Thursday, August 18, 2016

Season Three

It's the first week back-to-school for kids in Los Angeles Unified School District.  Across LA, moms and kids wake up earlier and rush to get to school before that 8 am bell.  I see proud pictures that my friends post of their kids, in front of their school, proclaiming their grade level.  Liam would be in 5th grade this year.  So, I figured we should slide back into it as well. On Monday, we opened up the ST Math program and picked up where he had left off, 25% through the 5th grade program when we took a break for the summer.

I was pleased to see he was into the puzzles, and after a few minutes, he was back to where he'd been months ago.  We've also been pushing forward with the animation program from JAM - "Animate with the Cartoon Network" ( The course has kids building an animation short from brainstorm to post production.  Coming up with a basic story line and honing characters is a great way to ease back into writing.  And communicating online with the instructor and mods helps him be specific in what he writes.
A synopsis of Liam's idea.  Drawing done in a coffee shop.

A free-form spider diagram of the second version of his Spiffyman Show Idea involving the Russian letter "Yus."
Actually, that last bit is important, since Liam is used to using text in a graphic way - playing with fonts and texts and not so worried about content.  He typed a note in the comments section of one of his assignments and sent it before I had a chance to proof it.  It was just a few, fun-sounding words that had nothing to do with his post.  Unfortunately, I couldn't delete the comment, so I did the lame "autocorrect!" follow-up and talked with Liam about what his words meant.  My husband had a brilliant idea of setting up an IM account between us, so Liam can get used to communicating on screen.  I'm excited to see how this idea pans out, as it could really open up some new possibilities for him.  Keeping it inter-office, so to speak, will let us work out the kinks before he heads off to the wide world of online social interaction.

Yesterday, Liam wanted to go to a coffee shop we've been going to since he was in a stroller.  I brought his sketch book and iPad, so we could complete one of his animation assignments and post it to JAM.  I smiled to see that, just like me, he loves working at a table with a drink, a pad and a pencil.
The story has changed to include characters that are mash-ups of Mario Brothers and his original Spiffyman Show designs.

There will be Mario-esque spikes and "Spiffy-Thwomps!"  Danny Tree has been replaced by "Spiffyguy."

Working on a detailed drawing of "Spiffy Thwomp."

Today was a slow day.  I've been sleeping poorly lately, due to some kind of repetitive stress injury to my shoulder.  I was up and down all night long and really hit the wall around 2pm.  Today was a day that I was very happy to be free of the morning rush, and the need to head back for pickup by 2:30.  Liam had a piano lesson at 1 and learned a five-finger drill along with a review of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor."

When bedtime rolls around, Liam is allowed to read with a flashlight until he's ready to sleep.  He's been taking a book of Japanese Hiragana and Katakana to bed along with a Magna-doodle to write out the sounds and words.  Listening to him happily reciting in Japanese, I'm grateful to be able to allow him to learn as late as he wants, and wake when he's ready.
Hiragana blocks.

Sometimes it takes a show a couple of seasons to find it's feet.  This year feels like the third season of a show that finally clicked.  We know our roles and it is going to be a very exciting season.  Stay tuned. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Well, That's Not What I Expected. . .

I was sound asleep.  Finally.  Sometime after Liam's endless serenade before passing out, and despite at least one full-costume change due to night sweats, I had managed to fall into REM sleep.  I know it was REM sleep, because the next sequence of sounds first worked their way into my dream world (the denizens of which fought bravely to keep me unconscious).  But, "mom brain" clicked in and at my cat's "alarm mew" and the sound of something very large flapping.

I could tell from the force of the wings hitting the floor and then the window, that the mystery animal was about the size of a bat.  I lay very still.  If it was a bat, shouldn't I hear some cries?  I did not want to open my eyes, let alone wander around in the dark to be sure, but I managed to follow Jake's chirpy, hunting mews behind the bay window curtain in the living room.  To my relief, I didn't see anything dark and furry, so I stumbled to the couch and tried to find that happy, sleepy place again.

Whatever was hiding behind the curtain didn't have enough sense to stay there.  I could hear the epic battle winding around the living room.  I hoped Jake would have the decency to drag his kill onto the back porch.  Part of me felt bad for the creature being tortured to death by my indoor kitty with no clue how to finish off his prey.  And part of me was happy that my 15 yr. old cat still had the energy to hunt like that. I decided to let nature take its course.

When I finally woke up for good, I'd almost forgotten to look for what remained of last night's fight.  I might not even have seen the body as it blended so well into the colors of our dusty-blue, living room rug.  But a beam of morning light revealed the bump on the carpet.  I slowly approached the body of a moth as big as my hand.  Holy crap.  My cat killed MOTHERA! Upon further investigation, I discovered that, sadly, MOTHERA was still clinging to life, so I gently placed him in the garden and wished him swift passage.

The past few weeks have been full of funny little surprises like that.  Not bad, just unexpected.
Like pushing forward with the "becoming a spin instructor" part of my "Mom Reset" (see previous post).  Vanessa Giorgio, the owner of Lotus Kitty Hybrid Fitness, had been coaching me to lead a class.  I had to prepare examples of a spin set and floor work (abs and arms).  I was surprised by how happy I felt, revisiting some of my favorite tunes and exploring new music to add to my sets.  I was dancing around my bedroom, counting out moves and having the time of my life.

As a mental exercise, I began to construct sets to substitute teach any spin or combo classes on the Lotus Kitty schedule.  I played a game with myself, tweaking sets just before going in to take a class, as if I were being called in to teach it.

While waiting for a slot to open up or a chance to substitute, I showed up to take a 5:30 pm class and fond the sign-in sheet missing.  The class was about to be cancelled because the teacher's car had broken down.  "Hey! I'm a sub!"  A quick phone conversation with Vanessa allowed me to be the surprise guest teacher of my first class. 

And as the new school year dawns, I am surprised by how easy it is not to think about what other 5th graders will be doing.  We've been finding our rhythm, both in how we learn and how we relax.  Last year, our first "full" year of homeschooling/unschooling, I still carefully constructed a series of lessons and time tables, which relaxed more as we incorporated more music, art and time with Urban Homeschoolers.  I had expected to have to muscle through lessons and push my son and am happy to have discovered that the best learning comes from things sketched in ever so lightly - easy to erase or fill in with vibrant color.

I will sit down tomorrow to do my "sketching" and thinking about where we are and where we might go -  no longer worried about outcomes, but seeing what comes.  And it's usually better than what I expected.