Friday, September 28, 2012

On the trail of Origami Yoda

I felt like a complete groupie last Saturday. A really weird groupie.
Instead of a party for his birthday, Tigo wanted to go to the National Book Festival this past Saturday and see his favorite author Tom Angleberger speak. You know, those Origami Yoda books. Well, that is a request you never would have heard me ask for as a kid.... no party, just books. Not so much.

In my usual attempt to try to schedule a few too many things at the same time, I thought we could make a big adventure out of it. A wild goose chase is what really happened.
Waiting for the Metro.
And yes Azalea did spray her hair pink to match the pink ballroom gown she decided to wear, along with blue high heels.
Tigo, Azalea and I headed off for the metro, on our journey through the underground world for our first time in over three years. You know, back in the city, gotta get into the city life.

Not the glamour as I was hoping. Usually the metro is fairly empty on the weekend.... except when there is major repairs going on the line, not as many trains are running, there is a Nationals' baseball game, and a National Book Fair down on the mall in front of the Smithsonian. All that means, too many folks in my space.
This is actually a shot from the ride home. I wasn't capable of taking a pic on the way there.
We jam packed into our late running car and I prayed for dear life that I would not in anyway seperate from the kids in the crazy crowds. (Never let em see you sweat was not the motto on this stinky train.) There was absolutely no room to move, body odor was everywhere, I could barely move my arm to scratch my nose with out elbowing the 20 people that I had just become intimately involved with. And since I was mugged/ robbed on a subway train similar to this once in Spain, I was a little paranoid of my kids getting away. (I left out that detail with the kids when I was touting the greats of public transportation, and well, apparently I left out a lot.)
Tigo started reading while waiting in line.
Finally when we arrived much to late for my liking, but with still enough time we took the long escalator ride to the blue skies above. And of course the BOOK SALES tent was strategically placed so that no one could come or go with out seeing it immediately and being lured in. So we headed into the tent to get Tigo Tom Angleberger's latest book The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, so that we could get it signed. We also picked up a few other books from the presenting authors like Dominic Moceanu's new Winning Team which is a fictional gymnasatics book that Lola is now reading.
Olympic gymnast Dominic Moceanu talking about her new books.
So then we raced to the furthest tent away where Tom was to be speaking at 12:40 (I feel like I can call by his first name now, and it's ok). It was 12:35 and we (I) was a little bummed that we missed R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series, but Disney Jr's Choo Choo Soul was going to entertain us whether we liked it or not until the next author came on. 
Marc Brown free draws for a rowdy crowd of elementary aged kids.
So the next author was PBS's Arthur's Marc Brown. Who was absolutely fabulous, and fun and entertaining and he answered questions and drew pictures. But he was not Tom.
Waiting.... waiting.... interested, but not who we are looking for...
Then there was Choo Choo Soul again. Apparently they were the hosts of this stage. Then the next author was Jeff Kinney, the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. And he was even better and super fun and interesting and full of good advice and personal naratives about his journey as an author and cartoonist. So good. But he still wasn't Tom Angleberger. (We went back to full names, as I was a little upset, and we use full names when people are getting into trouble.)
Tigo's in the red on the left, Jeff Kinney on stage.
So I asked a nice volunteer about what happen. Explaining that we were there before his time, he hasn't shown.... Wassup? Oh, he came on early. .... But it's your son's birthday, I'll see if I can grab him before he leaves for a special one on one. Awesome, you say.... Except, she never came back. If you ask me, that was a mean escape tactic to get away from a crazy mom. Hmmmm.

So apparently we missed him, he was already signing books on the other end of the festival. When Tigo realized that Tom Angleberger wasn't going to show up again. He was devastated. So I needed to vent. But I couldn't tell the kids how mad I was, but I didn't want to sound like a crazy on Facebook, so I tweeted. Yes, I went to twitter, and to my 2 followers. But hashtags fail me not. Social media pulled through and I saw an #origamiyoda tag that Tom Angleberger was speaking and signing books at Just One More Page Books in Arlington, in just one more little hour at. Heck yeah! We can do this thing.
 So I did what any lunatic mother would do and made my kids run down the gravelly path back to the metro so that we could cram alongside with our 20,000 closest strangers and beeline it to the Ballston metro where we parked at my dad's house and then drive to the book store and get into a seat where Mr. Angleberger (he is getting a little respect now that we finally see him) is about to speak in 3, 2, 1..... Origami Yoda time!!!

While the National Book Festival was lively, being here in close quarters was absolutely awesome.
Tom came out, started drawing pictures, totally messing with the kids. Making jokes, playing mind games, calling everyone Larry, giving away his drawings, having fun, making the the kids laugh, creating huge origami yodas, interacting and then signing books.

Luckily we had all our books with us for him to sign and we bought the others outside the series and had him sign those. Then Tigo presented him with about 5 of his own little origami creations that he got Tom to sign.

Then the line went through, and people left and Tigo hung around like a groupie and went back to talk with him and ask him more questions about the meaning of life. And Tigo showed him his own designs, trying to run his ideas with Tom to see if they were a good idea.
Here Tom is looking at a "house" that Tigo created for his origami wookie. You can tell by Tom's smile how thoroughly impressed he was.

Tom was super nice and fun with the kids. The only thing I need after all that was said and done was some good fish tacos and a margarita from Clare and Don's up the street.

I kind of like it when authors are like rock stars and you chase them around the city to meet them. It's cool when they are cool too.

Read on kids!

Friday, September 21, 2012

That History Town

There's 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it.
So the annual question for our generation is finding the best way to spend it.

Labor day was our last day of summer vacation. This year felt lie the endless summer with the kids getting out way back at Memorial Day weekend and then not having to go back to school until Labor Day. A true full summer vacation.  My vision of homeschooling slipped away again this year, but why not have that last day of summer, be a little educational

So we went to "that History town" as Azalea likes to refer to Harpers Ferry.
I tried to give the kids a Wikipedia synopsis of Harper's Ferry's  history while they were strapped into their seatbelts. They had no way to get out of the moving car while I fill them with important facts about Frederick Douglass and the Civil War.
While Azalea was pretty excited and Tigo was intrugued, yet frightened, we skipped the Ghost Tours.
You don't have to look too far to see where the stone for these old buildings came from. And if you look close enough there is one of the earliest billboards around. They have never been pretty, especially when they are painted permanently on the side of a mountain.

What good is visiting a small tourist town with out checking out the trinket stores, where you can get all the things that you don't need.
But I do love when I see that there are still stores that haven't subscribed to the overbearing world of credit cards and corporations.

And then there are the amazing rivers. The Shenandoah River flows into the Patomack (or Potomac for y'all in the new millenium). The rivers are so beautiful and gently flowing into rapids. Next summer we will most definitely be doing many tubing trips down the Shenandoah.
West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia meet here.
My silly peeps.
We are all about rock stacking. It was a favorite of ours in NM, so it was pretty cool to see this amazing random display on a weird obscure wall.
The last time I came to Harpers Ferry was over 15 years ago and I went camping with my friend Tiffany. If I remember correctly, we checked out the town, then hiked up the mountain, and found some random patch of forest floor to sleep on and told ghost stories, freaked each other out and claimed we heard a bear in the night. Exploration changes form with kids.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fitting in vs Belonging

‎12 year old wisdom on fitting-in vs. belonging: "If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it's fitting in." Amen.

Above is a Facebook post that Brene' Brown posted this morning. A quote that came from the mouth of a tween I know not, but the actions that flow in and out of our house, echo with that sentiment.

It all started about four and half years ago while my family was hanging out with my cousin and her family. Her great husband, who at that time only had sons, suggested to my then 7 year old daughter that her hair would look super cool if she put some funky red streaks in it, or maybe colored the bottom half of it. Really? Thanks a lot, Adam.

No, it didn't really start four and half years ago, it started the day she was born. She is her own person, she always has been and she wants to reflect that, and their conversation was merely a catalyst for an idea in motion. (But doesn't it feel good to have someone to blame when they aren't around to defend themselves.)

So now she is in middle school.

Sometimes I feel like that's all I need to say and we all (all of us who are past middle school, and not in it's midst) will collectively understand. We will all simultaneously roll our eyes, cringe from memories we try to block and sigh, "yeah, that's tough." And the conversation can be over.... except when you have a 12 year old daughter living it, and therefore, the escape exit is locked.

Today is picture day in seventh grade.

I completely expected today to have a fun before and after post of the hair dying party that we did last night. Through the process, I was so nervous I kept asking... What if you don't like how it turns out? It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. And so it goes, the only outcome we had not discussed, is the one that happened.

Or didn't happen. (By the way, it mattered).

My girl has stick straight, shiny lustrous dark brown hair. The kind you can sell on the streets. Strangers ask if they can touch it (for real). Everyone loves it, except the girl who is growing it out of her head. She is always asking to color it, change it, color it, style it, color it, braid it, color it, curl it, color it.... you get the idea.

One of my big griefs with her coloring her hair (so I argue) is the chemicals. Mostly those involving striping her hair of the dark color so that the other color of choice (RED in this case) can be added. I felt like we came to a great compromise. No stripping, and we would use Henna hair dye. More natural, less chemicals, hopefully the same effect.

When I took her to the store to get it, she thanked me about nine million times. She skipped through the aisles.  We went home, did home work and then the serious business of following small print directions and dying hair began. (I mean really, color your hair before 7th grade picture day starting at a new school where you don't know more than a handful of people... who is that risky?)

I will spare you many of the details, but let you know she had a plan. Only the bangs and the under half of her hair was addressed, there was a style to it, we followed the instructions and let it sit (an hour probably wasn't enough) we washed the henna out of her hair, blew her hair dry to confirm.... and it was..... exactly the same color. Not the same color as on the container, the same color hair as when we started.

"I just wanted to do something different."

The quiet mourning began. The somber effect and let down of trying to express yourself and it not working out.

So here we are, still, trying to figure out what it means to be yourself. What it means to stand out but not for the sake of standing out. Learning to be different for different's sake is something that has always bothered me with passing fashions. But being different because your soul wants to stand out and say "I am not the same as you."

Can hair do that? Can hair make your soul tell another person that you are different? That you belong because you are yourself, and not the same as someone else. You belong, not because you fit in to be accepted.  But to be accepted for who you are. This is a hard courage to walk along side of. Coming of age and becoming yourself is a fine line.

The beginning.... these were the photos that were supposed to show before and afters...

The Red Henna as we were just getting started.
(you know, I didn't think it looked that red either...)

I'm so happy, right now.

Jeez, look at my face. I'm a little confused, scared, worried (grossed out).

Vasoline on the ears to avoid staining. Wouldn't that have been awful if the hair didn't change, but her ears did! Ack!
Mucky, muck, muck. Still doesn't look red to me... should it? I'm new at this.

You can see my technique has skills to be desired.

And the last photo before we forgot, left the kitchen, did some homework, blow drying, eventually washing, and then quiet mourning....

So what's next?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Everybody loves a sound of a train in the distance...

Everybody knows it's true.

For three years I was promising the kids that we would take the train to Santa Fe.
We would watch the mighty RailRunner go by nearly everyday. We always seemed to be commuting to either gymnastics or soccer as the afternoon train would roll by.
And we would count the trains coming and going from Santa Fe.
And so we had to go. We always drove when we went to Santa Fe. It was always easier for timing, and a family of 5 commuting to the Plaza. But this time it was the train.
Of course there was texting, and gaming and chatting. But the real joy was seeing all the things that could barely be captured by a photograph. Kind of like driving along the road, when you see something that passes so quickly but you can't take a photo of it.

Elmer saw a calf on our way up north. It was all alone caught in a barbed wire fence, alive and struggling to get free. A calf, that if he weren't rescued sometime soon by his rancher, he would probably die from hurting himself trying to escape.  We thought about that scared little baby all day long. Wondering if he got released or not. We looked for him on the return trip and didn't see him.
We found Santa Fe and we walked the streets, zigzaging our way to the old Plaza.
There was an imported rug store that I have been dying to go into for over a decade. For whatever reason, I never went until this day. The kids and I browsed through gorgeous wood carvings and handmade rugs from all over. The owner, or manager, or whoever, treated us like the scum of the Earth. Followed us around and asked us to leave his store, though we did no trouble other than me traveling with 3 children. It was the worst I had ever seen of Santa Fe's hosts. I will never go back.
And what is Santa Fe with out a wealthy woman sitting on a balcony overlooking the Plaza in her Cowgirl hat. These balconies don't come cheap, but I'm guessing there is some pretty good people watching from there.
Oh the peppers. How I will miss all the peppers. Oh I miss them right now, just thinking about all those peppers hanging in all those places that seem just right, and beautiful.
Me gusta Frida (that's her on the yellow bags in the back).
While we were sitting right here in this spot, Lola watched a man get down on his knee and propose to the woman he loves.  Tigo and Azalea missed it as they were wrestling in the grass. After Lola told us what had just happened, we watched them hug and kiss and then walk off to buy a freshly squeezed Lemonade, because that is what everyone should do when they become engaged on a hot, high desert, summer day.
Not the most flattering picture, taken by Lola laying in the grass. But it was so nice seeing Shana almost everytime I went to Santa Fe. And with her mom there this time it was even better.
The wild sunflowers overtaking the sidewalk. With so many red doors we pass.
Santa Fe Trail
It's a bit hard to read, here, but the photograph is of a License for Prostitution. Oh, the good ole days.
This was close to my favorite picture.
In the end. We were glad we went. It was fun. The train ride was cool. We got to look at old adobe buildings falling down and being reconstructed again. We saw Reservation land in an area that we normally didn't go. The "Carny" folk on the train were interesting. From bicycling commuters, to goth pharmacists, to teenage grandchildren visiting their grandparents, to Native Americans commuting from one Reservation to another, to part-time tourists like us. It was a Sunday, so the work crowd was gone.
I'd go back again.