Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unity Halloween Party 2009

One of our favorite events at our church- Unity Church of Crystal Lake is the annual Halloween bash. It came early this year, since Halloween falls on a Saturday.

In years past, my kids have had any number of store bought costumes to choose from. I think they were addicted. At one point I called a costume moratorium because they each had about 5 and their not the kind of kids to wear them year round either.

So, it's been a few years since we bought costumes and I was sure I'd get the constant pestering, nagging and harassing when the catalogs started coming in the mail. I figured I might need to give in because directing to costumes that were too small wasn't going to work.

M of course talked about being various Star Wars characters and asked for a snazzy costume from the magazine. When I pointed out it was $60, he thought long and hard and said ... "nah... I can do something else." I fully intended to go to Joann's and get some brown felt and make a Jedi costume for him... but it never happened.

For a couple of weeks, E was talking about being a cat. But somewhere along the line, she and her friend Katie cooked up a plan to go as pioneer sisters. E asked for a black turtle neck and some black boots and I just stalled around and ... well... like the Jedi costume... they never materialized.

On Friday, we were invited to a party at the fabulous Nolans I hadn't been feeling my best on Thursday, so I didn't really tell them we were going until Friday morning. They bounced around and were costumed up in a flash!

Pioneer girl and "a stranger" from Star Wars. Oh yes, I'd been planning a Marilyn Monroe costume for R, but... guess what... I DID buy some big sunglasses, but as for the rest of it... it never happened. Luckily she had a hand-me-down Tinkerbell costume with the matching shoes in the closet. She loved it. She wore it all day.

We had a blast on Friday. They were so excited going to bed on Saturday night in anticipation of the big day at church on Sunday. Ok... well, maybe I'm just a mean, self-centered mom. I ran around on Saturday and managed to purchase a few items for my own costume. John had stopped into the costume shop during the week and picked up his one necessary prop. Well, we never got any guff. I think they were really happy to be putting together costumes from what they had around the house.
The kids go to "youth ed" at church and today they had Mad Science presenting on dry ice, the kids made puking pumpkins and slime. Luckily, I don't believe any slime made it home.
Afterward, there is a big potluck. And then the games begin.

Here is M, doing the infamous... Eat the Donut Off The String Game. It took him like, 30 minutes because he has no front teeth!

R figured out the trick right away... just go take a prize from the black prize buckets near each game. Though, she had been "taking" things all day... she helped herself to three juice boxes from the snack cart in the big kid's classroom.

Then came the voting for costumes.
The Gibson-Wetterholts cleaned up!
E won for best kid costume. Her friend V won for most original. I think the coolest thing about E's victory is that she put that entire costume together from things she had at home, ALL BY HERSELF!

As you can see from the pictures from the two different days, it took her a try or two to find just the right shirt to go under her dress. And yes, the hat is small. We got it 3 years ago at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL. I'm so proud of her for sticking with her vision. She's been reading Little House on the Prairie every night before bed and is really enjoying the story.

Then... the big surprise of the day... John and I won for best couples costume!

John is the Swine Flu and I am the remedy. I have syringes of LOVE and REST and medicine spoons of FORGIVENESS AND GRATITUDE and Vitamin D and Trace Minerals on a lanyard. And I have soap and chicken soup in my pocket.

It was a very exciting morning. Thanks Rev Tom and Ms. Marie and Ms. Maria for all the hard work that goes into this event. We really appreciate it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Letter B

This week's "Unplug Your Kids" project theme was "The Letter B"

I told the kids last week to start thinking of places we could go, things we could do or make that would fit the theme. They had a few ideas... like going to "Bucky Beese".

I blogged on Tuesday, and even figured out how to share my blog with Facebook.

We baked on Thursday ... Brownies! Yum!

On the way to GIFT on Tuesday, I was reminded of something that I loved to do when I was in school... making collages. So I suggested that the kids start finding pictures in magazines that start with B and we could make a collage.

I also found a shoebox and suggested M go around the house and find things that start with B and put them in the box.

So Wed I assumed they would just sit down and happily cut and paste while Kara and I made freezer meals. Well, E went at it with gusto, cutting babies and boys from the American Girl catalog. M was immediately bored and went on to other things. R was just happy to have scissors.

E pasted some pictures to the paper and was "done"! But it didn't look like a collage to me and I didn't know how to explain "collage" effectively. A Google search brought up all types of complicated explanations of what a collage should "really" be.

So, sigh, I thought maybe the fact that cutting out pictures and gluing them together was so exciting when I was 9 had something to do with just how mundane formal schooling was. But, determined to find out if collages are really fun or not, I sat down Friday night with a stack of magazines and started cutting.

John had taken the kids out to run errands and to dinner, because I was feeling a little under the weather. I thought I might just go to bed, but it turns out the creative therapy hit the spot.

The kids had started out using a piece of larger 11X16 paper, and I thought that may have made it too overwhelming. So I started off using a smaller piece of paper, but soon found I could easily fill up the larger sheet. Here is a picture of my collage and below is a scan. The scan is in two parts and some things got cut out.

Most of the items are obvious, but even John had to ask why a few things made it. So, here is a list from upper left to lower right of all the items... can you find them all?

Jack in the BOX
Box with Bow

Thorben Blanke
Bottle of Booze
Bimbo (or "Broad" or "Barbie")

Broom (one on the left and the right)
Baker Bab
Mr. Bill

Blue Bucket
Bunny Boot
Blue Bathrobe (cut off a bit in the scan)
Brown Coat
Business woman (she's cut off the scans)
Baby Rose
Hair Brushes
Paint Brushes
Board Game
Boob in a Blue Bra

So, the kids came home when I was about 3/4 of the way through cutting. They were jazzed and jumped in with cutting. R wanted to "help" me and put some of the glue on the backs (and on the fronts which is by "bubble wrap" didn't make it in the collage. And surely no artist has ever uttered "Please keep the cheese off of my collage!" as many times during a creation.

M just cut and cut and kept giving me things... but not many were "B" worthy. E helped me cut the "B" words when R was nursing.

The verdict: Making collages IS fun! I can't remember if we had to follow a theme when we were in school. Probably. E cut out a bunch of dresses and other winter things but still couldn't see the point of overlapping the pictures. I guess I'll have to let that go for now. And apologies to all the real artists out there who feel collage should be presented as more than just a cutting and pasting exercise. Someday I'll evolve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What We Assume

Almost from the minute I spotted her... I assumed she was homeless.


I'm not sure.

She was sitting in Starbucks, she had a cup of coffee, she was listening to an iPod. She had a suitcase next to her.

She could have been from out of town. She could have been a retired person who was going into the city for a day and stopped at Starbucks before her train. She could have figured out at her age that the only people that benefit from carrying a heavy purse are Louis Vuitton and your chiropractor. Any number of possibilities, but my first thought was "homeless person."

Normally, I might have been sure to navigate the kids to a seat on the other side of the shop so we wouldn't have to interact with a "person like that." But on this day, at 10AM on a Monday morning, Starbucks is PACKED.

I'm sure I'm just paranoid, but I know the other customers were eyeballing me and making some judgments of their own: Lady... with kids... three kids... loud kids... why aren't those kids in school?... please don't sit by me with your kids...can't you take them to McDonald's instead of Starbucks? ... Starbucks is for "adults"... OK, whatever, I'm paranoid but I'm getting better.

So, we're expecting to meet up with three or four other moms (and their noisy kids) and the tables with the most available seats are right near the woman. So we go over and sit down.

Right away she makes eye contact and starts talking about what is playing on her iPod. She is complimentary of my children. She has no front teeth. She has long gray hair. Her eyes are happy and she seems full of joy. I still assume she's homeless. Why?

She says, "Oh, it's 'Love Story' my favorite song!" I make a comment about how my 8 year old loves that song too. My 8 year old agrees, reluctantly drawn into a conversation with this "stranger".

My inner radar flips on... "Don't let your kids get friendly and talk with her! She's homeless! She could be dangerous!"

Characteristically, my kids are a bit shy and reserved around complete strangers. Not that I've taught them "stranger danger" but I have always tried to respect their inner compass and I've never forced them to be polite if they don't seem like they want to. I'm not forcing now, just being polite and somewhat uncharacteristically engaged with this person... who is "obviously homeless" but also "obviously harmless"... but...

Then she's gone. Where did she go? I got distracted by my little, not quite two year old, tornado and didn't notice her leave. One, two, three... all my kids are still with me. Whew... safe.

A friend comes in and parks her baby by us and goes to get a drink with her 3 year old. Another friend comes in and takes the seat next to the lady's. Sees the suitcase and asks, "Is someone sitting there?"

I say, "Yes, but I'm not sure where she went. The bathroom maybe?" Her suitcase is there. Her coffee cup is there. And again, a string of judgments run through my mind... she went out for a smoke... she saw someone outside who looked like they'd give her money... she's in the bathroom... why? She smiled, she was polite, she was clean... teeth or no teeth, her clothes were clean... she could afford a $4 coffee... so why was I so judgmental?

She came back. Any other customer would have been miffed that we had invaded her space so completely. She smiled at the baby and said "No problem" when I apologized for the stroller blocking the way. She took her seat and asked my 8 year old about another song. She cooed at the baby and commented on how quiet she was. She talked to the tornado.

She listened to her iPod more... then she confirmed it....

"My son is in Afghanistan. That's why I'm at PADS. I go from church to church. I'm waiting for Section 8 to come through. My son has a lawyer working on it for me. They have that for military families - "family law benefits." But, he can't get any other benefits for me because 'I'm just his mother'. Twelve hours in labor with that boy! And 'I'm JUST his mother' and he can't get any benefits for me." This (confession?) all delivered with a smile... without malice... or victimization or JUDGMENT... just acceptance of where she was at in her life right now.

Maybe living with one suitcase, when your children are grown and you have a son who can be sure you have an iPod and some pocket change for Starbucks is freeing at that age. No house to clean, no chores to attend to, nothing to worry about. Just go from place to place. Watch the world go by in Starbucks or at the library until PADS opens in the evening.

I thought of the book 'The Glass Castle' but I didn't detect any of the desperation or derangement that seemed to keep those people in their situations.

I should mention that DD became very animated and engaged when she heard, "Afghanistan". Though she claimed to not "get" 'Three Cups of Tea', she did connect it to the mention of that place.

Later, I asked her what she thought of that woman we met at the coffee shop. She shrugged. All she remembered was that her son was in "Pakistan" ...Me: "No, Afghanistan" but they are near each other. Then I said, "It's not often we have a conversation with a homeless person."

A look of confusion... "She was homeless?"
"Yes, remember, she said she was living at PADS. Did you notice her suitcase?"

All of a sudden you could just feel my daughter being hit by the enormity of the situation. "Everything she owned was in that one suitcase! And she doesn't even have a roof over her head or anything? And she lives at PADS."


Then... she seemed to pull the balance of the conversation out of the recess of her seemingly inexhaustible, yet very selective memory (selective as in: "I remember you said we could go for ice cream if it was over 90 in July" but, "I FORGOT you asked me to pick up my clothes.")

"She gave birth to her son, but he can't get an help to get her a place to live. Why not?"

"Well, you can only get benefits for your dependents. Your wife, your children."

"But not your PARENTS!?"

"Why not?"

My inadequate and muttered response was drowned out by the hustle and bustle of getting dinner on the table and attending to the tornado that is my toddler.

DD was distracted and didn't press for clarification or details. But, I'm sure a seed was planted. And maybe someday, that seed will grow into something more so that when I walk in to Starbucks and see an older woman with long hair, no teeth and a suitcase, I can assume something other than "homeless".

And hopefully, my daughter will be just as caring and attentive to me at that age... even if I am JUST her mother. After all, I was in labor for THIRTY HOURS with her!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Halloween!

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Wheel Day!

I decided that today we would do "wheel" projects as suggested on Unplug Your Kids

I actually brainstormed last night and made a "schedule" of projects.
This AM I announced it was wheel day. I started by asking E & M to consider what makes something a "wheel" versus just being a circle or sphere. We decide that wheels usually move things. Rose was not left out... she painted, she cut, she glued... and of course we sang "Wheels on the Bus" for her several times too!

Breakfast - Make Cheerio wheels
E- I made a circle & 20 lines with 1 cheerio in the middle,
And a old fashioned wheel,(pictured below)
And a butterfly with cheerios as the body

Mom's Cheerio Wheel... with a little help from Rose

Then - Color wheels using ideas from a few different websites.

Finally - a "wheel" photo scavenger hunt.

E's - The microwave turntable (moves the food) The Clock arms are moved by a wheel

M's - The wheels of the Mach 5 A truck wheel
Plus the photo at the top of the van wheel

Oh! I almost forgot! I found some instructions for making a lego globe! M was completely frustrated, but E stuck with it... though it doesn't look like a globe... you can see we made something roundish from something square... maybe a tree representing the colors on our color wheel!

This was fun!