to stay with his new buddies that it only took the tiniest look from me for him to rush to correct his error... except when it came to eating. He had a hard time disengaging from the play long enough to eat. A fitting end, perhaps, he finally wolfed down some food when he was past tired on Sunday and then woke up in the middle of the night barfing (on his sleeping bag, then on me as I tried to save my bed...)

Really, you haven't done extreme camping until you've handled a 6 year with a stomach issues. Go ahead, you try to explain through the closed door of a port-o-john -- in a bank of port-o-johns with other people waiting -- why viruses make his poop come out like pee.

Seriously, sorry to see the boy ill, he laid around in bed and then on a blanket while I packed up. He was all done with Kid Hill for this year.

Barfing aside, it was a lovely, relaxed weekend where the three of us all got along reasonably well and where we all got to indulge a bit in the things that engaged us as individuals. And yes, I will go back next year. And the year after. And you should come with me.

E runs the tires on Kid Hill.

Self portrait by O.

O's pic of our camp and his hippie momma.

E chilling in early morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This (gardening), That (computers and bikes), and the Other (walking)

1. I did get help cleaning out the side bed back in March. Today the kids and I put in some seedlings from Growing Hope. Later in the evening, I found myself worrying a spot on my wrist. I thought it was a bug bite, but no, sigh, was six or so alarming (well, alarming to those of us who are poison ivy sensitive) red bumps. I went in straight away to wash with the special soap and cursed my stupidity at planting without gloves (I didn't want to hurt the baby plants!). Grrrr...

2. I'm having cord issues. The power cord to my laptop is fritzing out. By standing my head, hooting like an owl and realigning the feng shui of my living room, I finally got it to work so that I can recharge my barely-holds-a-charge battery. And then I sent an urgent message to the tech people on campus and asked them to hurry up on the ol' warranty check they were doing. NEED NEW CORD VERY SOON! But then I am also having cord issues, it seems, with the computer on my dirty bike. In the process of moving my shifters and brake levers around to accommodate my new grips, the dead-all-season computer suddenly came to life... so I jiggled and realigned and tried what I had for my laptop, but to no avail. A couple of glimmers and one reading of 4.5 mph when the bike was dead still, but I couldn't get it work properly. Another day.

3. I've been sucked into the walking (and biking) vortex. My kids' school, with the help of the Ypsilanti Health Coalition is finally getting it together to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant. I brought the idea to the principle over a year ago, but, as he does whenever I mention the wholly inadequate placement and style of the schools' bike racks, he just sort of shrugged at me. But now... now the media teacher is on board, a couple of parents, the school janitor, and the YHC are helping out. We did a walking audit of the neighborhood two weeks ago. There has been a survey about walking and biking that went home to all families. And we just got word today that our request for a concrete pad in front of the school for bolting down bike racks has been approved! (Yes, we still have to find money for the bike racks, but there will be a place for them!!!!) The sheriff and the township planner came to our meeting today and had great suggestions for how we might get some of our wishes met (moving parking away from the school, lighting and adding crosswalks and a shared-use path to Service Dr., etc., etc.). We are staffing a table at the ice cream social next week and putting together a helmet giveaway before the end of school. It is exciting to see things happen -- and happen fast.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going on Tour

Heavy Metal Tour.

An alleycat of sorts, the idea is to ride around town for a set amount of time, collect all the metal you can that you find on the streets (things that would hurt a wheel or slash a tire) and haul it back to end point. We had a dozen or so riders and collected 281.5 pounds of junk.


Ypsi Pride. Recreation Park. Three kids, four Bike Ypsi folks, three neighborhood people, three EMU students, a gaggle of EMU football players and their handlers. Two dozen donuts. Two misplaced shovels.

We cleared the gutters of glass, condoms, and assorted trash; weeded the playground areas and re-mulched them; trimmed around trees; and generally tidied up.

Thomas is broom-wrangler supreme.

The football players brought flowers, so FOUR of them went to plant them under the sign. I finally pulled two of them (I was 'Site Captain' doncha know) and a few others to help mulch around the fence at the pool. A few other scraped and painted benches at the Senior Center.

Jeff spent quality time with Trey's weedwhacker. So did Andy. The quarterback wanted it too, but the team handlers said no (he didn't want to explain to "Coach" how the star had cut off a toe). O had a go at it too, fortunately a 6 year old can't manage the choke and pull cord very well and he never got it started.

At the end of the morning there was picnic in the park. It was not the lavish spread of previous years -- no doubt a reflection of the poor state of the economy -- and my kids ate the last pieces of pizza.

O says, "Thanks for organizing it. We had a good time. Are you willing to do it next year?" I am.

Mother's Day or why my grandma rocks

For this Mother's Day, four generations gathered at my grandma's in Chelsea for lunch. I brought my grandma a bleeding heart for her shady yard. While I went to change out of my dress and slides into something more gardening friendly, she decided to forge ahead and plant it herself. That, in a nutshell, is my 89 year old grandma. She's game for pretty much anything, pretty much anytime... corsage and all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Term that Would Not End...

Officially, the Winter 2009 term ended at 5:00pm on Tuesday. Yet I am not done. Sigh. Grumble. I still have journals from two students waiting for me to grade at my office today. I still have two students with substantial amounts of outstanding work that they will have to complete in the coming weeks. I still have forms to fill out for three X's I submitted instead of real grades -- because I couldn't get through the forest of late papers submitted less than 24 hours before the final grade deadline. Then there are more forms for the two Incompletes. Finally, I opened my work e-mail this morning to find a couple of to-be-expected requests to clarify grade details and comments. Those are fine, but the real kicker was the e-mail from the student (more than a full day after the official end of the term) asking if he could please have a D so that he could pass the class... a class he has not attended or turned in any work for since -- wait for it -- February. Well, at least that last one is easy. Now off to campus I go to do the real work that remains.


I struggle with the boy, I do. Anything I tell him, be it things he needs to do or merely information (such as the time of day), he interprets as "bossing" him around. He refuses to change his underwear, brush his teeth, unpack his backpack or do even the most minor chore without saying charming things such as "you can't make me," "you're not giving me my freedom," or, my personal favorite, "why do I have to do everything around here!" The school crossing guard told me yesterday that O is "so smart, but that boy is cheeky." Yep, 'fraid so.

Anyway, I'm done with it. The pattern came on slowly enough, but I'm doing my best to step back from it (and hopefully change it) with a three prong approach. One, is to just not engage. I tell him the things that need to be told (such as we are leaving in 5 minutes) and I don't react/engage with the fuss that comes back at me. Two, I hold him to the consequences of his actions (a tactic otherwise called "being a hardass"). If he is outrageously rude, he has to leave. I'm not available to be yelled at. This policy has even resulted in him being left home from E's last soccer game. He wouldn't brush his teeth, which I believe is a basic requirement for being ready to go out in the world, so I left him at home. He fussed and cried, but he called me later to apologize for not getting himself ready. Huh. Wow, it worked!

The third prong of my new approach came to me yesterday when I was avoiding life by taking a turn through the PTO Thrift Shop. Books were on sale for half off and I wanted to pull a few for the girl, since the school library is being packed up for the pending renovations, and I'm just not getting her to the public library often enough. I found her a small stack, a book for me (Life of Pi) and then came across a whole stash of Star Wars graphic novels and chapter books. In the game section, I also found a complete Battleship game! Rather than dump these treasures on them all at once I let them pick one book after helping with a school walking audit yesterday.

This morning I woke up to find O making his own lunch. He had already tidied the living room. He pitched in emptying the dishwasher. And he brushed his teeth. Oh yeah, he got another book. I need to go back and buy the rest of those Star Wars books. What was I thinking leaving some on the shelf????

I'm saving Battleship for a big weekend of yard work...