Thursday, July 29, 2010

SUBURBAN NINJA: Water Park Punks

This is a mostly true story...

The only thing that didn't really happen was that the college guys did not actually beat the snot out of the high school punks. I actually got stuck tubing right in the middle of that group. Lucky, lucky me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Flags - More Fun

Monday was our annual Six Flags day. Last year we had SO MUCH FUN so I was super excited about going this year.

Any time you go to a big place like this, there are things to learn each time to make the next run smoother. For example, last year we (us and the Brudz family) got lockers right by the front gate. It was good in that we didn't have to lug our stuff around. But it was bad in that we learned we had to get another locker by the water park.

This year we just got the locker by the water park ONLY A.) you have to walk all the way over to the water park before you have any fun and B.) The water park opened an hour later than the rest of the park so we ended up having to lug our stuff around while we took the kids on a few rides.

Lesson learned: there's actually no easy way to do that. One way is more $, the other is more effort.

But once we got that situated, the fun began.

And cars.

These were the smaller rides, the ones with mild thrills for the young.

Then we went on Pandemonium. Pandemonium is a medium/mild roller coaster - but it is a legitimate roller coaster. Heather, Mike, Magoo and I rode it last year. I was worried about Magoo then because it was his first big ride, but he said, "It was awesome!" So we hopped on it again this year. Memories and anticipation are funny things. Last year I was concerned it would be too much and it turned out to be really fun. This year I think we were all looking forward to the fun and it turned out to be a little jolting. Magoo was fine, but I think he enjoyed it less this year. It does whip you around pretty good.

The boys got a quick pose in with some celebrities ....

... and then we went to the water park.

(Sidenote of pity: How horrible must it be for those poor people who have to be inside those huge, heavy, thick costumes in July. Ug.)

I have to say the water park was a bit of a let down this year and I think it was mainly due to the crowds. Last year we went in June right after school let out and the lines weren't nearly as bad. We whizzed through them so Magoo was happier and we got more rides in. This year the place was decently crowded. I didn't mind the wait so much, but my 7-year old did. He preferred to play in the wave pools but I was jonesin' for some water park action. I had to remind myself that I was not a 6-yr-old child and a temper tantrum would not be cool. But in the end I got a few single person water slides in (Magoo even joined me on one) so my thrill-ometer was satisfied.

Then it was time to dry off and play a few games.

It was just the three boys at squirt guns (which meant one of them would win) until a 10-yr-old girl strolled over last minute and won. Grrrrrrrrr. G won at Wack-a-Mole!

But Magoo's talent for darts is going strong. He popped two balloons and got a Road Runner toy!

Here the boys are with all their stuffed booty.

Next year I think we'll try to go early in the season - but all in all it was a wonderful day at the park!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Half-Birthday Bash

Saturday afternoon, we had Magoo's 7 1/2 Birthday Bash. The thing I had been hope-hope-hoping against was rain. We don't have a large house and parties indoors can get loud. Magoo does do loud. But I needn't have worried. Mother Nature gave us sun. And humidity. And more sun. It was 96 degrees, and with the humidity it felt closer to 100! Thankfully, I had a lot of water fun planned.

As you can see, I had just about everything planned. Michael teased me about my schedule. He probably would call it anal-retentive. I'm not saying it's not - but I call this organized. Throwing a child's party can be challenging and I just wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.

So, Slip-N-Slide was the first activity.

Here Little J and Big J slide into coolness.

I've basically done some sort of water thing every year - so there was nothing new there. But this year I thought the boys might like a little adventure between activities, so I made them maps. I always gave them a starting point (i.e. back stairs) then had them run around a tree and find their way over to a bench where I had hidden a clue: a riddle or math problem. I expected these things to take no more than a few minutes but I didn't anticipate the fact that these kids can not read a map at all. So it took a little longer. But they still had fun.

Here the boys are figuring out a math problem.

Now while they were in the back yard doing that, I was in the front setting up the water balloons.

I almost always do water balloons because Magoo and his buddies always love it. But this year it was a little more serious, a little more badass, a little more vengeful. If a boy got hit, he was OUT TO GET the kid that hit him. It was crazy!

I should add that this wasn't universally true, but it was true enough in a few boys and it made me think 'no waterballoons next year.' Those things are too time consuming to make if the boys are going to get angry.

Map #2: The boys had to hop along the front path.
And while they did that, I set up bubbles. I won't go into it again, since I spent the last post gushing about Extreme Bubbles - but they had a good time with them.

Here's O making lots of bubbles.
H did a good job with them. Magoo is catching G in his bubble of DOOM!!!!

I didn't make a cake this year, I just made an ice cream sundae bar. I think it was the perfect treat for the weather.

Then, as always, I tried to get a group shot. Magoo wasn't going for it. He was hot and easily irritated. So Mr. Smiley Face is going to have to help me out.

Speaking of hot, apparently I was a red-faced tomato. Mike thought I was going to overheat and pass out. He kept pouring water over my head. (It did feel good.)

By now it was about 2:30 - things were all going according to the schedule, so I sent them on another hunt and got the pinata ready. Last year I made the pinata myself and the boys broke it in 97 seconds. This year I bought it and it was a toughie!

Magoo takes a swing while his buddies sit on the bench, waiting their turn.

Some of the boys got a piece of it. Big J had a mighty swing. But in the end, Mike bashed it into smithereens and the boys scrambled for their treats in the grass. (Hey looks, Mr. Happy Face is back!)

Then it was goodie bags, about 10 minutes of unstructured play, and 'See ya later!'

Two hours was about all that Magoo could handle. It was just so ding-dong hot. But all in all I think things went well. The kids had fun. Magoo had a good time and felt like the Prince of the World - which he enjoys feeling like. And I didn't pass out.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bubble Mania!!!

Yesterday Magoo had his 7 1/2 birthday party. (For those of you who don't know us, we do not just throw parties for any old thing. Magoo is a Christmas time baby and that's just not a good time to throw a kid party so we always do it in the summer.)

ANYWAY - one of the things I purchased for a party activity was Extreme Bubbles. And boy were they EXTREME!

I had first found this company a year or so ago. I hesitated because I don't like to spend money on things I think I can make myself. Sure, I could have bought two dowels and attached string to them. Sure, I could have looked up a bubble solution using Joy dish soap. But I never did. I just didn't get around to it. And some of those online bubble recipes really blow so there's a bit of trial and error involved as well.

So when party time came around again this year - Extreme Bubbles was having a sale, so I went for it.

It was worth it!

Magoo picked it up quickly and he was one proud boy! Seriously, he's better at it than I am. And he had so much fun.

Thumbs up for Extreme Bubbles. (Sorry for the fact that this is basically a commercial for bubbles but seriously - we had fun with them.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Writer's Workshop: The Penny

Here's the latest story from Magoo. It's called The Penny and the concept is so cute that I might just have to steal it. Dibs!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Harvey Pekar died last week. I can't say I was a huge fan of his comic, American Splendor, but I loved the movie and I can appreciate the challenge of taking your life as a file clerk and making it interesting enough for publication and success.

So, inspired by Mr. Pekar, and wishing to improve my black-and-white skills, I will try to illustrate a few moments around here from time to time.

Hmmmm? Should I have a title? How about a working title of West Hartford Splendor? My Life in Black and White? Any ideas out there?

Anyway - here's a little moment from last Sunday. KOI ON TV

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Age of the Crow

This is my piece for the group show in November at Open Studio Weekend. All the pieces in the group show have to go along with a yearly theme, this year: Coming of Age. The good news is that you can interpret that theme any way you see fit. I also take a marketing approach to the group show in that I want whatever piece I have down there to represent some of the stuff people are going to see up on my part of the wall. Crows are big for me this year - so I decided to go for a crow.

I think upon first hearing the theme Coming of Age, one thinks of a child transitioning into adulthood. But having a seven year-old has taught me that there are many different ages/stages that one transitions into: from baby to walker, from staying at home to going to school, from having a world filled with mom and dad to wanting a more independent life and with peers, heck - even losing a tooth. It's constant really.

So I thought, originally, that I would use images of crows in different stages of life in the background. But as the nest and the crow came together, it occurred to me that a simple background was best. So now I think of this Coming of Age piece as a mother crow helping her young come into the age of movement and light.

In other news:

Celebrate East Lyme was in town over the weekend so we took Magoo to the fair in Gramma's neck of the woods.

I think I've mentioned before how much Magoo loves a Funhouse. The cruddier - the better. It's like throwing your money up in the air and letting him run an obstacle course. But he loves them - he really does. So we just watch as he maneuvers his way through.

Can I just say that if that clown painted on the background was a flesh-and-blood clown I would hope he'd have a better costume. Who thought Fat, Naked Clown was a good idea for a mural? It's super creepy.

Slides are also high on the fun scale. This one was better than the one at our own fair this year in that gravity worked on this slide. I don't know what was wrong with the last one but it was slow and kids were constantly having to skooch to get down. Not fun! This one was a smooth ride.

Magoo tried his hand at Wack-a-Mole. Unfortunately his response time just isn't strong enough yet.

But his dart throwing skills were up to the task. He threw two darts, he popped two balloons. Give that boy a prize!!! Yeah!

I'm always a little hesitant about the games because Magoo has a hard time losing and these games are hard to win - not to mention expensive. I hate to think we threw out $25.00 and at the end he loses a game and is depressed. That said, a kid has to learn how to lose. It happens ALL THE TIME. Sometimes when I talk to school groups I try to tell them about how much rejection is involved in what I do. I'm not trying to bum them out, but rather illustrate how you have to work hard, revise, and be persistent. Knowing how to take rejection is really important, I think. That said, it's hard to watch it happen to your own child. So I was THRILLED that he excelled at darts. We left with a happy boy!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Status Quo

Things have quieted down a bit.

Magoo took yesterday off from camp and since it was raining we took the day off from the pool as well. It was basically a home day - a much needed home day.

We worked a little on Magoo's new story but I find I'm still having to perfect the teaching technique. He wants to be left alone to write whatever he wants. On one hand I completely understand this, but on the other hand I'm supposed to be teaching him story structure and beginning, middle, end and all that. I tried to explain that if his first grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, had left her class all alone they wouldn't have learned much in first grade. But I also understand that he spends A LOT of time with me right now and sometimes you just want the other person to "shut the *bleep* up!" So we're working on it.

In other news: Preparations are being made for Open Studio Weekend in November. I'd been working on the fable series, but I just heard they are doing something involving poets choosing art from the group show to write a poem about and if we want to be considered then we need to have our pieces related to the theme "Coming of Age" in by next Friday.

Well, ahem, I hadn't even started that piece yet!

But it would be cool to have a poem written about one of my collages and it's good publicity so I started sketching last night and today I made a crow's nest out of ripped pieces of paper.

So far, so good.

In other news: Magoo is in love with watching Saturday Night Live's Laser Cats series on Hulu.

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm So Busy ...

You say, "How busy are you?"

I say, "I'm so busy that when I opened my box of new pencils, I gasped in excitement when I saw they were pre-sharpened and I wouldn't have to spend 30 seconds sharpening them."

Seriously. That just happened.

Of course I used those 30 seconds writing this post so ...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Writer's Workshop: Super Plant

One of the things Magoo's first grade teacher asked me to work on with him over the summer was story structure, so every morning we spend a little time doing what we call Writer's Work-Shop. The first morning we simply brainstormed ideas. I wrote his six ideas on index cards. The next morning Magoo picked one and wrote a page or two of a story.

He chose Super Plant. Here's the story:

This was Magoo's first story (I typed it up but the words are all Magoo's) but he has finished a second one as well and I think we're both in a groove after figuring out some key points to working together.

Here's what we've learned:

-it's good to have a 1 - 2 page limit per day. He can get overwhelmed and think of it as work if there are too many pages to write.

-it's better for me to guide his writing through asking questions: "What happens next?" Or "Why is Super Plant upset with the Alien of Death?" rather than offer him suggestions. At first I was trying to give him ideas of what to do. I wasn't really trying to write his story for him but just get him brainstorming, but he didn't like that approach.

-Magoo has no trouble starting a story, but mid-way through doing a short outline of the middle and end have been helpful to keep Magoo on track.

-KEY NOTE - make sure people read the story. When people get excited about his story and his artwork, that motivates him to write more.

In other news: today is Magoo's first day of Critter Camp. He has a buddy joining him so I think he'll have fun and I'll have a few hours in the morning to write. OMG - I haven't had time to write since the last day of school so I am psyched!!!