It's fence painting weekend!  Actually, now that we've gotten going on it, it's turning into fence painting summer.  There is no way we are going to finish in our allotted three days of painting because we have a LOT of fence and a LOT of distractions like sleepovers, skateparks, feeding ourselves, wine...

I have mentioned a couple times that my house is a whole 644 square feet of wonderful, but that my yard is, relatively speaking, a good size.  It's a 175 feet deep.  It was established at a time when people were expected to have a home, a garden and an outhouse.  I joke that we bought a yard with a shack on it, which is funny, until it's time to upkeep the fence that circles the perimeter.  Not so funny anymore. 

I have a curious relationship to yard work.  In general, I like the outdoors, especially when it's on the other side of the glass, peered at overtop of the edge of my book.  I'm not a fan of actually being outdoors, in the sun, for hours, because I'm a vampire.  But I have very few jobs in my life where I can see an actual end result like yard work present.  Weeding the garden looks good (especially since I let it go so long).  So does mowing the lawn.  So many inside things that must be done but never actually look done or are, in fact, Done.  You only know that they are done by when they aren't done, because nobody notices that it gets done until you fail to do it.  I'm looking at you, laundry.

So, though I must spend time outdoors, doing work jobs, painting is something with appreciable results and a definite end.   At least I hope so.  We haven't made nearly the progress we've hoped for.  And the second coat will probably be much less satisfying since painting white on white is not quite the same impressive looking progress.  But, if I work at, every day, over the next week-

This is probably never going to be done, is it?

It doesn't help that I paint like I'm trying to bludgeon the fence to death.  It's tough on the arms and I have yet to subdue little more than half the beast.

I was trying to look at a bright side to all this but failing a little bit.  Thus, instead of trying to derive satisfaction from a job well done, I'm going to find another angle.  Like, look, the trees are gorgeous!

Yay, cherries!  Good stuff I have to work not at all to get!  Also, they look nice with my white fence and undead complexion.

And there is, indeed, an end in sight, when it gets too dark to work, so I may sling inside and read my book.

The book, by the way, is Shrill by Lindy West, which I am enjoying very much. The book mark is by Boy Child, and it is part of his design to attach a full set of deer antlers to his head to wear to the medieval faire this summer.  Not only is he a great artist, he is also a snappy dresser.

So here's to the end of another day of painting and getting things done, slowly and painfully.  I am sure, sometime around August, when the fence is fully painted, it will look very nice and I will bask in satisfaction of a job well bludgeoned.


my mother's day

For my children, who are epic. 

I really like this homeschooler aesthetic you've got going on.  It says antiestablishmentarianism with a dash of nap time.

I like that our spring time 'school subjects' are Picnics with Geese and Skate Park.  It's a nice change from our winter subjects of Coffee Shops and Skate Park.

I like that your favorite animals are penguins and centipedes ('They're so cuddly!") and that you consider our kitties, Tiny and Battle Cat, to be your brothers.  To be fair, all four of you come running whenever you hear packaging being opened in the kitchen as being in competition for food is a defining feature of siblinghood.  

I like that though you are only twelve and nine years old, you live like middle age people who have unstructured time in the afternoon who enjoy a quiet nap before tea time.  This is unbelievably convenient for me.

I like how you have low standards for housekeeping.  Not having nice things is an excellent strategy we've developed together that allows us to not have to worry about wrecking the things we have and we can just relax now and have fun.  As long as we clean up the dishes so we can eat off plates and occasionally hose out the bathroom, we're all good. Who needs nice stuff when we can draw on the walls and play indoor parkour?

I like how your creativity and interests are unfettered by taste and skill.  That sounds harsh, but what I mean is that you never wait to be taught how to do something right, you do not wait to be told what you should be into, you just sort of go for it.  This way of proceeding has produced mixed results but the process itself, putting the responsibility of learning on yourself, takes the breaks off and what I see is a couple of kids who are resourceful and assured of themselves.  You take pride in your own achievements, whether they be performing solos in musical theatre or learning to tie a balloon off.  Some people are given an education.  You are going out and taking yours.   

I like how you like me.  It still blows my mind that everyday you want to be around me, want my attention, want to hear my stories and want to do all the things with me.  I can't expect this will go on forever so I'm going to soak up everyday now that I can, being with you in our little world, living our quiet routines and laughing at our own jokes. You forgive me my flaws and I positively adore yours. 



My son likes his stuff.  Everyday he has a small group of objects that he deems particularly important, often related to some ongoing private imagination game he is playing.  The game may be or may not be related to whatever video game or video gamer he is interested in at the moment.  I'm not entirely sure, since he does not directly share the plots of his games with me and the games evolve constantly.  But I do receive little hints from the things he leaves about.
Boy child's playthings are generally of two categories: techy or weaponry.  Guns, swords and the like are preferred toys.  Things with buttons are the second favorite.  Remote controls, robots, calculators, toys that blink and whirr.  Sometimes a random piece of plastic or a Pokemon card will sneak in but those will be few and usually has some sort of interesting graphic or is shiny in a way that boy child will relate to weapons and machines.  Rarely does anything representing a living thing come into the boy's games.
Important objects to boy child, whatever they may be at the time, are often left in specific arrays in specific locations are not to be moved when found.  This can be a bit tricky, since information about where and when things become relevant is also not share, but I'm getting good at spotting the signs. 
Like this little tableau I came across on the table the other morning:
That one was a rather obvious arrangement and, sure enough, when boy child awoke, he came to the table, loaded up his person with these objects, and wandered off to continue his internal narrative.
I remember being flummoxed by little boys long before I had my own, irritated with their fascinations with weapons and just want to shoot, slash, and bludgeon everything in their atmosphere.  I like books and quiet games where all the characters talk about their feelings.  When boy child came along and wanted to mash everything he couldn't blow up, I turned to resignation and for a time gave into the lazy thinking, 'Well, I guess, boys.  What are you going to do?'
But lately I am finding myself becoming interested in the forms that weapons take and what that means.  Truly there is a vast array of objects that are outright representations of actual weapons used in the world today,  but also a great variety of imaginary weapons with science fiction capabilities (turning people to stone or freezing them, creating space/time rifts, etc.) all mixed in with a primitive skill of turning the most benign object into a weapon by sharpening a point and swinging it wildly. 
Stranger still, to the way my brain classifies, boy child has no division between these very different types of weapons.  He will carry his space zapper right next to his pointy stick.  He's like a warrior out of time, or in all times.
Thinking a bit further, this anachronistic warrior, though, isn't such an anomaly when you consider that despite all of boy child's fascinations with the things, they are still tools in service to a narrative game he is playing in his mind.   In his imagination there are people like characters that are moving about motivated by their own virtues and vices.  Bravery and sacrifice is a common theme.  Protecting, endurance and strength.  Heroism.  This is, I think, the core of the weapon fascination and connecting factor that explains why the mace is nestled next the ray gun.  It's in service to a higher value.
Even with the weapons and the monsters that he draws and the insistence that all our books be about zombies and the first person shooter games and the acts of violence perpetrated against any standing pole, he's not really a scary kid.  He's loving and sweet.  I don't want to diminish his love of imaginary violence (he does not like real violence), because, for sure, he is all about splashing about the imaginary blood of his imaginary enemies, but his the movies he loves, the stories he plays, are about overcoming odds and being the good guy.  And if being the good guy and saving all the people requires stepping up and crushing the imperial warlords with extreme prejudice, well then, a guy has to do what a guy has to do.  Because, you know, boys.  


studio update

For almost three months now I've had a separate working studio space away from my home.  This has produced mixed results.  First of all, anything you might imagine when you think 'studio', you have to strip out all the romantic elements like sunlight, windows, quiet and peacefulness.  It's located downtown in a basement of a busy theatre, so the atmosphere can be charged with all sorts of theatrical emotions and, if there is no theatre above, then Phantom of the Opera level subterranean spook, with me being both the creeper and creeped.

My ability to find get down to my studio is quite limited, much more than I initially anticipated.  If I manage an hour a day, I get quite excited.  Maybe three on the weekend.  Maybe.

While I'm there, for however long, is it work time, so that part is working out.  Focusing on the task before me, I am not interrupted by the demands of home, childs, husband and cats, leaving me emotionally intact instead of irritated and scattered, which is how I feel when working at home.  An hour focused on my work is much more satisfying in the studio as I feel like I've been able to immerse myself.

But what am I working on?  I pictured finally getting to jump into all the ambitious ideas I've had over the years and really produce as an artist.  So far... nah.  I have done about the same as I would have done at home, but, and this is important, with more quilts!

This is boy child's design (as inspired by a non-traditional quilt he spotted on the Internet).  I started this on the first day I worked in the studio.  It's now ready to have the border hand stitched in the back but here it is in starting the 'making a quilt sandwich' phase:

There is no way I would of been able to leave out the quilting supplies while working on other projects when at home.  As mentioned (whined about) many times, I have six hundred and forty four feet of home here and there is hardly enough room to swing a broadsword, never mind working on a multi-piece quilting project.  If you have children like mine, you know how relevant it is to understand how much room it takes to swing any variety of weaponry.

In addition, while working on the boy's quilt, I actually made another one as well:

The quilt reads "Hello I'm good for nothing Will you love me just the same", which is a little bite of the lyrics from the Dresden  Doll's "The Perfect Fit".  I love that song.  I love this quilt!  And I love this child:

It's our new couch blanket and everybody loves it, especially the cats.

My studio has allowed me to do these quilts along with some of my more usual work, but, they really aren't the purpose of having the studio.  As my husband reminds me, I have overhead now.  Producing the art so I can sell the art has been a little low on my priority list.

I love this guy, but he is the only doll I've made in the past three months:

He is a were-bear and I actually never want to give him up, so that brings my doll productivity down to, round-about, zero.


That is exactly opposite of the plan.

Okay, but, the studio has allowed me to start learning a brand new skill.  A little anthropomorphic taxidermy to expand my horizons and indulge an interest. Here is Rat King, one of several rodents I have been learned all about the taxidermy with:

Girl child has also been down to the studio to taxidermy a mouse along with a couple friends of mine.  New skills for all of us, and even commercially successful for me so far.  I've sold a couple of rodent pieces.  That would be a check mark in favor the studio.

I have committed to keeping the studio until midsummer to give it a fair trial and see if it's worth all the bother.  So far I give it a grade of fifty percent worth-it-ness.  I do like having an emotional separation between the creative work and this home where the childs and distractions are, though I end up doing quite a bit in the house still.  Mostly the quilting and hand sewing bits that I can do while talking to the childs or when we are all listening to a podcast.  If I tried sitting alone in my studio while hand stitching a quilt border, I'd probably go bananas. 

I have a situation right now where I've cleared out a couple projects and can begin something new.  I'm talking to myself about what is a good idea as far as taking care of some of that overhead, but, well, honestly, another quilt idea seems to have wiggled in and is proving difficult to ignore.  It is, with a bit of foreshadowing here, worming its way into my headspace.  I know there is no way I could tackle this idea at all at home, but, far away in my private studio space, just maybe... 


School Boxes

Tiny Cat gets a scalp massage.  It's funny how it doesn't actually help him relax.

We are asked sometimes about our homeschool and what we do to 'cover' subjects.  Sometime the person asking is a teacher who is assigned to our family to oversee us and, ultimately, keeps us in the legal zone of homeschool education.  Which is this whole artificial dividing of learning and mastery into ersatz categories that make no sense and frustrates me to no end.  Like you can chop life up into little boxes, stick a label on it, and study it at the appointed time.  Well, maybe other people can, but we've got a lot of stuff to cover around here and all our boxes are open and spread out across the floor, covered in cat hair.  So we don't do boxes well.

The worst about making 'subjects' of learning is when the childs buy into it and start to panic because they just go about doing stuff and then their conventionally schooled friends are all, 'Hey, what grade are in?  What unit are you doing in math?  What's your reading level?  What kind of science you studying?
Burning Stuff is a subject at conventional school too, right?

Every once in awhile I need to remind a child who has suffered a 'what level are you at?' inquisition from their school friends that learning can be measured in many ways and taking a test and getting a score is only one way.  Rolling around to September and being assigned a new grade number is another.  Or you can make stuff see how you have improved skills or build communities with other people creating things together.  Other ways of measuring learning is communicating your ideas with other through reports or stories or drawings, or keeping records, or just waking up and knowing a little bit more than you did yesterday and, even more important, getting excited about what you are going to do today. 

Stretching rabbit pelts.  You can never really wash away the smell of rabbits, unfortunately.

My favorite way of keeping score is by how many times I have to wash my hands in a day.  In our home, we are hands on.  No, we are Hands On.  I tell the kids that our learning is 'project based' which is totally legit (Google it) but, even better, is a good shorthand for all the stuff we do and how we learn while doing it. Generally, we do not shy away from the messy stuff. 

But, to make a homeschool plan in our province that is approved by government types, we do need to play the boxes game a bit.  So I need to figure out how the things we do because we want to do them and (sometimes) they just need done fits into scheduled learning objectives relating to subjects.  To be fair, they give the objectives generally and then allow us to label our own boxes without preset categories.

Still.  Now I have to make the categories that I am categorically against?  Sneaky work, people.

This is more art than anything.  Today, for instance, the childs did Math while helping put up the insulation for a room we are building for girl child in our basement.  (Right now the childs share a room, thus, there is high motivation for both of them to get involved in the construction and speed things up.)  They had to measure up the walls and cut the insulation to size.  That means Math, yes? 

Or was it Science, because they were learning how to insulate against concrete, to keep the heat in the room and the damp out. Or maybe that's Engineering?  Is Engineering a topic in grade school?  It could be Health because preventing dampness in the room is preventing poor lung health and also they had to wash up afterwards.  No, wait, it was Physical Education, because it was a lot of physical work carrying, prepping, measuring, lifting, holding and more holding as the glue set.  Or it was Communications because there was a whole lot of instructions given by their father.  Also, they listened to the radio, so Music Appreciation!   

Girl child painted the basement stairs.  With her face, it appears.

So where I put the priority?  Also today, girl child did her first taxidermy.  I was vastly impressed at her maturity and deftness with a scalpel.  Plus, it's hilarious to listen to the muttering monologue of a twelve year old girl trying to figure out how to deal with a mouse's oversized scrotum and to incorporate it into her plan of making her mouse into a tiny rodent Greek philosopher, complete with toga and laurels.

(Do the balls tuck under?  Do exposed genitalia add or detract from the general authority of the speech posture?  Why are mouse balls so damn big?  This is why he has to wear a dress.)

(Additionally, it helps to know that one of girl child's favorite memoirists is Jenny Lawson, which explains much yet also manages to raise even more questions.)

So, taxidermy. That is Biology.  And Art?  Anthropomorphic taxidermy is also a vocabulary exercise.  Could be Sewing. Definitely Health education.  Even Sex Ed. 

Boy child tries a little light dentistry on a swine jaw we used to make headcheese with.
Whatever it is, I have a meeting coming up with my homeschool authority to try to explain what it is we are doing and whether or not we meeting the learning objectives I said that we would meet.  Luckily, my homeschool people are totally onboard with the unschooling and work to help me articulate what it is we are doing and how to translate into the language that the educational authorities can understand. 

Also good for us is they allow me to use my Instagram account as part of our portfolio to show examples of our projects.  I use a specific hashtag I can search and bring up our portfolio at our teacher meetings.  My account is here, if you are interested.

I leave you now with our current favorite super Hands On STEM Youtube Channel, The Brain Scoop, which is fascinating for so many reasons and so good for my science-y girl to watch.  Also, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a great way to make a big box to throw a bunch of stuff in and not have to sort it out.  Sort of like how I always label all my moving boxes with 'miscellaneous'.