Friday, April 27, 2012

I Am Officially a Nutcase

I was going to post about the third day of our spring break vacation, but life has gotten in the way.  Last week, I helped run a vendor fair as a fundraiser for the band parents association.  Good fundraiser, but as one of the co-chairs, it got a little... time-consuming in the last week.

This week, I lost my mind.  The back story is that my darling oldest boy has discovered LARPing.  Lest you think that is some great new video game, let me set you straight.  LARP stands for Live Action Role Play.  You see, some people who play role-playing games (for example, Dungeons and Dragons) are not satisfied to move little figures around a hexagonal board and roll dice to determine what happens.  No, they want to dress and run around the woods beating on each other with foam swords.

JC thinks this is great.  I think this is pretty great because he is running around the woods instead of spending the weekend sitting in front of the computer, and I don't have to yell at him about that.  He went last month for the first time, and loved it.  So last week, he asked me if I could make him a costume for the next event.  That was occurring in a week and a half.

Long story short, I made him a costume.  It took me all week, because I didn't want to make him some crappy home-made looking costume.  No, I had to look up authentic styles and real finishing techniques and rip things out because it looked wrong and generally drive myself batty doing it "right".

And I have no pictures to post, because he got home late from a school field trip today, and we were frantically running around getting him packed and transported to his ride.  Sunday, I hope, you can see him in all his glory - tunic, cloak (with hood!), pouch.  I even made little beanbags, which are used as spells in the game (you throw the beanbag at someone, and if you hit them, you've "hit" them with the spell you incanted).

Why couldn't I just slap something together?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Break, Part B

Not quite so summer-like today (but darn close).  I actually turned on the A/C - not because of the heat, but because the boys were really feeling all the effects of the current pollen explosion.  But back to Spring Break...

JC really liked Champlain College.  Majors, campus, philosophy of teaching, dorms (almost all old Victorian houses that have been renovated inside.  No two rooms alike), environment,... pretty much everything.  So I had suggested that we tour University of Vermont, since we were there anyway, and while he agreed, there was not much interest on his part.

Tuesday, we went to the UVM information session, again at 10am.  It was much more crowded (bigger school), and while they did a good job, it didn't grab any of us as much as Champlain.  The tour was fine, it's a lovely campus - not as hilly as Champlain, despite the fact that they are about a block apart.  Nice mix of new and old buildings, and a big emphasis on "green" design.  After the really good experience the day before, it may have been inevitable that UVM was a bit of a let-down.  Honestly, though, they just didn't have any majors that JC was really interested in.  Oh well.

So we sought out some lunch (downtown again), and headed off to Waterbury, VT.  Home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory.  And better yet?  It was Free Cone Day.

William was ECSTATIC when he saw the silos by the building - the grey one says "Sugar" and the white ones say "milk" and "cream".  Yes, they really do contain those ingredients (well, liquefied sugar).  We asked.

This was our very entertaining guide.  I'm sorry, I didn't write down his name and therefore do not remember it.  This is actually the end of the tour - no pictures allowed in the factory area.  But the 10 minute or so film of Ben&Jerry's history was actually quite entertaining.
This is the door to the Quality Control lab.  The kids got all upset when I took this picture.  "Mom, he said no pictures!"  "Yeah, in the FACTORY area.  This is not factory."  Nobody arrested me.
This is the line for free ice cream when we came out of the tour.  Fortunately, we had taken the wise advice of the guide when we bought our tickets (which turned out to be free on Free Cone Day), and gotten our ice cream then.  And we had a generous sample at the end of the tour, and while we could have waited in line again, we'd actually had enough ice cream for a while.
Yes, this is the continuation of the line from the previous picture.  It goes all the way down to the bus.  And I didn't take a picture of the DJ and free popcorn that were behind me.  It got pretty crowded as the afternoon wore on.
The original of this bus, which Ben and Jerry drove around the country dispensing samples from, actually caught fire outside of Cleveland, which actually made for pretty good publicity - "World's Largest Baked Alaska"
A little dark, but it says "Flavor Graveyard".
There were about 30 "headstones", all with funny poems/sayings about the departed flavors.  I won't put in all the pictures of them that Rachel took, but I did like this one...

The most amazing event of the day?  William wanted more popcorn after we wandered around the graveyard.  So without quite asking permission, he ran back around the other side of the building to get more.  I didn't actually see him go, and after a while realized he was no longer playing on the playground.  About the time we were starting to actually wonder where he was, he came trotting back with his popcorn...and a t-shirt.  Seems he had been standing next to the DJ booth when they started a trivia contest, and he knew the answer to the first question they asked, because he'd been paying attention on the tour.  He won a "Life is Good" t-shirt, signed by Ben and Jerry, for answering this question:

What's the WORST flavor they've ever produced?

Sugar Plum.  Created in honor of a production of the Nutcracker, it was apparently just... not good.  Retired quickly.  But good for a free t-shirt!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Break, Part 1

Feels odd to be writing about Spring Break tonight.  It was only a week ago - but today hit 90 degrees and feels like summer in a big way.  But I will persevere, if only because I've finally conquered the hurdle of actually sitting down to write a blog post.

We went on a college tour for Spring Break this year.  JC is a junior, and I've had people telling me that we are BEHIND on this looking for colleges thing.  Granted, they are the kind of over-involved pushy parents that give parenting a bad name, but still, it starts to sink in anyway.  We went on a college tour in November, at a place that had a very nice campus but really wasn't a good fit for JC, and we managed to hit another college during its winter break and there were no actual tours available - we walked around anyway but it's not the same.

So we made the effort for Spring Break.  JC has received a ton of college porn during the last three months (you know, the beautiful brochures you get when they buy the PSAT/SAT mailing list).  The very first one to hit our mailbox was from this little college up in Burlington, VT, that, wouldn't you know, advertised a "Creative Media" major.  Creative Media (along with Interactive Media and about 16 other names) is what they call video game design, 3-D animation, website design, and similar programs of study these days.  The challenge is that every college and university seems to call it something else, so doing a Google search to find schools is... challenging. 

So this one found him, and as he did some looking around the school website, he liked what he saw.  I checked out their admission statistics and said, ok, this one has potential.  And you know, from what I knew of Burlington, it sounded like a cool little town to visit.  And Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream!

Off we went.  Burlington was great.  We got there Sunday evening, and had our admissions office visit at 10am on Monday morning.  And can I say, Champlain College has their act TOGETHER.  We got there, they had a name tag and tote bag for JC.  We got sent to the waiting room and a charming young lady immediately showed up to chat with us and answer questions.  The information session was informative AND entertaining (well, except for William, but he hung in there because I let him play his gameboy), and then they divided up all the interested students into groups for the tour.

 Our tour guide was Josh, who was also charming, entertaining, informative... and way too fast on his feet.  Burlington is quite hilly, and Champlain is on a very steep hill.  We started out walking UP the hill, trying to keep up with Josh, and then immediately to see a dorm room - on the third floor.  Then to the library, again the third floor.  The kids were ok, I was falling further and further behind.  But it was worth it.  This above picture doesn't do justice to the view.  It was lovely.  That darker blue is Lake Champlain, and you can sort of see New York State on the other side.

 It's a very compact campus.  Basically a city block, plus just a bit.  This is a statue of Samuel de Champlain, who of course discovered Lake Champlain (among other things).

 I thought this was great.  This is the "Stall Street Journal", on the inside of the bathroom stall in the Student Center.  Events and activities, in a location where you won't miss it!

After our campus tour, and lunch in the student center (courtesy of the admissions office, which I thought was a really nice touch), we went downtown to explore.  Yes, we drove, even though it was barely a mile.  It was a mile DOWNHILL, which meant we would have to hike UPHILL to return to the car.  We were already getting a little tired.

 But downtown Burlington was well worth the effort.  Parking was pretty easy, and there's a several-block-long pedestrian mall right through the center of downtown.  All sorts of cool shops and restaurants.

 This one's for you, Mom.  We didn't actually go in, but I loved the bright blue front, and the name of course.

And this was hysterical. 

We had a really good time wandering around downtown, went back to the hotel in the late afternoon to recharge our batteries (i.e., us old folks took a nap and the kids read/played Game Boy).  Dinner was back downtown at a local steakhouse, very tasty.  Alas, we got done too late to hit the gourmet cupcake bakery, they had closed about 5 minutes before we got there.

Tomorrow: University of Vermont and ICE CREAM.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Still A Classic

Just watched the first half of "The Ten Commandments" with my two younger kids. We've watched parts before, but this is the first comprehensive viewing. We're saving the second part for tomorrow because, hello, it goes until 11:45 pm. So far, so good. They are familiar with the Moses story, and following along with the "extra" characters pretty well. The only trouble? We started watching on the kitchen TV while we had dinner. It's little - Rachel couldn't tell who was Moses and who was Ramses. Really? How do you confuse Charleton Heston and Yul Brynner?