Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Little Catching Up

It has been a while since I have been able to move photos from he camera, but I have finally done it (well at least most of the photos).  So what follows is a brief summary of our time so far in northern Florida.

Spending time in Tallahassee with dear friends that we haven't seen in years. We took the fun up high, to the adventure course in the trees above the Tallahassee Museum.

Waiting for the Tallahassee Veteran's Day Parade. It was a lot different from the one in Albany, the first thing I noticed was the scent of gardenias as we approached the parade route. That, and lacking the need to layer for warmth were the two biggest differences I saw.

After the parade, the girls and I went to Wakulla Springs. Yes, Janele swam, in mid-November. We are the snowbirds that I used to gawk at when I was a kid!

Thia was determined to catch one of those tiny fish in her water bottle. She was successful, and I was successful in convincing her that we really could not care for a pet fish at this time.

We took the river tour too. We saw a lot of manatee, some gators, and birds galore. All the years I lived in Tallahassee, I had never taken this river boat tour. I am glad we did on this visit.

Of course, we couldn't end the day without getting an ice cream!

From Tallahassee, we headed toward the "cave diving capital of the world", in north-central Florida. The water in the Ichetucknee River is spring fed, and a constant 72 degrees, year round. It makes for comfortable tubing during much of the year, even in November!

Janele enjoyed the leisurely float from one end of the state park to another.

Our first dive, in a pool, outdoors, in November! it was great fun, but hard. This early holiday present is going to make us work!

Just getting the gear on is tough work and not done alone.
Fowler and Thia were in a grocery store one day, and Fowler told Thia to think of something she wanted to do. She went wandering around the store as he shopped. When she returned, she handed him a business card, for HandRScuba. Do you think this qualifies as Phys. Ed.?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What To Do?

This year has required we live very small. This translates to us carrying around with us as little an amount of “stuff” as we can. This is hard, especially around the holidays. It is so easy to walk through a shop, see something appealing, and buy it. Either for myself, or (more often) for one of the girls, because I just know they would really love it, at least for a moment. After so many years of working to use and have less “stuff”, I still find it hard. I have to stop myself, and ask, “How will I/they use this? Is it beneficial? Will it just sit around and get stepped on, or dusty? Will this be a momentary pleasure, or will it last?” Though I want the joy, it is important to decide if whatever it is will be used/treasured, or will be forgotten in a short time (we don’t have room for forgotten). As a result, we are more and more, attempting to give the gifts of experiences. This is also harder, because I find that more often than not, experiences are more expensive than that cute pair of earrings, or that kitchen gadget that looks like it may be useful (but more often than not, ends up contributing to that drawer that never fully opens without a good yank).
In that vein, this holiday season is even more challenging. Without a home base, we don’t have room for “stuff”, and adding to what we are carrying won’t help anyone. What to do? We still want to see the joy.
Answer number one has come a little early this year: we are going to take a SCUBA certification class, as a family! Merry Christmas, Fowler’s! We will take classes December, diving in the freshwater springs around north-central Florida! Yes, it will be chilly, but we will be wearing wetsuits that will help. Also, the springs stay a constant water temperature of about 72 degrees F, no matter the outside air temp. This is a bit chilly for me, but I am willing to tough it out, because I can’t wait to explore the underwater beauty around here. Then, while we are in south Florida, hopefully we will get to dive a couple more times, and really explore the area. I am totally psyched about this, and from what I can tell in their willingness to study, the girls are excited too. So, Merry Christmas, a bit early to the Fowler’s!
Saturday morning will be our first time in the water for this, and it will be in a pool, but we are all looking forward to the experience. Woo hoo! Now I just have to remember to charge the underwater camera!
Now I am wondering, what else can we do?


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Definitely Warmer

Fowler and the girls took a ride down the Itchetucknee River this afternoon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Drawing Is Hard!

           As part of our homeschool curriculum, the girls have each chosen a subject to teach to the family. Thia has been teaching us Spanish, and Janele chose to teach art. Having taken Spanish in high school, I find Thia’s lessons easier, though they are interesting and she likes to add a bit of fun. Janele’s lessons are a different beast all together, for me.

Janele is a good instructor. She is careful to explain what she is teaching, having practiced the skills herself in her preparations, and offers a lot of positive reinforcement. This is good, because I find the practice downright frustrating. Janele is taking us through the basics of drawing, started right at the beginning with the different hand positions, and how pencil leads of varying softness produce different effects on the paper. I did not know any of this, and even trying to use the proper hand positions is frustrating. It turns out my fine motor control is great, I can add detail like a maniac, but the gross motor is another story, trying to make fluid, sweeping lines, using my whole arm is just not happening. My lines all end up wobbly and shaky, not at all in the shape I mean them to be. Also, shading? Ugh! I have a very hard time seeing the actual shape of the shadows, instead of what I think they are. Does that make any sense? Maybe not, if you have never tried to do this.  I am thinking this is like everything else I never tried to learn until I reached adulthood, VERY HARD!

An example: today’s lesson was to draw a bowl of fruit, below is what I did.


I am interested to know what fruit you think is in that bowl. It is not in color, so it may be difficult, but what do the shapes tell you? Also, ignore the fact that I seemed to be holding my paper at the angle appropriate for cursive writing, this must be a habit leftover from my grade-school days. “Old Dog” here.

I have made progress, and my teacher says I am doing pretty well. However, I have to remind myself not to compare my work with that of Thia, who has been doodling since she could hold a chunky crayon between her fingers, and Fowler, who has always enjoyed drawing and painting, even taken a few classes. In comparison, my work is woefully below standard. I have always preferred a different form of artistic expression. Is there a dance-floor in the house?

Anyway, I keep reminding myself that is okay, but this is very frustrating when I can’t put onto the paper what I see. It is a good reminder to me, though, of what it is like for each of the girls when we are going over their other subjects and they don’t understand the work. Stop, take a deep breath, maybe walk around a bit, we will get there.

If you are interested, here is the photo of what I was attempting to draw. Those are grapes, a couple of limequats, and a pomegranate, sitting on a flat table, not at 25 degree angle.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Living Small

While wandering around a local antiques store here in High Springs, FL, I was talking to Thia about what sorts of things we'd like to put in our home, after we settle. I was mentioning different rooms, and her comment went something like, "Wow, that's like 5 rooms."

I suppose all of this time we have been "living smaller" has had an effect on her perspective. Compared to what we've had in the past, and to that of many of our friends and family, 5 rooms do not make a very big living space.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tallahassee Fun

We started our day at the Tallahassee Veteran's Day Parade, and followed it with an afternoon at Wakulla Springs State Park. There, we got to see a lot of manatee, and alligators, and birds. Thia caught a tiny fish in her water bottle (let it go), and Janele swam in the springs. We topped it off with an ice cream!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Road Trip!

                In the early years after we moved to New York, I found a neighbor who shared my frustrations in the spring when the weather got “warmer”. I put that in quotes, because if I am still wearing fleece layers, I do not believe “warm” should in any way be used to describe the temperature. People seem to think 40°F, after a winter far below that, is perfect weather for the shorts and t-shirt that had shifted to the back of the drawer. They are wrong, every year, but they keep at it. This is the definition of optimism in upstate NY. It does not work for me. I need to bake in the sun.

                So my new friend and I were commiserating about the cold, and contemplating our children’s upcoming spring break. We didn’t have any plans at that point, and perhaps we had a few too many cups of coffee, but out of this conversation, arose a plan for our Spring Break Road Trip! And we were excited! We were going to get warm, whatever it took!

                The plan was simple: drive. We were ready to pile our four kids, sunscreen, snacks, etc. into my minivan, and drive south. If we had to go to Key West to get warm, were ready! We mapped a rough route, noting who we knew along the way (family in Long Island, and the Carolinas, friends in Georgia and Florida, all the way down the coast) that we could visit, to break up the driving, stretch our legs and rest our heads. We had notes, and left each other, ready to fill in our significant others, and start contacting our kin. We were going on a Road Trip for Spring Break!

                I think it took a couple of days, or perhaps for me it was just the look on Fowler’s face when I shared it with him, for me to realize the gaping flaw in this plan: time, or the lack of time. Spring Break is a week, and with all we had planned, it was very likely that we would get to a beach somewhere in South Florida with precisely enough time to dip our toes in the water, while basking for a minute in that warm sun, before piling back into the van, to make the long drive home. It was exciting to plan, but that would have been crazy. At some point, we came to our senses, and toughed it out until the weather warmed. Eventually, I shed the fleece layers, and we had summer in NY. Though we didn’t make that trip, Susan and I, with our four kids, have made a number of road trips in that van, and I will always remember that time of fevered planning with a smile.

Then yesterday, somewhere on I-85, driving through the Carolinas in our newly leased Subaru, loaded to the hilt (but not with snacks. This is a new car, no eating in the car…yet.)  I realized I am now on that trip. Only this time, I get to bask in the sun for a while, before we begin the trip back north again. But for now, as we drive, I am getting warmer.