Photos: February 2009 Archives

Competitive parenting

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vdaybox1.jpg I'm not sure when, but at some point in this parenting circus Chris and I started to care - wherein care means "competitive to the death" - about the little kid projects that pepper elementary education. I think it began with last year's Pinewood Derby when Chris realized that the dads would be doing about 85% of the work and no way was he going to send his kid off to the races "with some piece of crap car." So he and Liam spent hours in the basement with Chris shaving a block of wood into the body of a car and hollering at Liam for touching his power tools. They ended up with a cool car that came in third and would've taken a higher place had not the winning car weighed 2.5 ounces over the maximum weight, I heard the dads grumble.

This year Chris created what he calls "an homage to Luigi Colani" which I had to Google just then because I like dresses and makeup. I fell asleep on the sofa waiting for him and he woke me up sometime around midnight when stood in the dining room, covered with saw dust and completely beige, whispering and pointing excitedly to his alien-looking car body. He and Liam will attach weights to the car and paint it tonight.

"All the cars will be weighed this year," he said ominously. This morning when Liam saw it, he, Chris, and Ewan had an excitable conversation comprised mostly of "DUDE," "AWESOME," and "SO GONNA WIN."
Last year Liam and I attempted to wow the homeschool kids at the annual Valentine's party with a shoebox wrapped in foil with stickers and pipe cleaner taped all over it. What we didn't realize is that anytime you even remotely hint to homeschooled kids that something is a contest, they will go absolutely whole-hog, bat crap insane over it. We didn't realize this until we arrived and saw the kid with the light-up robot Valentine's box and the other elaborate boxes. Liam's pride wilted and just once I wished that homeschooled kids lived up to the dimwitted-freak stereotype so we could've had the best Valentine's box that day.

This year Ewan, the family goth, gave us the idea of a haunted house Valentine's box so we planned early and stocked up on supplies. We used the box in which an order of books arrived for the house, cut out windows, pitched the "roof," and painted everything black. We used tempura paint which reminded me of formaldehyde and all those afternoons spent in 4th period anatomy and physiology dissecting sheep, frogs, brains, and eyeballs before lunch.
I saved the cut-outs of the windows and we painted those yellow and positioned them in the house to create a more three-dimensional look. Some of them I cut in pieces and made "boards" to board up other windows. Liam created ghosts from a sticky-backed foam; Ewan helped by picking out off-season Halloween (of course) stickers.

When he walked into the Valentine's party this year the kids were all "LOOKIT LIAM'S BOX!" and a girl who he swears he doesn't have a crush on told him his box was "cool." He bragged about that for the rest of the afternoon. I had almost as much fun watching him show off all of his work as I did making the house with him. I felt redeemed from last year's hastily-wrapped foil shoebox.

I didn't have a lot of parental manpower growing up and I often felt that my shabby projects were of no comparison to the elaborate things my classmates and their parents would bring to school. I remember one project where we were supposed to build a car powered by springs and rubberbands and while other kids had their dads work with them on it my older cousin, thankfully, stepped in and helped me with mine. The car didn't go very far, but I had a completed project and was able to work with someone. To say that this doesn't fuel a bit of the motivation for me at times would be a lie. 

Chris on the other hand, is just obsessed with all things engineering and is eager to encourage in Liam a predilection for watching coma-inducing shows like "How It's Made" so he has someone with whom to geek out. Whenever Chris brings up those shows in the Tivo queue I instantly pass out from threat of boredom. Do I need to know how the plastic that wraps cheese slices are made? NO.
Haunted House Valentine's Box
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A day off


A hard decision

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At his desk

So after last week's post about my India indecision I thought long and hard about going. I prayed. Other people prayed. I obsessed. I analyzed. I did a ton of research and looked at lots of materials including the State Department link one of you gave which said things like:
There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India and terror attacks are a serious and growing threat to U.S. citizens traveling and resident there. U.S. citizens are urged to always practice good security, including maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile.  Coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai in late November 2008 targeting areas frequented by Westerners have raised the risk of Americans becoming intended or unintended victims of terrorism in India.

In 2008, violence against Christians (including foreigners accused of proselytizing) has increased.  Mobs have attacked Indian and American missionaries and social workers as such activity provokes strong reactions in some areas.

This article didn't help, either, especially as it's taking place right where the group is going.

Because of some of the unrest there I just don't feel like it's the right time for me to go to that particular part of the world. I'm a bit conflicted that I feel this way; I tend to be very confrontational and non-susceptible with regards to intimidation and it does anger me somewhat that my fear of getting blown up stands in the way of me doing charitable work. I want to say yes out of spite. However, I don't feel that decision is mine alone to make. I have two children who depend on me at home, a family that depends on me, a community. I admire the courage of those who have chosen to go.

It was very hard to decide against going this particular time. Helping children is an issue close to my heart for many reasons; I love to travel; I want to see the world; I just felt that this wasn't the right time to go. I do plan on journeying with this group at a point in the future; I will keep you apprised. I hope that those who were gung-ho about my going are as equally supportive of this decision.


Thank you so much for your comments and your emails. It meant a lot that you took the time out of your day to offer insight or a prayer. I have it on my to-do list to write some of you back still. Please keep the India-bound group in your thoughts and prayers. I hope safety blankets their journey and I hope that many children are helped by this mission; here's how you can help.

The family business

I'm sitting at the dining room table, staring at a globe, contemplating traipsing halfway across the world for a good cause. I'll be talking more about that later because my mind is on the fence.

In the meantime, let the boys take you on a mini-tour of Chris's massive studio, now open for business.
Vocal booth

They've recorded two artists already and the rooms book quickly. The studio has received a fair amount of press thus far (I'm really proud of them and the building is simply stunning and I wanted to show the fruit of years of hard work); Chris and his studio partner, Doug, made the local Alive Magazine's annual Buzz List this year. The magazine is throwing a swanky party this weekend which we're attending; unfortunately, as per usual, I haven't the slightest clue what to wear. Mercedes is loaning Chris one of its S class vehicles (?) to drive until Sunday and we're to drive it to the awards which is a relief because I was just planning on keeping it beyond real and showing up in a minivan that smells like stale McDonald's. The valets love it.

Front desk. And gumballs! Live room. Live room with window into main control room
One of the lounge areas, outside the main control room Chris's office
Main control room. No other studio in St. Louis can match it. Period.

This is our family business and despite appearances (and unkindly stereotypes) no, we are not rich. I buy Sam's cola. We don't take vacations. Click on any photo to enlarge and for captions. Click here for the entire set; click here to see the big gallery on their website.

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