Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lorax in Black Light

 One day in April we were at the store getting some art supplies when Fynn saw the book, The Lorax for sale and was very interested. We always love to encourage reading, especially since we stopped forcing Fynn to read, so we decided to get it for him & Rowan. We had also been watching the Lorax movie and cartoon.

Flash backwards to a couple weeks before, when we had the opportunity to see Dino-Light by Lightwire Theater at the Lincoln Center. It was a stunning production with puppets made entirely from LED lights. Magical images roamed the stage, and, amazingly both my kids lasted through the whole show and loved it. Fynn was trying to think of how to apply what he saw to the Planet Shows he'd been making, and that reminded me of the little experience I'd had with black light.

So we went on Craigslist and bought a black light. And we bought florescent poster board to cut out our black light reactive planets. We made some masterpieces. And it was really fun to see what sort of things showed up in black light.
Note Earth sitting on top of Fynn's spectacular Jupiter
We had no blue, so we used white, which looks blue under black light
All Rowan's planets have faces and all Fynn's don't
 So we made a plethora of florescent planets. And somehow I got the idea to see if the kids wanted to do a play. A play of The Lorax in black light. And they said they did.

  Most kids can go to a typical school, and can practice parts for the Spring Play, and act out their parts when the time comes. But you need to understand what a big deal this is for my kids. They really can't follow directions, or take direction for that matter, and they have no concept of working hard for something that probably won't happen today. We really really practice Child-Led-Learning almost exclusively, because it's the only way my kids will learn. So, imagine, we could possibly do tons of work on this play, and, the night we put it on, the kids might want to bounce on the bed instead. So I tried to come up with a plan that would make our play most likely to succeed, because I really wanted to teach them this something new.

 #1. I asked them if they wanted to do it, and they said "yes".
 #2. I tried to make the preparations as un-tedious as possible. Most of the props I worked on while the kids were having their quiet time, but some of them we worked on together. Actually, Rowan woke up from his nap when I was painting Truffula Trees, and he wanted to paint one too. So one of our Truffulas doesn't really glow because it doesn't have much paint on it, but that's okay!
#3. I had to shoot for a perfect balance between ABSOLUTELY NO PRESSURE and trying to push them/ encourage them to do a little bit more.

 Basically I had to do the impossible. (Do you see the kind of stress I'm under? The ridiculous Paradox I live in daily...)

 So we prepared the props as quickly as possible, and every afternoon I would have the new props for that day laid out where the kids could find them, and it was like a new surprise for them, every day. I hung up a black cloth at the back of the kitchen, and that was our "stage" and the kids would be allowed to play with the props however they wanted within reason. I had gone through the book, and marked in my mind which parts to use in the script and which to leave out; I wanted it to be short enough that the kids wouldn't get bored, yet long enough to contain a complete story line. We started with "Way back in the days when the grass was still green..." just the part where the Once-ler was telling his story. And we cut out a few other paragraphs we didn't need.

 For our props we had: 3 big Truffula trees and lots of little ones, a cutout of the Lorax on posterboard, 3 barbaloot cutouts, 3 swamee swan cutouts, 3 hummingfish cutouts, a green paper axe (the most coveted prop), a pompom for a Truffula tuft, a scrap of orange fabric (THNEED), florescent paper money, glow golf ball (seed), the green Once-ler gloves, polyester stuffing (clouds), and "UNLESS" rock cutout.

 In the evenings after dinner it was dark enough to rehearse in black light. We turned out the lights and set the stage with Truffula Trees. The kids played with the props, and mostly tried to act out the story while I read the script. We had been reading the book and watching the movies daily, so it was becoming very familiar to us all. I really had no idea what the play would look like other than that, so I  just kept doing the same things, waiting to see what would unfold.

After a few days of playing with props and listening to lines, Fynn announced that he was going to be the Once-ler, and shortly after that, Rowan said he would be the Lorax. Well! Assigned parts was more than I had hoped for, so we were on the right track!

I painted some gloves florescent green, and those were Fynn's Once-ler costume. I showed him how to talk with his hands so it would look good on stage, but I didn't know he was actually paying attention. He even recited his lines a few times. It was great!

But then Fynn seemed to lose interest and after dinner, Rowan was the one reciting lines while Fynn played other games. Rowan recited the Lorax's lines AND the Once-ler's lines and even lines I had left out! He was amazing.

I got to the point where I felt like we had enough props to keep the story going. I was trying to decide whether the kids could handle an actual showing or not. Should we invite all our friends? Should we sell tickets? Should we give out snacks? Whatever we did, we should do it soon, at the kids' peak moment of involvement.

It was Wednesday, and tomorrow, Thursday, would be family dinner night. I knew just what to do. I asked Grandma & Grandpa  if they would come to our house for a change, for a showing of The Lorax. So they were our audience. Our only audience.

Rowan cutting out his Truffula Tuft
I was blown away by what happened. There was energy in the air. The kids both said their lines, and manipulated the props. Grandma & Grandpa oohed and awed. Fynn actually took over a bunch of lines that he had never said before, and I let him. (I was used to almost running the show by myself!) And they both ad-libbed a ton, which they'd never done before. At the very end, Fynn said his big Once-ler line, and used his hands just like I had shown him. Then he said "Catch!" and tossed a Truffula seed out into the audience. And that was that. They had put on a show.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Flood Chasers

Flood Chasers

flood 6

Well, we went out to make our usual five mile long solar system model when something unexpected happened- our route was blocked by floodwater.

 Fynn hopped up on the bike and we forded one flood after another as they got deeper and deeper, with the water eventually rising above the bicycle's hubs. By this time we had mustered up a healthy fear of flooding. We came to the area pictured in the photo above (flood 6) and got really scared. I kept reassuring him that we were not going to ride through that, but we did have to turn around and ride back. He was on the verge of panic and clutched me tightly as we rode back to dry land, fording the flooded areas, which he named flood 1,2,3,4,5, and 6. He was now completely terrified of floods, and also totally obsessed with them. It should not surprise me, it's what Fynn does, he becomes obsessed with anything that scares him. He talks about it, learns about it, makes models of it. And somehow this helps him get over his fears, and, next to laughter, it's one of his best motives for learning.

As we rode home, we talked about flooding. He told me he was sorry for fussing, that he just got scared he was gonna get washed away. He asked me why the bike trail flooded, and we talked about rivers, and flood plains. We talked about erosion, and saw areas where the trail or riverbank had collapsed. We talked about storms, and what happens to the animals that live in these flooded areas. I told him what it was like growing up in east Texas and living through hurricanes and floods, and how one time, after a big flood, i had seen a house stuck way up in a tree. He loved that story.

As soon as we got home he got on his computer and looked up floods. He spent the next couple of hours looking at pictures and videos of them. Then he filled our pool with dirt and water to make his own flood. Later on he came up to me and said "Ok Papa, we're flood chasers, so can we go look for some more floods?" I said sure, so we gathered up Rowan and we headed off to another section of river known for flooding. Fynn was careful not to let Rowan get too close to the water, as he is the kind of kid who will dive right in. It was nice having an extra person to watch out for him. We told everyone we saw we were flood chasers. Some of them looked at us as though we'd said the moon was a great piece of cheese and we were going to eat it. But we were in awe of the power of water, we didn't care what they thought. We watched massive pieces of driftwood floating down the river, saw dams made of all kinds of debris. Stood on a bridge watching the water rush below us. Fynn said it looked like we were on a boat. "How fast are we going" he asked. Perhaps wisely, neither of the kids would even stick a toe in the water.

A couple of days later we went back to the first flood that had so captured Fynn's imagination. We had to pass a sign warning of the flooded trail, and Fynn made me read it to him over and over, then had me take his and Rowan's picture standing by it. By this time the water had gone down quite a bit. Floods 1-5 were not there anymore, only flood 6, the big scary one. But now we were on foot, and it was crossable. I stepped into the water to show the kids that it wasn't too deep and Fynn started to panic again. I told him it was safe, and walked out to the middle and then back to show him. Then Rowan wanted to walk through it too, so I convinced Fynn to climb on my back and together the three of us walked through the flood safely to the other side.

 On the way back Fynn let me put him down in the middle and he walked through the water by himself. He was so proud of himself for doing something he was scared of. He stopped every person we saw on the trail and told them that he had walked through the flood and asked them if they were going to walk through the flood too. He was hopping up and down and flapping his arms and could barely speak through his excitement. We caught a toad and let it go. Fynn loved the idea of toads being born as tadpoles in the water. When we got home he was so excited about walking through the flood that he did something that we thought he might never do. I'm going to respect his privacy on this one but let me just say that it is a big deal. This led to other smaller breakthroughs for him, like flushing the toilet, which used to scare him, and blowing his nose, which also scared him. It's amazing to watch how conquering one fear flooded him with the courage to face his other fears. It is said that bravery is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to face your fears head on. If this is so Fynn is the bravest person I know. 

The next day Beth, Fynn, and Rowan got out their science bucket and made a model town to flood. The power of nature had instilled fear and awe, as it should. We learned about geology, meteorology, earth science, physics and density, climatology and topography, maths relating to speed and distance. We read all the flood warning signs and learned some new words. We covered history, talking about past floods both here where we live and in the area i grew up in. It was a flood of knowledge. 

As the waters receded we were left with places at once both familiar and strange. Old, yet new. We are flood chasers. We chased this flood, and it changed us. It told us a story, offered insight, into ourselves, and the ways of nature. We are like the land, the same, yet different. Old things have been washed away, new ones washed in. Old places to explore, new things to discover. So go, find your passions, and your fears, be brave, and chase them. You may be surprised at what you discover.