Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yes I am a Waldorf Birthday Clown

I have a party booked on Saturday for a darling child. You see I am the alternative party entertainer. I don't wear big red shoes but I have an apron with tons of pockets that hold treasures that don't end up in landfills. I don't make balloon animals but teach the kiddos how to needle felt there own creations. I tell stories and play games and I don't wear a costume. My husband jokes that I am a Waldorf party clown.

I started offering this service when I ventured out to find something for my own kid's birthdays. I wanted to entertain a group of kids without flashing lights and plastic party favors. In our area there isn't the Waldorf version of the Princess Party Palace so I decided to do it myself.

This Saturday each child will create a tapestry for their home gnomes. They will go home with a felting kit and a wee snail. Their pockets will be filled with crystals and acorn caps. Their mama's will not feel guilt and their trash will not be heavier

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Love Custom Orders

Every time I get a custom order I get excited. The deal is a person has an idea and during the course of the order I can create something just for them and in the process I usually stretch myself and find a direction for my work. The last such order was an ethnic nativity. There is also a good feeling I get when I ship out something so personal.

Often after a custom I will continue with that theme in other work. I owe my customers gratitude for all of the inspiration they offer me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The First Day- Or much Ado About Nothing

Wednesday was the first day of school. That statement alone should be all I need to say for any parent to conjure up the appropriate images. Packed lunches, excited kiddos and a nervous mom.

Of course I cannot stop there I am a mom. The first day of school is big. Some first days are even bigger. Last year one one of those first days for my daughter. She started her first day of Spanish immersion kindergarten. When I dropped her off I was so emotional wondering if this was the right choice. What if she was terrified? What if she hated it. Was I being selfish thinking being tri -lingual was important? When I picked her up she was beaming so I survived. This year is my son's turn.

He is deaf. That fact alone makes it all the more interesting.
My son is starting a new school which now gives me a new answer to a common question. He was accepted into Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. People always ask the same questions, one of which is , " Does he go to a "special" school?" Now I can reply, " Yes he goes to a really special school!"

Being deaf carries the burden of stereotype. People with no exposure to deaf children assume he is delayed because he doesn't talk, that he can't read and feel pity for him. The reality is deaf kids come in all forms shapes and sizes just like other children. My son can do everything the others kids do except hear. Oh and don't tell him, he can't carry a tune. Come to think of it neither can I. I suppose if I wanted to make some extra cash I could sing on a street corner and folks would pay me to stop. Oh and he is an awful speller. No shock there, I won the most creative speller award in the 7th grade.

This new school has an art based curriculum. Each student is required to take introductory classes on all of the disciplines. to name a few visual art, drama, music and dance. Hee hee I know what you are thinking...music? Dance? Well yes, the first day of dance was interesting. The teacher is awesome. Energetic professional and according to my son, strict. She tends to move around a lot while talking which provides an extra challenge for my son. He has to watch the interpreter and the teacher. His eyes moving back and forth. Well she was explaining the dress code and he missed one word, girl. So he is watching in horror as the interpreter describes a skin tight garment known as a leotard paired with something that sausage cases the waist and legs down to the ankle. She then proceeds to describe that the teacher wants to see the shape of the students bodies. Complete horror to my 11 year old. Of course I was a bit shocked but calmed him down by pulling up images of the movie Fame on the computer. Don't worry I assured him all of the other kids are in the same boat. After some behind the scenes investigation I found out the boys could wear shorts and a tee and it turns out dance class is a blast. Its not easy of course, the movement required is more challenging than a typical P.E. class.

Another challenge is how to break the news that he is really clever and talented. Other parents can shout from the mountain tops how brilliant their prodigy child is. That is not the case here. First no one would believe me if I told them he is a natural performer. He is a humble child so you would never guess it. He will quietly hold himself in and at the exact moment it is like he flips a switch. He is also above average in most academic areas. Again how could this be? So I just wait. I toss him in and wait.

I was struck by this when on day 3 I was sitting in the office waiting my turn to talk to a secretary. A proud father was complaining to the Principal about the bus and he takes the oppurtunity to rattle off his daughters list of achievements. I was shocked that he even bothers with sixth grade why not just fact track her to Harvard. He asks the Principal. " So have you gotten a chance to get to known sallyloowho?" ( I forget what her real name was but I have her resume tattooed to my brain) . I see the Principal pull up his best "of course she is brilliant but I have no idea who she is smile" he replies, " Yes, yes she is a great kid." Translation- Are you kidding me? It is day three and I have a school to run I haven't slept all week and you think I am taking coffee breaks with your little genius?. How sad the poor kid hasn't even had a chance to make her mark and dad has already put her on the child of overbearing parents list.

So with my son I just wait.

Day 1 I pick him up and feel the lead blanket of my nervous anxiety lift slowly as we walk home. He is glowing! He loves it, everything. His teaches are amazing the kids are friendly and most important there are vending machines in the lunch room!

Day 2 he now has 3 friends and he has discovered he can go to the library any time he wants! (note to self- maybe warn the school about his reading addiction)

Day 3
I am waiting at the front door of the school. Other kids are coming out but no sign of my kid. Minutes pass, I worry he is lost. Then from a second story window I see him waving to get my attention. "Wait mom I want to ......" He was signing so fast and with such excitement I couldn't catch the last bit. A minute or 2 passes and I see him again this time waving from a window on the other side of the building " wait I want to sign up to audition" His face is beaming and he runs off. His interpreter walks out and tells me " He will be right down he wants to sign up for an audition for the fall performance"
Then I can't help myself, " So how is he doing?"
"Awesome!" she then proceeds to tell me how all of the teachers love him how clever and funny he is...........

I can now relax and enjoy the ride.

Monday, September 7, 2009

How To Make Grandma's Fancy Felted Hotel Soap

I know I am always looking for fun activities for my kids. This is a favorite of my son. He calls it grandma's fancy felted hotel soap because grandma always brings him the soap from the fancy hotels she stays at. He likes the size of it for felting. There are many ways to do this but I found this way to be the most kid friendly.

Wool roving
Bowl of hot water
Variety of soaps

Pull the roving apart into small wisps. This is very important because if the pieces are large they will clump. Dip a piece in the water just enough to get it damp. Wrap the roving around the soap evenly. Repeat this until the soap is covered with several layers. When it looks pretty thick slowly and very gently start to rub the soap adding drips of really hot water. Soon it will feel firmly felted. We rinse in cold water and allow it to dry.

If you have a felting needle laying around you can felt a design in after it dries. Be sure to angle the needle so you don't chip the soap.

My son also sells his felted soap in his Etsy shop.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Day To Dig

I find one of the best ways to really get to know my 11 year old is to deep clean his room. After securing my haz-mat suit and arming myself with a shovel I enter his domain. I have put this off for awhile out of sheer terror. As he gets older he has taken to hoarding a bit . His passion, office supplies. He is the only person on this planet who feels one can never have enough paperclips, stickie notes and blank books. I also have a sense he has been eating in his room. I have not seen any evidence which means I will surely encounter 5 week old pizza lodged under his desk. Taking one last deep breath I enter this boy cave.
I stumble across bits and pieces of his life that for some reason we haven't shared and have remained under layers of daily life. We talk often so I know him really well but life moves so fast I forget the little bits.
First year Japanese language book with pages of handwritten notes
Books on trees, magic, science and jokes
Several notebooks with the first page full labeled Chapter 1
Files of his drawings

Then I stumble upon a stuffed duck. His fake fur has a well loved pallor and the stitching along his head is giving way. I am filled with a sense of reverence. This duck made his way to our home via someone else's sense of compassion. When my son was 6 he attended a Christmas function hosted by a charitable group wanting to spread some joy to the children at the deaf school. Part of the party was allowing each child to pick a stuffed toy. My son stood in line and when his turn came the volunteers showed his a variety of new fancy bears, cats and other animal creatures. My son pondered his options then spotted the well loved duck pushed off to the side.
"The duck please"
"The duck? Don't you what this?" the volunteer giving a Vanna White gesture to a rather large stuffed bear.
"No,the duck please"

When he returned home he was so happy with his new friend. I asked him why he chose the duck.
"Mom, I felt sorry for him. He needs a friend. "

I stood there with this tattered creature and felt a sense of relief. We can coach our kids to say please and thank you. We can tell them to be nice and think of others but the true lesson we are wanting them to get is empathy. I often get frustrated when he picks on his sister or doesn't bother to thank me for dinner. This duck reminded me that he often does thank me for dinner. He will read to his sister when I am working late on an order. He opens the door for his grandma and at school stands up for the kid getting bullied.

When I was finished I brought him into his new zen den. He thanked me, squealed then set about putting back all of his stickie notes, blank books and paper clips.