Tad and I had a fantastically fun weekend. It started out months ago on my annual search for someplace we could go and something we could do together that would give us some time to be together doing what we love most - having experiences and then talking about them. I don't know what it is about us but most of the fun of doing things together for us is when the things we're doing give us fodder for thought and conversation. We had plenty of fertile fodder the past few days.
I found a homeschooling convention in VA, just south of DC, which featured several folks whose focus is in the arts. There was a lot about creative writing but I was interested in the folks with a performance bent. Jim Weiss was there with lots of stories to tell and he gave us some food for thought about how to continue to incorporate story and drama into our homeschooling and family life. The conversations pursuing Jim's presentations drew us back to the idea of a family performance. That idea was in full bloom many months ago and took a back seat to the birth of Tali, the changing of churches and the passing of days. We'll see how those conversations continue to unfold in the days to come.
Traveling to the conference was an opportunity for checking in with each other - something we haven't been able to do for some time between the haze of sleeplessness which characterizes the parents of newborns. We put some Orthodox Liturgical music into the CD player and dove into the ins and outs of the frayed edges of our lives. Somewhere in there, Tad was convinced to start posting on his blog (which he set up some months ago), I was released from some fears and insecurities I've been experiencing as of late, we kicked around some of the kids' current therapeutic issues and how to handle them and we discussed certain tenets of Orthodox theology ad nauseum.
This was the same weekend for which we had gotten Tad tickets to a Weird Al Yankovic concert for his birthday. Not knowing the state of my body or the temperament of our baby at the time, I had set it up as a guy's night out with our neighbor Mark. Mark was gracious enough to bow out when I explained to him that we were hoping our change of plans could make it a big date night instead. So we traveled from DC back to Baltimore (through agonizingly slow traffic much to Tad's chagrin) and arrived with plenty of time to feed the baby, kick back and enjoy the demographics. Most of the audience was white, about our age or a bit older - many with their 5-10 year old children (which I would *not* recommend - there were some raunchy parts of the concert I did not enjoy and am definitely glad my pre-teens did not experience). There was a preponderance of Hawain print shirts, guys with long hair obviously trying to emulate Weird Al and they all looked like they might have a wallet full of autographed science fiction actor head shots which they would be pleased to whip out and show you at a moment's notice. Weird Al's song, White and Nerdy summed up this crowd succinctly. This concert was a dream come true for Tad. He'd been wanting to see Weird Al in concert for going on 25 years now and he wasn't disappointed. The photos I have are lousy since they were taken on my cell phone in the worst of lighting but I wanted to prove we were there. The big, white blob in the center of the stage is Weird Al himself. Tad was holding Tali when the concert finally began. Weird Al came out on stage, there was one big blast on an electric guitar and Tali looked up at her Daddy and gave him the biggest lower lip I have ever seen. She managed to make it through the rest of the concert ok but I think she was a bit shell-shocked at the end of it all.
From the concert, we drove back to DC to a hotel. We arrived there around 1:00 am, I fed Tali and got her down in the porta crib around 2:00am. Then my baby, who hasn't slept for longer than a 2 1/2 hour stretch in the past two weeks, slept for 6 1/2 hours straight! I had to wake her up at 8:00 am because I was afraid *I* was going to pop!
We returned to the conference for Day Two where Tad spent his day tracking down Dr. Keller, the author of RealScience 4 Kids. In his experience, quality homeschool science curriculum is hard to come by and he's been really impressed with this one which he's been using to teach JT and Ben for the past year. After he got over the shock of discovering he is a she, he found a kindred spirit in Dr. Keller's manner of presentation. Much of our subsequent car conversations centered around the brilliant simplicity of her approach to science.
I, on the other hand, spent my day looking forward to Steve Demme's presentation. He is the creator of our math program, Math U See, but he also happens to have a son with Down Syndrome about whom he was scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon. Tad and I enjoyed hearing him talk about the joys and trials of raising a child with special needs. I found him to be kind, genuine and full of joy and faith. His talk was a refreshing reminder of the blessings of our kids with special needs. He spoke about a Joni and Friends family retreat he went to with other families of children with disabilities. He said the disabilities were varied and quite noticeable the first day or two of the retreat. However, as the week progressed he found that he noticed the outward disabilities less and less and all the folks there became just folks. I carried that thought with me as Tad and I wrapped up our weekend with a last minute excursion to Shore Leave 30, culminating our White and Nerdy weekend.
While we missed the bulk of the convention we made it there in time for the Saturday evening Masquerade - a parade of contestants clad in science fiction themed costumes who compete for convention's best awards. Tad went to this same conference several times throughout his high school years and managed to get me there a couple of times during our college years. The Masquerade had always been a favorite event with tons of contestants showcasing some truly remarkable workmanship. We found, however, that the demographics had changed a bit in the 15 years since our last Shore Leave convention. Funny enough we saw many of the same faces but they appeared quite a bit...older. The conference is still quite popular with sell-out crowds but the emphasis has changed. And, like Steve Demme, I figured if I stayed there long enough I would eventually lose sight of the extreme whiteness and nerdiness of folks and they would eventually become just folks...
After the Masquerade we were entertained by the filk-singing group, Boogie Knights, who, sometime since our last foray into Science Fiction Fandom Excess, managed to rope a few good-lookin' ladies who could actually *sing* into the group. Their performance made a total of two parodies of Miss American Pie in one weekend - what are the chances of that?! (Weird Al's version had dancing Storm Troopers on the stage, creating a Twilight Zone-ish connection to the Shore Leave themes.)
While the demographics of the conference may be aging, I thoroughly enjoyed my Masquerade seat-mate immensely. Her name was Faith and she and her daughter were members of a starship from Connecticutt who had traveled here together. Faith was kind enough to let me take her picture in her Starfleet uniform which led to a sweet conversation with her and her daughter about family, faith and the state of education in our nation. That conversation wrapped up our weekend away together. We said goodbye to our new friends and went in search of a midnight snack before heading home to the zoo.
As Faith and her daughter wandered back into the hotel, Faith turned to us and said, "I'm so glad you two got to get away." Then with a knowing twinkle in her eye she left us with, "That's what's going to keep you sweethearts."