Friday, October 13, 2017

What We Did Over the Summer - Improv and Music

The summer wasn't all swimming. It was full of acting and music too. I'll post later about the films the kids were involved in, but they are always working on their acting skills. Both Parker and Dema love improv. They both participated in an improv camp/workshop at Class Act this summer. Improv probably scares me more than any other acting so I am in awe that the boys embrace and enjoy it. Parker even recently joined a local adult improv troupe, Zoo Improv.
Parker is the one in the brown shirt and shorts in the middle.
Parker was asked, by one of our favorite local directors, to act in a music video. He needed to learn to play the bass guitar in a short amount of time to accurately portray the character. Well, months later the music video hasn't happened, but Parker's love for playing bass has taken off. He really wanted to start or join a band, but so far the musicians haven't aligned, but he continues to take bass lessons from our fabulous music guru and friend, Ryan. This summer, Ryan gave Parker the bass guitar he had loaned him and Parker was so happy! The guitar previously was owned by another neighbor friend of ours who moved to Canada several years ago. I love having useful things in our lives handed down from friends.
Parker and his "new to him" bass guitar.
Parker spent some of his time this summer at one of the local private schools, St. Thomas More. Last school year he got involved in their fall play and then they asked him back for their musical. He had so much fun and made so great friends. They asked him if he wanted to try out for their madrigal group and he did. The madrigal group used the summer to practice and get to know each other. He is at the high school a couple mornings a week before their school starts to practice. While getting up early is not fun for him, he does seem happier with singing back in his routine. 

Josie has taken some time off from music, but she went back full force this summer. She now takes drum lessons from Elsinore's fantastic drummer, James, and ukulele from Ryan.
Josie at one of her first drum lessons.
I was reluctant to put her in drum lessons at first. She had been "drumming" with  her hands on tables, her lap, anything she could get a beat going on. I finally decided this habit wasn't going away and figured she needed a musical outlet. We were only going to have a practice pad at home since drum sets can be expensive, but several weeks after she started lessons I found a used drum set at a local consignment store. The store sells toys and clothes, not usually instruments, so they were eager to get the tempting noisy drums out of the store. They gave me a great deal and our neighbor, Vicky, helped me get the set home during Josie's gymnastics practice. Dema and I set the drums up while Josie was gone (which involved moving a queen sized bed out of her room and a twin bed in to make room for everything) and she was so surprised and happy when she came home!
Josie with her "new to her" drum set.



Josie absolutely loves the drums and I really see her sticking with this for a long time. Her teacher is a great combination of positive feedback with constructive criticism. He talks about his own practice and he's been drumming for at least twice as long as she's been alive. I like having people in the kids lives who are about lifelong learning. James also makes body position, stick handling, and ear protection priorities. This is important to me as well since she's going to be spending hours of her week with her drums, I want her to learn how to protect her body.

Quick breakfast at the food co-op after shopping the farmers' market.

We are enjoying the last few weeks of the outdoor farmers' market before the weather turns cold. Josie had to be at the IMC (Independent Media Center) around the corner so we thought it would be a good place to have  a quick breakfast of fruit, bread, and hummus. Parker was going to the Buddy Walk, a walk to support the local Down Syndrome Network. He had a great time seeing some of his friends from The Penguin Project (more on that in a later post) and helping a good cause.

Josie rocking her Girls Rock! t-shirt.
Josie went to a workshop for Girls Rock! C-U and she hasn't stopped talking about it. They spent a few hours learning about different instruments and trying them out. All the musical mentors were women and all the participants identify as female. Josie really wants them to create a drop in type situation (not likely) or something more regular for girls to get together and jam. She spends about 15 hours a week with her gymnastics teammates, but while they are called a team, gymnastics is a very individual sport. The gymnastic girls are all pretty competitive or they wouldn't be at this level and it can be less than positive, at times. Josie was super impressed and inspired by the feel of "girl power" and supportiveness at Girls Rock! She definitely wants more of this type of female positivity in her life.

Monday, October 9, 2017

What We Did Over the Summer - Just Keep Swimming

Our summer was fast and furious, but we are having a late warm spell so it seemed appropriate to recap some of the fun.

All three kids were on the swim team again this summer. Parker was also involved as a mentor for the Penguin Project, a theatre experience for kids with special needs. This is the second year our community has put on a Penguin Project show and the first year that Parker has been involved. I'll have a separate post about PP, but his involvement meant that his Saturday mornings were busy so he didn't compete in swim meets this year. He really likes the swimming on a daily basis for the workout and the competition isn't as important for him.
Swim meet body art.
Dema became a coach in training (CIT) this year and it took swim team to a whole new level for him. He got to know his teammates better and they have become his best friends. He started dating one of the CITs and he loved working with the younger kids. I cannot express how wonderful swim team made this summer for him.
Dema on his mark.
It wasn't his best year as far as ribbons since he is swimming in tough age group and he's smaller than most of the boys he competes against. That never once deterred Dema. He had a fabulous time finishing last or first, it didn't matter.

Conner, Dema, and Josie hanging out after a free movie at the football stadium.
The best thing about Dema's swim team friends is they are up for anything and they don't mind Josie hanging out with them (most of the time). Here one of the guys from the team came with us to watch Moana at the football stadium. Every year the city hosts a family friendly free movie and people bring blankets and food and watch on the big screen a the end of the field. It is pretty cool.
Josie on her mark.
All three of our kids (17, 13, and 9) practiced during the same time this year so it was much easier for me and it was great for them to all be together. Dema had to stay to help the younger swimmers a few times a week and sometimes Josie would stay to hang out with her swim team friends. Since Josie was practicing with the older kids, I think she pushed herself more and she really improved her strokes.

Josie's favorite pastime is picking up people.
Josie loves to work on her strength and at some point she started picking up people. It has now become her thing and all the older teammates would encourage her by being impressed. Here Josie is picking up Dema and carrying him around after the swim meet.

Wear as many suits as you can day.
At the end of the season, they have a week of different fun things for the kids. One day is team spirit day and you wear as much team clothes as you can find. Their favorite days were wear as many suits as you can day. Josie has so many bathing suits and Dema only owns two so he borrowed some of hers for added fun.

Dress like a coach day.
Dema borrowed another suit from Josie to dress as his favorite coach. They really loved all their coaches this year and learned so much while having a blast!
Josie as one of her favorite coaches, who is next to her, and two other teammates who dressed as her too.
Conference is one of the longest meets, but also lots of fun. Since conference is broken up into two sessions based on age and Jose and Dema weren't in the same age group, this meant getting up early to drive an hour and staying all day. Good thing they had a great group of kids to hang out with!
The party tent.
Both Josie and Dema won their heat in at least one event, but neither of them qualified for All Stars this year.
Swim season is too short!

Since it is in the 80's here this week, we are really missing the pool. They all close pretty soon after school starts. Even our neighbor's backyard pool is winterized and done for the season. We just have some good memories of our neighbor's pool to keep us cool.

Amara, Josie, and Indigo.
One of the highlights of Josie's summer was her besties visiting from Colorado. They stopped on the way to the east coast and then again on their way home. The girls fell into a sweet rhythm as if they still all lived in the same neighborhood. I miss them so much, but they have a beautiful life in Colorado. We just need to make some time in our schedule to go out there to visit them!
Josie, Amara, and Indi on Vicky and Greg's pool swan.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Little Bit of This a Little Bit of That Burritos


Just a bit of a warning, I'm probably going to post a lot of dog pictures. We have quite a few regular canine guests and they are a big part of our lives. I feel like this has been my calling for a while and now that we've been taking care of dogs in our home for a few years, I really can't imagine not having these dogs in our lives. They become part of the family.
Canine boarder, Bodie, chillaxin'
 Bodie has a lot of issues. When we first starting caring for him, he would lick patches of his fur off and he would go into attack mode on walks when we crossed paths with other dogs, he would bark incessantly, he could not deal with being kept in a room (even with people in there with him),  high anxiety and stress. Of course, boarding at a normal boarding facility was tough on him and he would come back hoarse. We absolutely love having this little "fox" in our home. He is so smart, playful, and loves to go on long walks. I'll probably post more about Bodie in the future, but I just love how relaxed he is in this picture. He has really grown to feel more secure and he's such a sweetheart.
Josie with her farmers' market and food co-op haul.
Going to the Saturday farmers' market used to be our family thing to do. We all looked forward to Saturday mornings. Even when we were car-free, we'd bike as a family to the Market at the Square. Somewhere along the way, we lost this tradition. The kids were busy with play rehearsals, film shoots, gymnastics, swim meets, aikido practice, etc. Rob was busy with sailing or we wanted to sleep in. Josie has never lost her love of the market so I finally made it a priority this last weekend. We went just the two of us and she brought her own spending money.

Her first stop was "farmer Greg's stand". We've been buying produce from Greg since before she was born and we used to be in his CSA. He was always one of our favorite farmers to support. I love that she has a connection to a local farm/farmer and cares so much about where we buy our food. As the years have gone by and we get busier, I often wondered if the kids still had that focus on food and food politics, but clearly she does. We also made sure to buy some produce from my sister, who started working at Blue Moon Farm this summer.

Since the market is in the parking lot of Common Ground Food Co-op, we went in to buy a few things like avocados which don't grow easily in our part of the country. Josie always checks the deli to see if they have any vegan pizza, even though they stopped selling vegan pizza by the slice a while ago. She was pleasantly surprised to see one! Apparently, our co-op just started stocking Miyoko's Kitchen products. They have exactly five slices left so we snatched them up and took them home so the entire family could try it. All the thumbs up! We all liked the texture, I appreciated the cheesy taste was not as salty as Daiya shreds, and we all liked that the cheese was a condiment and not the main event. Our one complaint about the vegan pizza, when the co-op did offer them by the slice, was they completely overdid the Daiya. We happily bought some Miyoko's Fresh VeganMozz to make our own pizzas at home.
A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That Burritos
For dinner, I roasted some sweet potatoes and white potatoes, bakes some tofu, quinoa in the Instant Pot, cooked up some pinto and black beans with the usual spices/onion/garlic, Rob made guacamole with Josie, and used some salad mix and tomatoes from the farmers' market. Some of us put it all on burritos, some of us made tacos, some of us might have had both. An easy early fall meal that everyone can sink their teeth into.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Indian Again, Music with a Mission, and Dog House

 We have another new local Indian restaurant! Himalayan Chimney is the best addition to our little thriving downtown scene. Rob has known the owner for years and we were excited to see him open up another restaurant, but we were not prepared for the beautiful atmosphere of a building that hasn't been updated for almost two decades, the inventive Indian fusion menu, and the fabulous waitstaff. 
Samosas and an amazing avocado appetizer that I can't remember the name of.
Samosas are great and all, but this avocado appetizer and the cauliflower appetizer that I didn't get a picture of...worth the walk downtown on their own. I can totally see going in for the appetizers for a quick lite bite before a movie or a performance. I'm drooling just thinking about it. I'll order them again and get a description.
Masala Dosa!
 I cannot tell you how hard it is to get South Indian food in this town. To get a good dosa, or even a dosa at all, we usually have to head up to Chicago. So glad to have a restaurant, within walking distance even, where we can get our dosa fix. Dosas are the one Indian dish I really don't think we can't recreate adequately at home.
Parker, Josie, Dema, and Rob on Rob's 55th birthday.
As we were walking back home through the park, I made everyone pose for Rob's 55 birthday picture. He had just spent a week at sea helping move a sailboat (not his) from the Bahamas to Maryland so he looks the sea captain part. After the week at sea, he flew from MD to California for work, then flew back to the east coast and drove from MD to VA where his sailboat is docked, slept on the boat for a night and fixed a couple things that needed his attention, and then drove back to Illinois. Sailing is his passion and he's willing to do a lot in order to spend time on the ocean, but we're his passion too so he's willing to stay in the middle of the country so the kids don't have to leave their friends. We'll see how long we can keep that going though. We might have to choose a coast.
Dema getting ready for the Pediatric Stroke Benefit Concert.
Dema's Showstoppers group was asked to help out with an annual benefit for pediatric stroke awareness. We know the family who puts on the benefit and their youngest son who suffered from a stroke in utero, so Dema was honored to help out even in a small way. The theater kids joined the adults and sang two songs and Dema hopes o help out next year too.
Dema messing around before the concert.
The colors for pediatric stroke awareness are black and purple so Josie found a purple dress shirt for Dema at a local thrift shop and it fit him perfectly, but I think we're going to have to update his suit coat...he's starting to hit those teen growth spurts.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giants, Human Flags, Dogs, Films, and Music

Our dog, Gracie, and our boarder, Blues.
Blues, the dog on the right, was a stay in Ecuador before finding a loving home here in the states with one of our neighbors. She still has ties to Ecuador and spends some of her summer down there, but we miss her when she's gone. Our greyhound, Gracie, also spent some time as a stay so we think they bond over that common street life and they both thoroughly appreciate how good they have it now. 
Josie working on "giants".
All three of my kids are pretty athletic (they get it from their dad), but people will stay say things about them being vegan and not getting enough protein. They usually get three servings of beans a day, plus nuts and seeds, and loads of veggies. It must be working because they are all energetic bundles of muscle. 
Josie working on her "human flag".
 Josie's dream is to be a therapist, she loves helping people with their problems, and she also wants to be on a show like American Ninja Warrior or Ultimate Beastmaster (thanks to Netflix for introducing her to this craziness, I miss the days she was into cooking shows). I walked in the other day to her pulling herself up to be perpendicular to the stairs to make a "human flag". She can actually hold it for a second, but not long enough for me to snap a picture and tell her she probably shouldn't do something like this at home. I told her to save stunts for the gymnastics gym.
Black congo pepper jelly on sourdough bread.
Our vegan friend, Amelia, is back in the area and she stopped by to pick up some pots for her houseplants. It was great to catch up a bit and she gave us some homemade black congo pepper jelly. This stuff is amazing and now it is gone. She is an amazing cook and we really want her to open up a vegan restaurant or at least sell her jelly. Spicy and a bit sweet is my favorite combo.
Josie at the 2017 Annual Feminist Film Festival.
 Last year was Josie's first feminist film festival and now she wouldn't miss it. The boys were going to come too, but Josie wanted it to be a girl thing. Last year, a short film she starred in was on the list of films, Grace's World. This year, one of the films was Fast Rodney, Who Was on His Way Out...a film with Parker cast and Dema, Josie, and I as extras. Fast Rodney won two awards at the festival and all the short films were great!
Dema carrying Josie par of the way downtown.
 We haven't had a lot of family time lately with Rob and Dema sailing, Parker busy with his friends, classes at our local community college, and his projects, and Josie at gymnastics. Our friend, Ryan, was singing downtown at a local bar/restaurant and it was a rare time to see him at an all ages venue so we walked downtown together, ate vegan sliders, and enjoyed Ryan's music and his family.
Dema was just joking in the first picture, carrying Josie is easy for him. I certainly can't carry her anymore.
Josie giving Ryan's daughter a high five.
 My kids adore Ryan's kids and they had a great time hanging with them while we listened to their dad.
Ryan, from Elsinore, singing some "old" favorites and new songs  that will be on their next LP.
Sweet senior boarders, Charo and Velma.
We couldn't stay out late since we had the dogs to take care of, but we needed to get some sleep anyway and we love having these sweet seniors stay at our house.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Weekend Fun - Sailing, Dancing, and Film

Rob bought a sailboat on the east coast and he is finalizing everything, fixing some things, and getting it put in the water. Then Rob, Dema, and our friend, Wade, are sailing the boat from Annapolis, MD to a dock south of Virginia Beach, VA. This will be Dema's first time sailing in a larger body of water.  He has been sending me pictures of their pre-sailing adventures, DC area food, time with our friends Dave and Loretta who live in Maryland now, and of course pics of the boat. I'll share them in another post.
Dema and Rob heading out to Maryland.
While Rob and Dema were driving to Maryland, we were back home keeping very busy.  Parker had planning and filming*, Josie and I watched the annual marathon that goes by our house (we're at mile 15) and caught up with neighbors, later in the afternoon Josie and I attended our local March for Science (so sad this is needed!) while Parker went off to dinner/a show at Krannert/and a formal dance with our local high school homeschooling community. After the march, Josie and I went out to eat with our neighbors (who were also at the march) downtown to our new favorite Indian restaurant.
Parker before he headed into the restaurant for the Homeschool Formal and Fun.
*Parker had another 48 hour film shoot and this time it was for the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. There is a great group in town called Prompting Theater and they are a group of about 24 core actors with developmental disabilities. Parker was so happy to be able to work with them on this national film challenge. This is on of my favorite projects Parker has ever been a part of and I hope he has a chance to work with these delightful actors again.

Check it out and share to everyone! Prompting Theater created a film in 55 hours for a competition sponsored by the Easterseals! The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge www.Disability challenge.com. let's have everyone see the work the troupe is doing! The film that has the most views and shares (from YouTube, Facebook using @DisabilityFilmChallenge, Twitter using #DisabilityFilmChallenge, and Instagram using #DisabilityFilmChallenge) will win the promotional challenge (or judging will allow for winners in best picture, best directing, and best acting). Movie that win will get screened at The Chinese Theater in LA (Hollywood during the big Hollyshorts film festival). Enjoy! And share!!!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Messenger - Short Film - Josie

Josie had such a good time on this shoot! Some of her favorite local actors were involved, like Kyle who played her dad in Grace's World. She really loved getting to know her mom in Messenger,  Renee. She new to the area, but has a lot of acting experience. Between Renee, Kyle, and Jace, Josie was in heaven learning all sorts of things from them (some acting related and some not).

This is the first short film Josie has acting in that made me want to create a t-shirt for it. They had so many cast sayings by the end of the day. A good natured "Do better!" would definitely be included on a shirt. Josie really prefers to act with adults. She told me this after the Messenger shoot. She was totally treated with complete respect from the director, the actors, and crew. They included her in political to religious to acting discussions and while she did start showing her age with some gymnastics moves during the down time, they were all wonderful with her. She learned a lot about acting without words from Kyle in this short and she didn't mind at all the violent scenes since she knows they are all really friends. Arielle, the director, is graduating soon and I know she'll go on to do great things!

This film is a little longer than most of the short films we've been involved with and it has violence, offensive language, and blood. So view with your own discretion. We had a full apartment with a retired Marine and his wife (they have several dogs so we shared pictures of the canines in our lives), who was there to consult on the fight scenes and about the guns, me, and cast/crew. This meant for several hours I was crouched down in the kitchen with the film equipment, etc. trying to stay out of the scene. It was a long day of work, but so much fun. As soon as we left that evening, Josie turned to me and said "When can I do another film?!"



Behind the scenes:
This was Josie's first movie with prop guns and she's never seen a real gun in person so it was pretty interesting for her.
This was my view most of the day from behind the kitchen counter. 
The discomforts I endure for my kids to pursue their passions. I brought a book, but never got a chance to read it because I like watching all the behind the scenes and during the scenes action. I also had to move from time to time because my legs would fall asleep.
Josie was a trouper about being tied up and they were super nice about making sure she was comfortable.
We were joking about how many of Josie's short films have required her to be in pajamas.