How I Spent my Sunday

I made this video to promote our event!

Enjoy!

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The peace of a productive family night

We had what was, to my mind, a perfect moment this evening after supper. 

Bridget was building and playing in her fantasy world (Minecraft), learning how to spell words like “diary” and “no one” and “secret” and “allowed”.

Jack was finishing his math homework, relaxed and focused, having brought home stellar progress reports from the first month of school.

Hubby was sitting next to me on the couch while I knitted my scarf, occasionally sharing funny videos and articles with me. And playing with the dog. 

   
    
 The TV was off, unneeded. It’s amazing how much easier it has become to turn it off without cable, having our favourite series and films completely on demand without ads. Much preferred over the old stand-by.

And now, as I sit waiting to pick up our teenager from karate, Hubby is helping Bridget with her math, exhibiting much more patience and firm guidance than I could have with her. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes struggle to keep the emotional coolness needed to help with homework after a long day. I get frustrated trying to help her. But Mark understands her and how her mind works, to a far greater degree, in part because she shares many of his personality traits and likely has similar learning disabilities. Certainly, the diagnosis last year of Bridget having a mild intellectual disability fits, and while it’s not quite what he had to struggle against in his youth, it’s close enough. He can relate to her and be the firm voice that she needs. 

   
 I think kids just listen differently to one parent than another, especially when one tends to be a pushover (I blame years of being over-tired, particularly while anemic). Or they listen to certain authority figures differently than a mom or a dad. That’s why it takes a village to raise a child: it’s far easier to tune out the voice that’s around even fractionally more frequent, than the voice called in to take over, pinch-hit, or teach a skill set that is one’s own weakness.

It’s much later, now. Bridget is in bed, and by some miracle, she not only finished her math with her dad, she also VOLUNTARILY learned to — by the holiest of Holies — wash the toilet. 

Bridget. Cleaned. The. Toilet. 

  
This child, who whined and outright refused for MONTHS whenever I told her to clean the toilet, begging for other jobs to do (and doing them with less and less fanfare), sulking on the couch earlier, scrubbed the toilet with Scrubbing Bubbles’ disposable brush thingy. 

I am in heaven. 

And I made time to layer the front of the Necronomicon with papier mache — got creative with a little corn starch (and salt for preservative), seeing as I forgot to bring glue home. 

   
 
Yes. It’s been a good night.

The catharsis of building a Haunted House

Not a real haunted house — the fun Hallowe’en event. Just so we’re clear! ūüėú

There are a couple of new elements to this year’s experience, and I’m finding that they are having a positive impact on my mood: 

1) I’ve got reams of help, in the form of three — THREE! — other adults sharing the tasks of design, tracking, and development, and over sixty (OH MY GOD) students who have signed up to participate. I’m fully aware that we may only end up with 30 or 40 regular volunteers, but that’s away and beyond what we had last year. 

2) I get to be crafty, and not just in planning messed up ways to make people scream (and possibly pee a little) — I get to make messed-up crafts. This afternoon, for example, I experimented with zombifying a stuffy. Observe the prototype below!

 

I wonder what the custodian thought about this?

 
I think I will experiment further with adding green and yellow blobs for protruding guts and bones, maybe using papier mache. It was so fun making it, though! As I told one of my partners in crime, I felt both bad and giddy at the same time. Found myself actually apologizing to the thing while I was cutting it open and pulling its stuffing out. 

And then laughing crazily as I daubed it with red paint and glued on the fangs. 

Pure, delicious, consuming evil. 

And this is just the start. We have pages of plans and notes to share with the rest of the volunteers, teams within the larger group that will work together to make the second haunted house even more creepy and frightening than the first. 

I will admit, it’s taken me a little while to get my momentum up on this. Coffee helps, but even more so is the excitement of the others, their push to do it well and get the jobs done — that’s lighting my fire, even in my exhaustion. I cannot wait to see it pulling together over the next two weeks. And as soon as I have footage, making the trailer for social media, too! (I’ve got one ready, using pictures from last year, which will go live on Oct 1 — I’ll post the link for you to enjoy as well. ūüė¨)

I worry, too. I’m anxious about trusting the kids to get their jobs done, and to be there when they say they will be. I worry about the lists of things to be obtained by borrowing, buying (damn, still haven’t asked about my budget!), and making by hand. But knowing I’ve got a team around me and (potentially) a small army of teenagers who are eager to make their friends and family shiver and shriek makes all the difference. 

Stay tuned for updates and photos as the project takes shape. Hallowe’en’s a-coming!

In which my son is introduced to Supernatural . . .

Heh heh . . . watched an episode of Supernatural tonight, a season 1 episode about Bloody Mary, and my fourteen-year-old son decided to join me after his shower. Now he’s all freaked out and doesn’t want to go to bed. Avoiding looking in reflective surfaces . . . I had to put on a comedy for him. Like PewdiePie goes to look at fluffy kittens after getting scared playing Slenderman.¬†I’m trying so hard to keep a straight face . . .

Nope.

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HOOOOO boy . . . I understand, totally. I freak myself out once in a while, too. That night hubby saw the reflection of a woman in a long white nightgown in the pictures on our wall, when I was in bed in purple jammies — I couldn’t look up from the floor at night for a whole week. And the morning after he and I watched¬†30 Days of Night, when he had to go to work in the dark hours of morning in the middle of winter JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE, he was watching the rooftops for vampires, he told me. And oh, this kid’s reaction when his dad told him, one night, in an ominous tone, “Don’t look out the window, Jack” — yikes! Our son is an imaginative and sensitive soul with a fantastic imagination. You fuel that thing with fear and it runs for hours.

Some of his friends like watching Supernatural so he said to me, close to the end of the episode, “I’ll have to watch from the beginning. I’m sure the others aren’t horror.”

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Oh, my poor, sweet, dear firstborn child . . .

BRB — I have to stand in the kitchen with him while he gets his bedtime snack.

*

*

*

Aaaaand I lost it. And now he’s upset. Get it together, woman! THIS IS YOUR CHILD!

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See, here’s the thing: I really do enjoy the show BUT I have not been able to watch it for YEARS because it came on right when I would be trying to get the kids to bed / keep them there. We didn’t have a DVR / PVR so I couldn’t tape it. And even streaming — well, when you have your youngest always wanting to sit on your lap and cuddle the minute you sit down, you’re not watching scary awesome TV. So I have missed almost all eight seasons and honestly, Mama wants to do some catchin’ up with those nice Winchester boys.

Seems as though I’ll be doing on my lonesome from now on.

I think I’m okay with that.

#badparent

Opening Night & the Adventuring Teen Returns Triumphant 

Good day. 

I made a fair dent in my end-of-year marking, working productively through the  day before heading home to rest before our first official showing of The Comedy of Errors

We had a nice crowd who laughed in all the right places and donated generously afterward. Nobody noticed when I messed up my lines, or that I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. We did have a great time, though!

   
                     

(The bug spray I borrowed was effective, but it also stripped the blue paint off the beads I’m wearing, dying the skin on my neck blue!)

Right after getting out of costume, I ran up to the school to meet our boy. Well, technically I walked. Hubby had the car and was already there. I was almost at the school when the bus arrived, so I was able to wave at them as they pulled up. 

Sadly, my phone was out of juice so I don’t have a pic of my son coming off the bus with this awesome fluorescent green squid hat on, clutching a small Chibi Flash doll and smiling tiredly, his face a mix of relief at being home and sadness that his fun adventure was over. He had an amazing time, a trip he will never forget, overcoming some fears and building friendships and trying new things. I’m sure he grew another few inches while he was gone, too. 

The whole house feels more settled, now that he’s home again. 

And the earth turns on. Tomorrow I have to go back into the school to keep marking, we have to start cleaning for visitors next week (I’d actually love to have the cast and crew for a campfire on Sunday if I’m able to get the house presentable by then), and the second show is tomorrow night. No sooner does one thing get done that the next needs doing. 

Slow down, Earth. Just for a bit.

 Addendum: the Squid Boy!

  

Reflection (in poetry) on Rehearsing The Comedy of Errors

I spent most of today in a long professional development workshop, learning about our new school board-issued¬†iPads, and for the most part, helping my colleagues who were struggling to set things up or learn how to use features. And then this evening, I got to spend time in rehearsal with adults I know as volunteers and¬†teenagers I know from my classroom — which rather felt more like professional development than the other. I’m not in charge in any way, shape, or form, in this production. I have to memorize my lines and portray my character using¬†the director’s suggestions, decisions, and feedback. I have to work in tandem with the rest of¬†the cast, rather than¬†giving orders (as is my usual role with a production filled by student actors). And I have to¬†practice the skills that might normally be teaching. For years, I have advocated teamwork, laid out how to prepare for a performance, taught projection, advised young people in how to memorize their lines. Now, it seems as though I must put my money where my mouth is — walk the talk — in order to help this performance shine. It is an effective challenge. It’s both intense and great fun. Only six¬†nights of rehearsal remain until the official rise of our metaphorical curtain. This poem is composed of some of my thoughts and reflections while in practice tonight.

Unknown-10edging closer to opening night

concentrate

preliminary blocking complete

focus

the lines are fragments still

pieces

that i stretch to bring into order

sequencing

with timing and emotion

fit

for the work of the Bard

*

a handful of days remaining

intertwining

work and play both demanding effort

time

dedication to the words

pages

markings by ink, scrawlings of lead

repeating

copies of what has come before

cycling

through years and decades

teaching

actors who are students who are actors

*

watch the young man memorize while

struggling

to also write paragraphs and reports

receiving

feedback that he uses to grow

performing

while i struggle to memorize while

balancing

grading and exams and reports

ending

what is the beginning for them

*

the play is the thing

connecting

an exercise in hearing and listening

talk

patiently gathering wisdom

experience

the student is the actor is the student

adult

wondering if they see me as i see them

learn

our positions change

Reflections on a Successful Field Trip

Despite the long LONG drive yesterday, the late night and early morning, I surprised myself by staying fairly alert throughout the day. I had a few moments where I completely forgot what I was doing or where I was going, but aside from minor mental lapses and occasional clumsiness . . . well, anyway, I didn’t keel over or curl up under my desk to sleep. Lots of coffee and then a nap after work in which I kept getting interrupted by this or that. I hate that sudden lurching hot surprised feeling from being shocked out of a sound sleep.

Working on the photos from ComicCon, deleting some and tweaking others. I do enjoy digital editing, cropping and enhancing colour, etc. And going through them reminds me of some of the awesome things we saw and experienced.

There was a guy dressed as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, and he had all the physical mannerisms and vocal patterns down to a “T” — one of my students thought he really was Jim Carrey for a minute! And it was astounding how he never once broke character throughout the weekend. Every time I saw him in the crowd, he¬†was Ace Ventura. Fantastic! There were a couple of other absolutely dedicated cosplayers, such as the lady playing Effie Trinket (she’d hand-made both her costume and her friend’s, and they were¬†gorgeous). I really admire that. ComicCon and FanExpo are basically fantasy-playgrounds for the highly imaginative. I’d love to be able to do that one day — come up with a really kick-ass costume and sink into the role for an entire weekend.

Watching my students’ reactions to the cosplayers, the vendors, the artists, the panelists, the celebrities and listening to their discussions afterward was entirely worth it, though. I heard them critically analyze the value of being an artist in this day and age, assess the effectiveness of workshops, rate the convention as a whole, and reflect on how well they did or didn’t budget their money. Whenever one of them scoffed (happily) at the idea that this trip was (air-quotes) educational, I reminded them that it really was, for all of those reasons. Maybe it connects to the concept of learning through playing, or maybe it’s being given small responsibilities within a framework. But they all concluded that it had been a valuable as well as highly entertaining (and even life-changing) experience.

I think, too, that if I organize another ComicCon trip next year (as many students are urging me to do), I’ll put together some kind of interactive game for them to challenge while they’re walking around. One or two were already doing that on their own — 17-year-old J decided he needed to take four photos with the 4th Doctor (different cosplayers) throughout the weekend, and he did it. 19-year-old B wanted to photo bomb as much as possible, but shied away after a while, even though it was fun (he has an absolutely perfect “soon” face). It would be neat to create a ComicCon / FanExpo scavenger hunt, or a BINGO card, asking the cosplayers or vendors to sign off on them as proof of completion. And I could provide a prize for the winner, like an event t-shirt. Just a little something extra, especially for the few individuals who were underwhelmed by the number of things to do that didn’t involve line-ups or vendors on the first day. Those few had expected more hands-on activities, I suppose. 18-year-old D thought it was more of a nerd-based merchant / trade show than anything else, and there is something to that. I was glad to see him attending many of the workshops and panels, instead of just sitting around. Anytime a student told me that they were going to an event, I told them how awesome that was, because it’s true.

But now it’s over, I’m compiling the photos and making copies available for some (especially our group shots around the DeLorean Time Machine and the TARDIS, and the groups who went with me to get photos with Paul Wesley and Billy Boyd), and I haven’t unpacked yet. I’m terrible at unpacking. It will honestly take me until the weekend. I have marking to catch up from last week, final numbers to submit and the bus bill to pay, plus keeping up with the lessons for this week. I’m contemplating booking a personal day next week, just to be able to get a day of quiet and rest¬†after all this hustle. That’s something else — my proof copy of¬†Crystal and Wand arrived, so I have to get moving on checking through both the pdf and the paperback. There just isn’t enough time for all of the things. Not at all.

If you’ve been following my journey of taking students to ComicCon in Ottawa, be patient — I’ll try to get a few ¬†more pictures loaded tomorrow.