Super Creatures!

The past two Saturdays there have been heaps of community-wide, artistically-minded and strange events happening in Charlottesville. In fact, the entire weekend of April 11-14th was overflowing with creative energy. The Tom Tom Founders Festival brought hundreds of musical performances and innovative thinkers to local microphones and parks. We spent a good portion of Friday hanging out at the McGuffey Art Center for the, now annual, block party. Kids were going nuts (think: dancing, big foam cubes, snow cones, climb-able sculptures…) while the adults felt a sort-of hipsterbia, indie art camaraderie. The next day of the TomTom, there was a big family-friendly picnic celebration at Lee Park but we decided to stay home and just be.

Ever since our dating, college days, Aaron and I have kept a day set apart from the rigors of the other six. Call it a Sabbath or day of rest or just Wednesday- it has been an anchor for our relationship and a respite from the pressures of maintaining a certain pace of living. Over the years our day of rest has changed from week-end to mid-week and back. Currently, Saturdays are our “family day”. We don’t commit to activities (even really, really fun ones), as a rule. Instead, we go with the flow as the day unfolds. So, on TomTom Saturday we stayed home and played games, made food, and I painted everyone’s faces like the Avengers. See if you can guess who is who…

dylan avengerpierce avengerjudah avengerboys avengersdaddy avengermama avenger

This weekend, Aaron was really pumped about going to the Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature at UVa (uh, who wouldn’t be pumped?!). A friend, who is one of the instructors in the course on creature making, invited us to participate in the parade. We didn’t commit but an hour before the parade was to begin, we decided it was a go. I scuttled up into our attic/crawl space and dragged out bits and pieces from the stuffed animal costumes that I made in college. The boys put on slippers and wigs and masks and tails, in addition to the stuffed animal accessories. Then we all squeezed into the car and headed over to The University (as it’s called in these parts).

Later, Aaron and I talked about how amazing the experience was; how this town offers so much wonder for our kids. They were right there when a giant alien ant-thing battled a huge, blobby, leopard octopus and then went on to attack the Alderman Library.

551274_592899150722239_1924240954_nPhoto by Scholars’ Lab DIY Aerial Photography

From beyond that mayhem, a mechanical elephant approached, luring the children closer to its whirring gears with bubbles (and apparently by pooping candy). Hundreds of people blocked traffic, taking to the streets, surrounded by creatures overhead and amongst the crowd. There were balloons. There were lion-dancers. And that silly ant even attacked a Prius on its way to the field of moving trees. Awesome.

sw elephantsw treessw blobsw aaron

Everyone went to bed early that night- I’m sure the dreams were intense.

The next day we biked a few miles from our home to Charlottesville Mennonite Church. Afterwards, we stayed for an impromptu potluck lunch and then we pedaled off to the Annual Children’s Bike Rodeo sponsored by Community Bikes. (Check out our cameo on the news.) Judah’s preschool teacher, Shelly Stern, was one of the organizers of this fun and informative event. Shell asked me to help with the design of the flyer and t-shirts this year- so fun!

bike rodeo flyer4The boys had a blast and we all learned some great things about biking in this town: the boys learned how to signal when turning and I learned how to properly load a bike onto a city bus. Exhausted, we cycled on home.

Such a rich and full few days of adventure!

I can’t wait to see what pops up next weekend…

Scarf it Up

Delicious DIY project of the day: cheap, cheap T’s sliced into tasty scarves.

Dirt-cheap t-shirts have become a vice. I have a basket full, just waiting for some scissor love. I have made costumes, bags, headbands, dresses, play food, and more out them. Locally, I paw through the 5 for $1 bins at an otherwise obnoxious, and (for the sake of peaceful small-town living) unnamed) thrift store.

I even found a book on altering t-shirts second-hand. (Yes, I am a firm believer in the Thrift Guides from a strange and frugal spiritual realm.)

T-shirts and me go back a long way. In high-school I was making dresses and pants out of vintage He Man sheets and the like. And then I started chopping t’s.

Here are some more recent additions…

Usually, I won’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes on a t project, but every once in awhile I settle in for a half hour or so of pinning and sewing.

Today, I made some scarves while I watched old school Speed Racer cartoons with the boys.

  • Lay out the t on a cutting mat
  • Slice off the bottom hem
  • Cut 1 1/2″ strips horizontally across the shirt (not a continuous spiral) up to the bottoms of the sleeves

  • Pull and stretch the strips to lengthen and so the edges roll

  • Cut an extra strip that is about 18″ in length from the chest area of the t to use a a tie for the bundle of strips
  • Stretch the extra strip and wrap the bundle of strips
  • Stitch the ends in place

  • Wear and pretend that the vines/octopus tentacles/mutant earthworms are strangling you, fashionably

What are some t-shirt projects that you love?

Dia De Los Muertos en Charlottesville

Beyond the mischief and innocent mayhem involved in the goings-on of this time of year, there is a significance of remembrance as well.

My dear friend, Estela, invited me and many others to a Dia De Los Muertos celebration at her and her husband’s music studio downtown. Estela and Dave are incredible musicians and have a true passion for their cultural ancestry.

Often as a white American, I find myself hesitant to participate fully in many unfamiliar cultural traditions. I don’t want to make others feel that I am commandeering what rightfully belongs to them or worse, that I am disrespecting the practice of faith, history, sorrow and joy with my ignorant engagement.

With Estela’s invitation came permission to be a part of a joyful community. Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of life, a celebration of the futility of death’s grasp and a time set apart for sharing memory, music and food.

I painted my face, I pinned a flower in my hair and danced and danced in a circle of children! And for that and the lives of my ancestors, I am thankful.

Turtle Power!

Photo by John Lee

I love Halloween. Not so much the scary stuff or the candy, more so the community of play that seems to spontaneously erupt from neighborhood sidewalks and city streets.

When I was living in NYC, I made a point to jump in the Village Halloween Parade, annually. One year, after the parade had ended, I was in a late-night dive around St. Mark’s when I was barraged by two wildly gesturing young men. “You are my hero. I loved you so much… And here you are!” One of the guys then proceeded to kiss my cheek. When he pulled back to face me, I could see that he was crying.

I was dressed as Rainbow Brite.

The crazy thing was, he wasn’t the only one. All along the parade route, young mothers, college kids and even some teenagers, emphatically shouted at me. Well, at Rainbow. They were so shockingly and honestly emotional, the representation of this character all of a sudden took on some serious responsibility. It was time to smile, wave and throw more Starburst.

Growing up in Trenton, New Jersey, my dad would set up these elaborate and totally geeky A.V. Halloween spectacles. Once, there was a pumpkin-headed man that would talk to folks coming in for candy (Yes, you had to come inside the house for candy). My dad was hiding behind a partition and was doing the whole man-behind-the-curtain routine: speaking into a mic and lights would flash and whatnot. It wasn’t meant to be scary, just inventive, conversational even. Kids left screaming, some didn’t even bother with the candy.

The following year, dad dressed up like- who else- Jesus. He got some of the same reactions, crying and whatnot, that I did as Rainbow Brite years later. And strangely, (although it was the 80’s, who can say what was strange) the following year dad stayed home and I went trick-or-treating chaperoned by our visiting family friend who was dressed as “an abusive, fat, alcoholic”. The irony was completely lost on our working-class neighbors.

Regardless the get-up, I have always reveled in this shared night of bizarre behaviour and playful interchange. Unexpected things always happen.

When my youngest kiddo was only a week old we dressed up as a family of chickens and got out into the fray. My newborn chick stayed tucked in his sling while his dad and brother flapped their wings at wizards and monsters.

We’ve represented characters from The Cat in the Hat, Where’s Waldo and most recently all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

We are that family. And I hope we will be for a long time…

Photo by Jen Lucas

Photo by Jen Lucas