Sunday, October 10, 2010

HONK! 2010

Every year I mean to write about the HONK! festival here in Somerville and every year I seem to fail.  But this year - I'm doing it because really - it's one of my FAVORITE things about Somerville (hmm I bet I say that about a lot of things...)  But really - it's the bomb.  Just imagine a whole slew of "activist street bands" from all over the country and the world descending on Davis Square during some of the best weather of the year and you have HONK!.    From Friday to Sunday the square is completely alive with the sounds of horns and drums and the sights of unicycles and colorful costumes and people dancing on stilts and men in tutus with tubas.    I'll never be able to really do it justice, so you can read about it more at their official home on the internet.

This year as the 5th year for the festival.  Gordon and I discovered it quite by accident three years ago when his parents were here for the weekend and we got a chance to sneak out for some dinner and later drinks in Davis.  When we got to Davis there were people everyone and amazing bands on every corner.  We had no idea what was going on, but had a great time talking it all in.  Then on Sunday we ran into the HONK! parade driving home from apple picking.  So last year we got to the square for a little while to enjoy the music, but made a special effort to catch the whole parade.  And let me tell you - the parade is quite the spectacle.

This year we were lucky enough to get a visit from the Holzes the same weekend as the festival.  Lily and I made it up there Saturday to picnic and watch a little of the kick-off.  Then later that day we took a walk up with the Holzes soon after they arrived.  We were heading up the bike path and could hear the bands already from some distance away.  Quinn was completely tuned into it already - stopping to sign and say "more more" anytime there was a break between songs.

We had dinner at Flatbread and then spent a while listening to more bands and dancing.  The kids had such a fabulous time.  I thought Quinn was going to explode with happiness.  At the end of a set he'd turn to me looking forlorn and make the more sign expectantly.  He didn't seem to understand why I couldn't keep an endless stream of music going for him all night.  At some point we made our way back home, reluctantly leaving the music behind.

But Sunday we went back out for the parade.  We had great seats on the corner of Elm and Russell where we met some friends, ate some lunch (yeah that's an Anna's quesadilla in my hands... mmmm) and took in more of the sights and sounds of HONK!.  The pictures don't quite do it justice, but hopefully you'll get a feel for the awesomeness.
Watching with friends 

Serious fans 

Bye HONK!  We already can't wait for next year.  Thanks to all the bands for giving us a great show, as always.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Got Pickles?

About a year ago, when my Dad was still not quite himself and my brother and I were falling all over ourselves and each other to just DO SOMETHING to fix the situation damnit! we found ourselves going through my parents storage unit trying to consolidate it and save them some money.  That day is a story all by itself as we ended up in a horrific fight brought on by many years of sibling issues topped with a nice dose of current family crisis which eventually led to a very nice dinner and the first honest conversation we've had with each other in - well maybe ever.  So that is the real story of that day in the storage unit, but instead I'd like to tell you about the purple tote of books that I found and carried home with me.

In that purple box was the complete collection of Sweet Pickles books.    These books were hugely popular when I was younger and my parents had enrolled me in the book club so I received one a week in the mail or something.  I loved the books and when I found them was so excited to bring them home to share them with Lily.

Well they sat in that purple tote in the garage for a while, but one day Lily was having sort of a rough night so I decided to go down there and bring up the first book, "Who Stole Alligator's Shoe" starring Accusing Alligator.  Lily LOVED the story and was enthralled by the listing of all 26 characters and the map of the town of Sweet Pickles at the back of the book.  She studied the map and wanted to know where all the animals lived.  She couldn't wait for story time the next day to meet the next character (Bashful Bear).

Did anyone else have those as a kid?  They're such great little books.   I love that the characters just are who they are - without judgement really.  Jackal is jealous (and really pretty much a jerk), Pig is positive, Camel is clever, etc.  The traits get the characters into "pickles" but the experiences don't necessarily transform them.  At the end of the story Alligator is still accusing and Bear is still bashful.  I love that children can relate to the different personality traits without feeling bad about doing so.  The stories illustrate the consequences of some traits without saying that you shouldn't feel this way or that way.

The Bashful Bear story was particularly awesome because at the time Lily had been complaining about stomach aches that we thought might be somewhat due to her being worried about something and not a real physical ailment.  In Bear's story he wants to call Pig, but is too shy.  When he does call her, he hangs up without saying anything and then his stomach hurts.  I loved that Lily could totally relate to how Bear might be feeling.  A few days later she wanted to talk to him to help him call Pig.  she was pretty upset that we couldn't actually go visit Bear, but I was able to convince he to write him a letter or draw him a picture while she was school that day instead.

One somewhat annoying side effect is that her favorite character seems to be Kidding Kangaroo who goes around teasing people.  But even then we've had some nice opportunities to talk about teasing and the difference between making people laugh because you're being funny and saying mean things that might make someone else sad.  I think those are tough things to learn as a little one, and i like that Sweet Pickles have given us a chance to explore those aspects of social interaction with her, even if it's taking her some time to figure it out.

By now we've read all forty books and they have a special spot on a bookshelf just outside the kids room.  These books are always the first to go into her backpack when we're traveling somewhere or going to Grammy and Papa's.  We still read one nearly every day.  I love that my Mom kept these for me and that I've been able to share them with Lily.  I can't wait for Quinn to start enjoying them too!


Lately I've been thinking a lot about communication.  I'm participating in a fluency clinic over at BU for the semester.  If you're reading this blog chances are you've known me for some time and you know that I stutter.  I always have - as far back as I can remember talking.  I've done a bunch of things therapy-wise over my life: speech therapy through public school, a private therapist, and an intensive program as an adult.  Each experience has helped me in some way, but as a 35-year old adult, I still sometimes struggle to say what I want to say.  Now that's not to say I don't talk - because I do - a lot - probably too much.  Sometimes I wonder how much MORE trouble my mouth would cause me if it didn't occasionally just refuse to work.  I strike up conversations at the park, I present at work, I'm a member of a few volunteer boards, I make phone calls to lawyers and doctors and contractors and whoever else I may need to speak to.  So I wouldn't say that my disfluency holds me back in any real way - but sometimes it is still a bit of a burden.

I read to the kids quite a bit - at least once every day and more when I'm home with them all day.  Lily loves having stories read to her and is getting into longer ones.  I'd love to start reading her chapter books, but I'm afraid it would be difficult.  I tend to stutter most when I read.  Lily is really patient about it and has never said a word to me or asked me not to read to her.  Sometimes she finishes a sentence for me, but I love that because it shows that she is remembering the stories and maybe picking up some of the words on the page.   Quinn seems less patient, but that may just be him in general.  He often brings me books, sits down to listen and then halfway through closes the book and hands me a new one.  I have no idea if that is commentary on my reading skills or just a short attention span!  So my big goal for this program is to be able to read out loud a little easier to my kids.  I'm planning to buy some chapter books for Lily for the holidays and I'd like to be able to start reading them to her.

Anyway, I've been to three session so far and it's been - well a lot of things.  There's an individual therapy component and a group session as well.  In the group we've been talking about communication and how there's so much more to it than just the actual words that you're saying.  Facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice all carry the bulk of the message.  We haven't even gotten to the meat of the therapy yet and I'm already finding it fascinating to really think about how I communicate.  It's been fun observing others communication and noticing what works and what doesn't.  I like doing the observations because I think it could make me a better listener.  For someone who doesn't really enjoy the sound of my own voice that much I sure flap my gums a lot!

Now here's where I awkwardly segue into funny stories about the kids.  Because you know who are GREAT communicators?  Toddlers.  They can get so much across with only a handful of words in their vocabulary.   Quinn's word count has shot up since I last posted about it.  So instead of giving you another boring list of words I'll present some examples of exemplary communication by my 17-month old.

  • A couple of weeks ago I put Q down for a nap with only his diaper and a shirt - no pants.   After a few hours he woke up and cried out once, but then seemed to settle back down.  Twenty minutes later I heard him talking to himself so I figured it was time to go in.  I walked in the room and found him laying on his stomach, bare butt in the air and diaper floating around the crib.  He looked up at me, pointed to a dark shape in the corner of the crib and said: "Poo Poo, Poo, Poo".  Score: A, uses appropriate gestures and succinct direct language to make his point
  • He has learned the word "No" and uses it to convey a whole slew of things.   When placed in his chair and given food he doesn't want to eat he lets out a stream of "No! No! No! No! No!" often punctuated by a throwing gesture for emphasis.  If you ask him for something that he does not intend to give up he holds the object close to himself, turns his body away from  you and utters a stream of defensive, and slightly pathetic-sounding "No No No No Noooooo".  Sometimes he uses No just to shake things up and be contrary for the fun of it.  I might say "Quinn would you like to ?"  and he'll look at me and say "Noooo", but then do it anyway.  Score: B+ great use of tone and inflection to convey information, points taken away for the whole sarcasm bit.
  • He's all over the sign language thing lately pulling out the sign for "more" whenever possible.  It's particularly fun when he uses it before he's even gotten anything.  For example, if he thinks I might be walking over to the stereo to put music on he'll start frantically signing more (and saying "more more more more") to indicate that not only does he want music, but he wants MORE MUSIC NOW.  Score: B, reads the other party accurately, but jumps the gun a little.
  • My favorite recent sign language incident was at dinner last night.  Gordon had cooked up some tuna and placed it on the table.  It was unrecognizable as a fish - cut into slices, chunks etc (but very yummy).  The minute Quinn got in his chair he looked at the pieces of tuna, made the sign for fish and then started with "me me me me me me".  I'm still not really sure how he connected the tuna with the happy pictures of fish that he sees in books and the like.  Score:  A, just for being smart and cute AT THE SAME TIME.  Also the sign he uses for fish is a a fish face and it looks like he's trying to give kisses.  ADORABLE.

OK that's all I've got.  In summary: I'm going to speech school, Quinn is still very cute and talky and Lily is probably a better communicator these days than any of us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Obligatory Pumpkin Patch Pictures

Taking photos of your kids in pumpkin patches - it's just one of those things that you have to DO if you live in New England.   I'm not sure where the rule is written down, but somehow parents all over NE know that as soon as the weather gets a little chilly and the kids start talking about Halloween costumes it is time to get yourselves to a pumpkin patch.

This year we found ourselves in North Conway, NH with some time to kill so we decided to grab life by the horns and find a pumpkin patch.  We had spent the weekend there with my brother, Liza and the Schulers for a visit to Storyland.  I promise that there will be a post on that too - but I've got plans for that post - plans that require a little work on my part first.  SO for today - you can see pictures of the pumpkin patch visit.

Eric and Liza left early on Sunday, but we hung out with the Schulers to do some hiking and eat cider donuts.  We ended up at Sherman Farms - a nice little farm that left us feeling a little like city folks who had just been taken for quite the ride.  (The description of "agritainment" on the website probably should have tipped us off, but we weren't feeling all that picky)  They did have a hayride out to a pumpkin patch.    So here you go!  (Sadly Gordon didn't make his way into any of these - bad form on my part!)

There were also goats and pigs to pet.  Quinn was so into the animals - the goats both fascinated and scared the crap out of him.  He'd get all up close and then once a goat made so much as a move in his direction he'd run away panicked.  One time he turned so fast he ran smack into the pole that held up the little "goat feed" dispenser.  Ouch.  They had a ginormous corn maze that took hours to traverse, so we skipped that in favor of the mini-maze which was just the right size for us. It's funny how the corn sort of looks like bamboo - especially in the picture of Quinn.