Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adios dear Tigerlily!!

This year Bruno has been going to the sweetest little preschool ever. Nicole and Marie are just the best... so gentle and thoughtful and aware and present and creative and fun. And they got mad skills when it comes to helping these young ones sort through their emotions, deal with conflicts with friends, learn stuff, and all sorts of other wonderful things. Today was the last day and Eli and Bruno will be on to other schools and experiences next year. So hard to leave it all behind! For me at least, I feel like I wish we could all just stay in cozy sweet nurturing Tigerlily world forever. Nicole wrote this BEAUTIFUL song about her little Tigerlilies....

...TEARS!! Such sweetness and such good memories. Tigerlily we love you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More fun with wood scraps...

.... though this time the scraps are way higher in quality. I was so incredibly fortunate a year or two ago to be given several boxes of wood scraps from Little Guitar Works. I've used these pieces of wood for all sorts of things and it's amazing wood... birds eye maple, mahogany, ebony... I just used up basically the last of it for this project I did with Jack's class (and also made a bunch more to use for my camps this summer). You definitely don't need fancy wood though to do these project... I can pretty much guarantee that your kid will be fainting with excitement (if they've never sanded before) even if it's just a chunk of yellow pine or a branch you picked up off the ground... I have done this project several times and it's always adorable how excited the kids get about making the wood smooth and the amount of sawdust they create... lucky for me these kids did not disappoint. Thank God because if there's one thing I can't stand it's non-adorable kids. JUST kidding, anyway...
As you can see you can just cut up some pieces of wood and drill a hole in it. Leave the children to their sanding ( I stapled pieces of sandpaper onto blocks of wood to create a kind of sanding block for them, but it's not necessary) and then, when they've deemed their wood sufficiently soft and smooth, I have them paint it with mineral oil using a Q-tip. Wipe away the excess oil, thread a piece of leather twine or ribbon or cord through the hole, and tie a double knot, and voila... key ring. Of course it could be anything... I've had lots of kids just call it jewelry and make themselves really cool bracelets and necklaces... but project I was doing with Jack's class was classified as a Father's Day project, so the key ring and the wood and the leather twine combined to make it all sufficiently masculine.
The best part of it all was how excited Jack was to have me in his classroom. He came over and hugged me about 12 times and I kept seeing him glancing at me in this shy excited way... so cute that it doesn't even occur to him yet to be cool or to try to hide the fact that he loves his mama. And what a lucky mama I am.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A real honest-to-goodness LOGO!

My heart's fondest desire... a real logo for this li'l ol' school of mine. I truly realized the impact a great logo could have when this super kind and talented woman Christy Carroll donated her time to create the Austin Creative Reuse logo. I was just so amazed at what she able to whip up seemingly out of thin air... and at how it just seemed to give what, until that point was just ideas, substance and personality, really made it real.
Anyway, in my pure ignorance about graphic design and what all I wrote her about my desire for a really great logo. I should add that I really don't know her at all, she is a friend of one of the other Austin Creative Reuse-ers. She really kindly wrote back and said she was no longer freelance, was now working for Ptarmak & Associates, but she would be happy to discuss it with them, and how much was my budget exactly?
Well, my 'budget' is so completely laughable I can't really even mention it here, and when I talked to my husband about it he further continued to laugh me out of town. No top notch place was going to be willing to design something awesome for me for the few shekels I have to my name. I wrote Christy back and thanked for her time, and said maybe I'd contact her down the line.
Then the stars really did align as they seem to continue to do.... and she sent me this logo gratis, said her boss just up and made it and wanted to give it to me.... what the what the what the WHAT?? Well, thanks dudes. I'm really really thankful. Another instance where it just REALLY does not hurt to ask.
And oh yeah, if you'd like to join the facebook group, click here. Ooh la la, we're just getting fancier and fancier around here!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Josh Ritter Josh Ritter Josh Ritter

I'm such an embarassing goon about Josh Ritter, and gee, talk about swooning: I'm always swooning over the guy. It's probably because I've never satisfactorily turned even one person on to this music that I hold so dear, but I should know by now to not attempt to influence others.... to each their own, dear Kami, to each their own.

I truly do not know how to describe how it all makes me feel. There's just pieces of art that I've loved so much, they just lift me out of my life or this one narrow view of the world, and make me see that the world is really suffused with meaning and mystery. It makes my eyes prickle with tears, that feeling of transport, it's almost that painfully sweet, heart-hurting feeling like when you first fall in love and you almost can't even get close enough to satiate that feeling of how in love you are, there's almost nothing you can do (well there's some things you can do, but you can't do that all the time...and you can't really do it with pieces of art...). OK, we're veering into strange art-porn territory...

Anyway, suffice it to say that I really dig this guy's music. I love music that just gives you so much to work through and enjoy... there's just a lot of different levels and stories and references and ideas and all just so great musically, though I have almost no vocabulary whatsoever to speak about music. And he just has really great ideas and executes them so beautifully. Like on his last album, this song, The Temptation of Adam, which was totally funny but poignant and a little scary... it took me a while to figure out that the song was the opposite of the temptation of Eve and at the end of time rather than at the beginning (oh and get it? Marie... as in Marie's science, people)... just such an refreshing break from your average boring love song. And on this new album, a song in which an archaeologist and the mummy she discovers fall in love... you can read about the origin of the song here. I don't know, it's just cool... I don't know how to describe it. Mock me if you must.
He can also write some damn heart-punching lyrics. This new one really gets me:
I had a dream last night/I dreamt that I was swimming
And the stars up above/Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark/Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam/The drifters who'd gone under
Time, love/Time, love/Time, love/It's only a change of time
I had a dream last night/And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships/Leviathan and Lonely
I was thirsty so I drank/And though it was salt water
There was something 'bout the way/It tasted so familiar
The black clouds I'm hanging/This anchor I'm dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence/We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the saltlands/The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent
I had a dream last night/And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine/Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary/New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried/I closed my eyes I kept on swimming
I just love this vision of swimming through the confusion and the hardships of this life with it's pitfalls laid out like places on a map, and the lover, close yet far, a destination to travel toward. And I love the theme, new worlds, and explorers, fits in well with what I am thinking about lately, reading The Lost City of Z which is just boggling my li'l ol' mind.
You can read some of his musings on the writing of this newest album here. He's a pretty smart dude.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Austin Creative Reuse gets crafty

I had the fun of hosting a crafty night with my friends from Austin Creative Reuse last night. We were just kind of experimenting around with some materials and ideas... it was pretty much a dream come true for me because all I almost ever want to do is just get out a bunch of art supplies and play around and chatting with friends is just icing on the cake. Oh and by the way I've never even really had a space in the last seven years to host a friendly little gathering like this after hours... our house is just too small and even the tiniest little ruckus would wake up the children. So we got to christen our new room, unfinished as it may be, with an evening of craftiness and play. Excellent juju, I must say. I've been dying to play around with these amazing new ideas she's been working with over at Filth Wizardry. Always such a wealth of really fresh new ideas and fun stuff over there.
I also discovered that my little handheld die cutter, which is very useful but a little disappointing in that it's not quite strong enough to even cut cardboard, will actually cut the aluminum from a tin can! It was awfully hard to get a decent picture of the garland (esp. since my photography skills are virtually nil) but it really was kind of beautiful if I do say so myself, the way it caught the light and would spin like crazy at the slightest breeze. Kind of a neat sun catcher or way to startle birds if you'd rather they not rest on your tomato plants, etc.
I didn't really make anything super interesting with the fused plastic, but I'm excited to play around with the concept a whole lot more. We also tried this process... infinite possibilities!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Banging wall/ modular screen

My friend Bernadette brought by this big stack of used drum heads for me the other day. There's this place, Ecology Action, near my house that is this wonderful big recycling center and then they also have a free box where people can leave interesting tidbits that other people might be able to use. Bernadette kindly thought I might could make use of these drum heads and I did immediately have this idea for them. Actually I had thought of inviting the kids to bang on them but it came out looking so kind of nice and modern that I think I might leave that for awhile... my kids tend to take things to such an extreme sometimes I am sure they'll all be punctured soon enough. But a banging wall like this would really look groovy in my dream reuse playground (for Austin Tinkering School? or Austin Creative Reuse?) we'll definitely have to make use of this idea. Especially since my newest idea is to have some sort of School of Rock as part of the school.... tinkering, adventure scouts, and rocking out all day? Sounds like a dream life to me. And then we'd have plenty of used drum heads to spare.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This just makes me so happy

This is a pile of rubble near Jack's school.
Does anyone know who this artist is? I see the graffiti (seems silly to call it that... as if it worsened the world's dumpsters and concrete slabs rather than improved) around my neighborhood... and then today I actually saw a tiny little bumper sticker on someone's car that appeared to be by this mysterious man/woman/child/creature that roams the train tracks and underpasses and back alleys of Austin's east side.

If you do know who it is, thank them for me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fun with wood scraps

We are building an addition in the back... it has been getting a little ridiculous in our little house with 5 people, three of them growing rapidly. Actually I feel kind of guilty every time I say that, because I know in the 60 years this house has been standing it's probably slept a lot more than 5 and been happy to do it, but what can I say... we're big space-loving Americans and another bathroom is going to be really really nice. ANYWAY... one bonus of the construction going on is lots and lots of wood scraps. I love the wood scraps and keep trying to squirrel them away, and my husband keeps trying to get rid of them, promising me that there'll be lots more. Here was one very fun afternoon we had with our (wonderful) neighbor kids (I love them so much... whenever they come over the vibe is so chill and peaceful... I feel so very fortunate). Just glue guns and sharpies, building stuff.... great, simple fun.

Gever Tulley talked about engagement in his talks... I can't remember what the line was exactly. Maybe it was, kids are more engaged when there is less instruction and adult interference? I can't recall, but it was a very catchy little motto. Ever since, I have been very aware when kids are engaged and when they are not. These kids appear to be wonderfully engaged. Today in my homeschooling tinkering class, I made a mistake. I brought the ingredients to make bristlebots, and I brought my soldering iron to show them but not for them to use, not quite yet (they are all about 6 or 7, I was just a little too nervous). I had pre-soldered on the leads to the motors, and some of them snapped the wires off accidentally after awhile, and then I had to solder them back on (and I'm not that great at soldering yet, and it takes me awhile)... I felt like it wasn't that great of a scene, because they disengaged and became reliant on me to 'make it work' instead of being able to use all tools to figure it out themselves. Luckily the soldering iron wasn't even working well and we were outside and it was windy so I just nixed it altogether. Some people were able to make bristlebots and some just made a little motor attatched to a coin battery which actually bops around pretty well, too. And then it all got very beautiful with most kids wonderfully engaged inventing all sorts of interesting things. I'm still learning... so much every time I work with those great kids.
Anyway.... thumbs up for wood scraps and glue guns. Totally open-ended and I was able to not impose any preconcieved vision of what we should be creating on the kids, at all. Not as easy as it sounds, sometimes!
Any construction site probably has tons of wood scraps... ask around if you want some. Or come on over... I might be able to spare a few.

Aaaaand OK you talked me into it, just one more camp

ART, SCIENCE, AND COOKING CAMP, ages 4-7, $175, 9-1, June 28th through July 2nd, and Gluten Free/Dairy Free to boot! Marshmallow shooters, giant geo board, stomp rockets, explosions.... ART... and all sorts of delicious food made by kids daily. And all this at Clearview Sudbury School adjoining Paterson Park?!? With playground and pool visits too? This is getting so fun even I can't believe it. Let me know if you want in.

Sidewalk PAINT

You heard me, that's right. No not chalk, we are painting the sidewalk, is that blowing your mind?? So very very easy to make. Recipe from one of my favorite kid activity books: The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
good healthy squirt food coloring (6-10 drops)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Books I'm slavering over

I popped into Bookpeople the other evening innocently enough... just to browse, mind you.... but now I'm all fixated on these awesome new books I saw. The last thing we need is more books... there's already a stack next to the packed bookshelf, kind of a teetering overflow stack.... but maybe it's time to trade some out. Jack's birthday is coming up in only two short months... I just love having a reading boy so much, with whom to share my book loves old and new, it can be quite hard to control myself. Anyway:

I really like this new edition of Pippi. Of course we have read Pippi... and watched those wonderful movies (best. Pippi. EVER!) but it's been awhile, and Pippi's just so great. Luckily I found this at the library the very next day. I pounced. I grew up with D'Aulaire's book of Greek Myths. I loved it, and looked at it all the time. Last time I was home visiting my folks I grabbed it. Jack loves it. He's definitely got a Greek Myth fetish. Yes Rick Riordan, but also constellations and Jim Henson's The Storyteller-- Greek Myths (watch it free on Netflix!). But anyway, D'Aulaire's NORSE myths?!?!?!? I did not know this existed! Want want want! Simply must have!

It's true I consider Mary Pope Osborne a big yawn, but Jack's been reading her little series about The Odyssey and it's really much better written than the Magic (-ally makes wants me to jump out of a ) Treehouse (rather than continue listening) series. And I love those wood engraving illustrations, and I love American tall tales. So there.

This is another definitely-must-get. We cannot live without this in our house. We have this big stack of Garfields, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Tin Tins, and Little Nemo in Slumberland that get paged through constantly by literate and illiterate little folk in our house. Not to knock Garfield.... lord knows I have spent the better part of my youth snickering over his lasagna-fueled antics... but I have no doubt that this is infinitely more interesting and I can't wait to read it. J'adore Art and Francoise!