Monday, June 27, 2005

kites and photography

We went to a kite festival recently. We had a lot of fun flying kites, watching the stunt kites, and seeing the great big windsock-type lizards and other creatures floating in the air.

It also rekindled an old desire of mine and Daniel's: Kite Aerial Photography (known as KAP to the initiated.)

Yup, you put your camera and a bunch of remote control gadgetry on your kite and send it aloft to take pictures. We stumbled on to KAP accidentally, when I was looking for satellite aerial photos of a nearby business which had hired me to make a hand-drawn map of their nature trails.

I mentioned KAP three years ago to a college friend of mine while he was flying his kites. He promptly tied his camera to the kite string with the wrist strap, set the auto-timer on his camera, launched it as quick as he could... and actually got some good pictures that way.

Daniel and I are a little more cautious. Of course, Jon has taken KAP pictures at least three years sooner than we will. But we spent $150 on remote control gadgetry this weekend, so now we're committed. This is, if the Lord tarries, our next joint project.

It combines many of our favorite things we look for in a hobby: It's metalworking (building the rig.) It's outdoors. It's under $1000 (at least we hope so!). It's remote controlled. It's something we can make and use ourselves. It's risk-taking (without being TOO dangerous.) It promises take-home souvenirs in the form of photos. It's something the kids can participate in. And it's something "cool" without being unbearably trendy, (at least not yet, in northern Michigan!)

Of course, even with both of us working on it, we may need to recruit help to simultaneously fly a kite, run a four channel remote-control camera, and meet the needs of four small kids who all want to help us fly kites and take pictures!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

a sweatshirt for Poppie

Back when our eldest child was three, we had him make pictures for his grandparents. He happily scribbled, and narrated out loud as he drew. Since one three-year-old's picture looks pretty much like any other one, I personalized it by reconstructing his narration as well as I could remember, writing his words (complete with mispronounciations) on the picture as he supervised and clarified.

He was thrilled to be able to use markers instead of crayons, and even more thrilled to have 100% of my attention as he drew and narrated.

He didn't know that the paper he was happily scribbling on was T-shirt transfer paper meant for an inkjet printer. We peeled the backing off his drawings and ironed them on to sweatshirts for his grandparents for Christmas. The above picture is ironed on to a navy blue sweatshirt for my dad (known to the kids as Poppie.)

What you see above on the left is where BigE started drawing off the transfer paper and on to the newspaper I'd laid out on the table. It was an important part: the front-end loader's big orange scoop! So, after BigE was done with his drawing, I brought the newspaper over to our front window and used the window as a light-table to transfer BigE's drawing onto another sheet of transfer paper, then cut that part of the drawing out and ironed it on to the shirt next to the rest of the drawing.

Details of the drawing are above and below. I think my dad loved his sweatshirt the best of any of the recipients. He often wore it to the grocery store, and said that people would stop him in the store to read the shirt - the whole shirt, all the comments - out loud. (As an extrovert, Poppie actually enjoyed this interaction.) It's been three years now since we made these shirts, and it's about time for new sweatshirts; this one is about worn out.

BigE and Chickie have caught on to our tricks, though, and resist our not-so-subtle pressure to "perform." While their pictures are much more beautiful now than three years ago (and sweatshirt worthy even without narration) - I'd like them to enjoy drawing, and not feel like a trained circus animal doing a performance on command.

So I guess that means we wait until Mac and Bubbie are old enough to draw with markers, but young enough to feel like it's a great privilege. Old enough to enjoy our intense concentration on their every word, and young enough to not realize that we're shamelessly exploiting their cuteness to make Christmas presents for their grandparents. (Hmm. I guess that means if the grandparents read my blog, they know what they're getting for Christmas in two years!)

Technical notes: we used Avery inkjet T-shirt transfers for dark shirts. They are white rather than clear, and you don't reverse them when you apply them to the shirt. Instead, you peel off the backing paper (leaving them floppy, like a giant vinyl cling) and cover it with the enclosed coversheet and iron the vinyl cling onto the shirt.

Some colors of Crayola markers faded with washing, some did not. The cheap-brand markers we had gave varying results too. We had excellent results with Mr. Sketch scented markers. Permanent Sharpie markers also did a great job over time. I wrote the narrations in ballpoint pen, which weathered fairly well, and finepoint Sharpie, which worked even better.

We discovered we did not like to iron a whole letter-size sheet onto a T-shirt; it made the T-shirt uncomfortably hot and sticky, and the transfer tended to rip. A whole sheet worked better on sweatshirts, which don't stretch as much as T-shirts (and are meant to be warm!) For T-shirts, we later had the kids make a bunch of individual drawings (about 1" square) and we trimmed around each drawing and ironed them on separately, all in a line across the front, or in a grouping.

This was all before I saw all the blogs where mothers more skilled than I am (and perhaps with more time than I have!) made stuffed animals and embroidered aprons and quilts and wall quilts out of their children's drawings! Those are much cuter and more elegant things to do, and they are on my long list of things to try... when my kids are just a little older.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

and for the next flower holiday...

In her blog, Knitting Iris mentioned wanting a special holiday for celebrating poppies. I couldn't agree more. As another person living in a short-summer, long-winter climate, I think it's important to our mental, spiritual and physical health to celebrate and make the most out of every flower.

The flower I want to nominate for the next holiday is the coreopsis (also known as tickseed.) To me, tickseed is a Yooper flower - sturdy, hardy and long-blooming; no frills, with a no-nonsense name. It thrives in poor soil.

It looks like a daisy dyed yellow and hastily trimmed with pinking shears; it's beautiful to me, but it isn't an exotic orchid by any stretch of the imagination.

To me, the coreopsis blooming is synonymous with the start of summer. This is when my corner of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is at it's most beautiful.

Coreopsis always starts blooming just about at the summer solstice, which seems fitting--not only do we have fifteen-hour days but even the ground itself is filled with sunshine-yellow flowers, like we can't possibly fill our world with enough sunshine. And we can't. Those of us that lived through the nine-hour days of December need sunlight like we need food and water.

Like all the rest of the sunflower family, coreopsis follows the sun. It is disconcerting to walk down the highway at sunset and have all the flowers facing away from you, as though they are turning their backs on you. But there is something beautiful, wistful, and very nearly human about a flower that always faces the sun. The coreopsis, like the rest of us Yoopers, can't get enough sunshine.

Long live the coreopsis! We'll celebrate by laying in a deck chair in the sunshine all day with a bottomless glass of iced tea. (well, most Yoopers would prefer beer or pop, but I'm the one making the holiday, so it's iced tea. The Yoopers won't care, they'll drink what they darn well please anyways.) We'll grill something for supper - anything to stay outside. Our kids will pick wild strawberries, swat mosquitos, and splash in the lake. They will present us with enormous bouquets of tickseed, which we will put on our kitchen table in juice glasses and jelly jars.

Coreopsis day is to be celebrated on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Happy sunshine day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

consolation prize

BigE got to go to work with Papa when he was called in for an emergency. In the dune buggy, no less! Chickie wailed and wailed - because moments before the phone call came, they had both been promised a buggy ride.

Fortunately I had a consolation prize on hand: we had just bought five jars of bubble soap to do this craft project, and I'd promised her we'd do it soon.

I did this project with my kids and my sister's kids two or three years ago. About a month ago a page of these "bubble prints" surfaced in our house. When I explained to Chickie how it worked, she immediately wanted to buy the supplies to make more.

As far as kids crafts go, this one is ridiculously cheap, easy, rewarding and fun.

Take a small bottle of bubble soap - you'll want about 6 oz in the bottle (that's about 150 ml) Add about 2 tsp to a tablespoon liquid food coloring (that's about 10-15 ml) ...use more for darker bubbles... or you can use a pea-sized amount of paste food coloring (you'll probably need the paste to get a good purple color) instead. Stir well.

Blow bubbles over your paper. Let them pop on or above the paper. Have fun. Experiment.

It seems to work best inside at a table, rather than outside. The first time we did it we erroneously thought we should blow bubbles the normal way and try to catch them on our papers as we ran. We did have fun, but only got a lot of papers with splatter marks and grass stains for our efforts.

Cardstock (65 lb or 110 lb test) works better than typing paper, as it holds up better under all the wet drippyness. And as an added bonus you can make greeting cards out of it by cutting it in half and then folding each half into a card.

Chickie and I also made a bubble soap carrier out of a pasta box cut in half and duct-taped together. Keeping the jars in the box seems to help cut down on spills... though with two or more people making them at the same time, it's pretty hard to keep the jars in the box.

Box construction pictures here and here for anyone interested.

The bubble swirls make me ridiculously happy. I think it's because they look like 'real' bubbles, only in bright colors. Other than the image below (which is a photograph), these pictures were scanned in and sharpened to show detail; the originals are softer.

Making bubble prints made Chickie happy too. They were, in the best sense of the word, a consolation prize: they consoled her.

A year or two I had an email discussion with a friend of mine about the word consolation. She was reading 2 Corinthians 1 where God is described as the God of all comfort. She decided to read the passage in Spanish, and the word comfort is translated as consolation. That frustrated her. As she wrote, "the 'consolation prize' is the loser prize. Consolation is what you get when you don't get what you want."

Absolutely. But it doesn't surprise or distress me that God is our consolation prize. Maybe that's because I'm a cynic, but - we lost out on "first prize" in the fall. We lost out on "first prize" through our own sin. If we get a consolation prize we darn well better try to be happy with it.... but while a lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni might make a good consolation prize, it really does nothing to comfort or console us.

The verb "to console" means "to allay the grief or distress of" ...then I had to look up "allay": to allay is to calm, to pacify, set to rest. This is what bubble prints did for Chickie - they set her grief to rest. She had something to do when Big E and Papa were gone, something to do while she waited for their return, and even something to show them (admittedly with more than a hint of nanny-nanny-boo boo in her voice) when they arrived back home.

As I told my friend, I have my own private syntax that doesn't match up with the rest of the world, my own subtle nuances for every word, which dictionaries sometimes don't explain (and often disagree with.)

Consolation in the Kelly Dictionary is the opposite of desolation or isolation. I couldn't find that sense of the word in any of the dictionaries I looked in, though. But it is somewhat borne out in the etymology. The word consolation comes to us via Old French. Con is the intensive prefix and solare is "to solace, to comfort". So by this, "consolation" means to comfort intensively... ha! that's what I wanted the word to mean.

Still, some griefs are so big that even "intensive comforting" doesn't seem like enough. God's original plan in the Garden of Eden was for us to be with him there. When we by our own sin had to leave Paradise, it was a tragedy of cosmic proportions. If we can't have Paradise with God, we aren't going to be comforted by something less... ANY other prize will be as disappointing as the Rice-A-Roni.

The truly amazing thing is not that the consolation prize is good, but that it is, both for Chickie and for all of us, far more glorious than the first prize ever would have been. It truly is meant to console us.

God's consolation prize was Jesus coming to earth, living as a man, and dying in our place so that we could become His children again - and someday live in paradise again with him.

"But wait, there's more!"-- we also know the depth of his love for us, the lengths he will go to save us, and our own need for him and inability to live without him. We are utterly undeserving of the "consolation prize" and we know it - but God gives it all to us, like the biggest grand prize there is -- "packed down, heaped over, running out" -- anyways.

And while we're waiting for Him to bring us to Paradise, we even get to have fun making bubble prints. That's pretty great.

Chickie had more fun blowing bubbles and showing me her creations (and getting me virtually to herself for awhile) than she would have on the original ten-minute buggy ride that had been promised her.

The bubble prints were also my own consolation prize: something I did for Chickie's sake, instead of doing the dishes and laundry like I ought to... or laying on the couch reading flower seed catalogs like I wanted to. Making bubble prints was more work - extra work I hadn't counted on, at least not that evening, but it was also a lot more fun than I anticipated!

Monday, June 20, 2005

mid-June garden report

I had to catch up on the flowers in and near my yard--I can hardly keep track of everything blooming right now!

Wildflowers blooming:

Birdsfoot Trefoil
Bladder Campion (another "ugly" flower that's a lovely jewel!)
Daisy Fleabane
Golden Ragwort
Indian paintbrush
Orange Hawkweed
Rosa Rugosa (wild native rose)
Siberian iris
Something that looks like Shinleaf except with pale pink flowers... must put new wildflower books on my Amazon wishlist...

Garden flowers blooming:

Asparagus (below, a surprise beauty - look at these tiny, delicate bells!)

Lemon Thyme
Salad burnet (below, yet another "ugly flower" beautiful jewel - now I'm seeing those everywhere!)

...Here is a younger salad burnet blossom: it's fuzzy! I wish I knew that for May's month of softies craft project!
Wooly creeping thyme

We also have strawberry fruits now, both wild and cultivated!

Or, rather, I should say the bunnies have them.

As for the Allium azureum... I know I said two weeks ago it would bloom soon... well, those buds are taking a long time to open, but I'm enjoying every minute of the wait. (see below)

I paid $9.75 for 50 bulbs, and this single bulb alone has been worth the price to watch.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

it's official...

...we have a first word from Bubbie!

And that word is... BigE. (well, BigE's real name, not his blog nickname, of course...)

We've thought he's been saying that for about a week. We've become more convinced as the week's gone on. BigE, naturally, is extremely pleased.

Today Bubbie also started saying Papa, we think. (Much to Papa's relief!)

Bubbie also makes excellent brrrrrrm noises. Perhaps he's destined to follow his Papa's footsteps.

We'll be sure to post Mac's first words too, when he gets there.

Friday, June 17, 2005


I'm not much of a jewelry person, but I had to share the beautiful works of art I saw yesterday in two local boutiques on my walk through town.

The first boutique, Front Yard Garden, is practically in my front yard (really!) and it had on display a lovely cluster of what appears to be tiny pieces of jade set in silver, with just a few sapphires thrown in. Whatever it is, it's fit for a princess. I love the shape of the tiny jewels. (The whole creation is less than half an inch across... such detail!) I love the subtle shadings of green and blue. I love how they look almost transparent. The creation is called "allium azureum about to bloom" and is made locally by one of my favorite artists, God himself.

The second boutique, Shoulder of the Road, I discovered a half-mile down the road, just over the creek bridge. This work looks like it could be cloisonne. It could belong to a wealthy dowager duchess. I love the combination of dark red and pale green. I love the voluptuous shape. I love the gold filaments at the top. There were several variations on the theme at the Shoulder of the Road, all charming, but this one was my favorite. "Goats-beard just finished blooming", also made by God.

The most interesting thing to me about these works is that if I think of them as flowers, they aren't particularly noteworthy. But as jewels - well - they are incredible masterpieces. Their shapes and colors have been in my head all day today. If three-dimensional artwork wasn't so foreign to me I'm sure I'd be full of ideas for jewelry, stuffed creations, pottery and so on. As it is I'm thinking of screenprints and paintings (all of them probably far, far ahead in my future.)

Next time I visit these boutiques these jewels will be sold already. I'm glad I got pictures while I could. But knowing God's infinite creativity, there will be more fascinating work to admire next time I go out.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

doll fruit and doll bread

As it turns out, I don't have many pictures of dollhouse stuff to share with all of you in blogland. Since I don't have a dollhouse, I didn't keep the stuff, and I'm only just now discovering the value of taking pictures of things I've made. Oh well.

I do have pictures of doll fruit and veggies, above and below, made over one Thanksgiving holiday out of Fimo clay by myself, my sister, my mom, my niece, and my sister-in-law-in-law (or whatever title it is I ought to give to my brother-in-law's sister.)

Most of the inspiration for the fruits (at least on my end) is due Klutz Press and their Incredible Clay Book. (I got the book from the local thrift store - I used to "volunteer" there, though having first dibs on great stuff was far more rewarding than a paycheck. I highly recommend the book, which has an excellent introduction to millefiori as well!)

Clockwise from left: bananas, chili pepper, strawberries, green beans, grapes, a penny for size reference, lime, lemon, eggplant, apple, orange, green onion, regular onion, carrot, red bell pepper, pear, radish, jalapeno, and leeks.

My dollhouse-furnishing friend Chris and I made Fimo clay fruit too, but as I recall we left the unbaked fruit on the porch one day and went splashing on the beach and a seagull came and ate up the brightly colored treats we'd left him. Ah, those were the days.

I'm more proud of my "homemade storebought" doll-sized white bread, which (so far as I can remember) was pretty much my own idea. I cut a bunch of tiny slices of bread out of a sheet of white Foamies. Then I stacked them up between my fingers and used an Olfa knife to shave them to pretty much the same shape and size (with smaller 'heels'). Then used a combination of brown, orange and pale yellow permanent markers to color the edges and the 'heels'.

I fashioned the bread bag out of a scrap of a sandwich baggie and some clear packing tape, and cut the bread tie out of a yogurt lid. Had a terrible time getting all the bread stacked up into the bag. It's been out of the bag ever since, and pieces of bread are living in the bottom of the big Tupperware container where our Playmobil people and their stuff live. Those that haven't met an untimely death by vacuum, that is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

another ambigram

this is my latest ambigram, for some friends of mine, the Millers. Each of their names looks the same up-side-down as it is right-side-up.

Wait, don't stand on your head to test it out! Here is is up-side-down (in a different colorway for variety's sake).

I tried to make the names of their four children work, too... but so far I haven't succeeded. If I did, it would look cool to put 'Miller' in the center, large, with everyone else's names in a circle surrounding it. Maybe someday I'll succeed... or maybe not. Ambigrams are funny that way.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

learning to love pink

Pink has never been one of my favorite colors but I'm learning to appreciate it, due in part to beauties like the fringed polygala, above, blooming in my side yard.

Chickie, on the other hand, was born with a love for girly colors like pink and purple. I let her buy some flowers for "her" garden. And she chose... Pink. Petunias. In my front yard.

And somehow I love it. Maybe I will get in touch with my feminine side... someday.

Especially if I continue to discover hidden pink beauties in my side yard, such as this rose twisted-stalk.

Which I would not have known existed, except for being on my hands and knees right next to it trying to get a photo of bunchberry (below) for the blog. (File this entry under "blogging improves my life.") The little rose bells on the twisted-stalk hide completely under the leaves, about a foot under the ground. I've seen the plant in past years, but never the flowers.

And after trying to get a picture of the twisted-stalk I also noticed this tiny fireworks, which I think is wild sasparilla.

I have some garden plants blooming too, but I won't bother taking pictures of those, as they seem rather mundane next to these spectacular pink-and-white wildflowers.... and of course my charming pink-and-white daughter.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

of course it was Pajama Sam

Yes, as several of you pointed out, it was a Pajama Sam CD that the Playmobil woman was holding.

...What else would the Playmobil kids play on their pencil lead case minature 17" Apple PowerBook G4 megawide-display laptop?

I fully intend to make a miniature keyboard and screen for the laptop, by more or less the same process as the yardstick...

...But perhaps not for another year or two.

Anyone who wants their own miniature Pajama Sam CD (as well as Putt Putt and/or How Many Bugs in a Box) can print one out from here (print at 33% more or less on photo paper, cover both sides with packing tape, glue to stiff thin plastic as necessary, then cut out.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

a three-inch yardstick

I don't own a dollhouse.* But sometimes I kind of wish I did. My friend Chris, whom I roomed with about a dozen years ago, bought a dollhouse when she was about 20. She installed hardwood floors, made from Popsicle sticks. She made tiny magazines with miniature "real" covers made from "renew your subscription now" notices. She made fruit and veggies from Fimo clay. Eventually I joined in the fun (more details and a few more photos in future posts.)

One of the problems we had was determining whether or not our tiny creations was to scale (1:12) or not. Another friend bought Chris some chili peppers for her dollhouse kitchen which looked perfect --until we put them inside. Then they were way too large. Chris solved that particular problem by painting the peppers orange and calling them carrots, but the scale problem was still there...

Finally, two or three years ago, I thought of a solution. I scanned in a yardstick (graphically assembled from three different scans) and printed it out, after several trials and errors, at a 1/12 scale. I now have a teeny, tiny 3" long yardstick (shown above on top of the original yardstick) which I printed on photo paper, glued to some stiff plastic (part of a yogurt container lid, I think) and covered with packing tape. If I want to make a dollhouse CD, for example, I just have to make sure the tiny CD measures five "tiny inches" across!

Here is the yardstick again, along with a dollhouse CD made by the same process, modeled by a Playmobil doll (the only similar-size doll I could find.)

If you own a dollhouse (or enjoy miniature things) and would like a three-inch yardstick of your own with only half the hassle, you can get the image here. Print it scaled down to about 33% (more or less, depending on your printer). Using Best Quality print on photo paper will give you enough detail to be able to actually read the numbers, if you aren't too farsighted. If you've made any dollhouse things I'd love to hear about them!

*my very cool husband bought a dollhouse long ago, for similar reasons: to make cool gadgets to go inside. But his things were even cooler than mine. Things like a miniature working steam engine and table saw. So once our full-scale real working house is ready to move from only-non-choking-hazard toys to the world of tiny things, that dollhouse might take up residence here instead of at his parents' house.

Monday, June 06, 2005

finishing the butterflies...

I hope none of my loyal readers are too tired of butterflies yet. I finished my font in haste for my mom's birthday, and only now "really" completed it. Version 1.1 is now available in "zipped" form on my website, download it here. If you've already installed the old butterfly font, my recommendation is to quit all your programs, delete the old butterfly.ttf, install the new one, and then restart your computer. Maybe it's overreacting... but some of my programs (particularly Mail) seem to be discombobulated by a font that changes underneath them.

What's changed? I added the names of the butterflies that were on the shift+number keys, and improved the spacing between butterflies (still not perfect, but...)

If you haven't figured it out yet, the butterflies are alphabetical on the keyboard (A=American Copper, B=Buckeye, etc); the 'extras' -- butterflies I made before I realized I could do a whole alphabet -- are on the number keys.

Hitting any key will give you just the butterfly, hitting the same key plus the shift key will give you the same butterfly with the name written underneath. If you want to test your butterfly knowledge you can use this to play a guessing game.

I amused myself today by printing one butterfly at a time at 300-point to see how much detail the font program retained from my original gif - an amazing amount. They'll make decent greeting cards, maybe even T-shirts :-) I am more and more in love with ScanFont and TypeTool, as I figure out how to use them.


And... to commemorate a T-shirt I made in college, I'm working on a font called Markley Hall. When I wore the T-shirt, people asked me what it said because they thought it was written in Greek rather than English.

Markley and the handwriting font have been a lot easier than the butterfly ones. I'm taking a break before I launch into my other pictorial fonts: animal font, barefoot font, and others...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

wildflower and garden notes

blooming in white:

blooming in blue and purple:
  • blue-eyed grass (shown above)
  • creeping phlox
  • chives and allium azureum coming soon
  • iris coming soon (a gift from Dan's mom... I don't know the variety. I love how the buds look like presents wrapped in tissue paper.)

preparing to bloom in pink:
  • fringed polygala
  • garden pinks (end of the year sale from the greenhouse... I forget what variety)
  • apple tree (shown two posts down)... already mostly in bloom!
  • cranberry

blooming in yellow:

Note to gardening self:
  • don't forget to save room between the garden and the wildflowers for this:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

kindergarten graduation

I have to confess, the phrase has always seemed like an oxymoron to me. I roll my eyes at the thought of making a big deal out of something that virtually every child in the Western world manages to do.

And I have to confess, I giggled when they started broadcasting "pomp and circumstance" as these little kids (fifth-graders holding the kindergartener's hands) paraded across the stage and bowed. It was a bit too over the top.

So why were there tears in my eyes when BigE got his "diploma?"

Maybe it was because I was embarrassed at standing up at the back of the bleachers, holding crying twins (and Chickie's hand, and a camera) and trying to keep out of the way of other people's cameras and trying to get my own pictures as well.

Maybe it's because I have a three-day headache I can't shake.

Maybe it's because I remember how little BigE was when he started Kindergarten. He couldn't read, and he was too shy to play with the other kids, and couldn't even tell me about his day. Now he reads well, plays well, and tells me entertaining stories about school.

Maybe it was remembering the day we actually forgot BigE at school, and the teacher couldn't reach me because I was on the internet, and she had to bring him home in her car. We have become, in countless ways, those horrible parents we were sure we would never be.

Maybe it was because Mac was in the backpack yanking out fistfuls of my hair.

Maybe it's because my husband needed to be out of town and had to miss the festivities.

Or maybe it was knowing that these beautiful faces (some shown below) are the people who are, potentially, going to be BigE's best friends... or worst enemies. They are going to be the ones trying to talk him into smoking a joint - or the ones saying "no thanks" alongside him. They are going to ask him for answers to the Algebra final. Or loan him milk money. Or choose him last for kickball. Or get their best friend to tell BigE to ask them to the dance.

Even if we do homeschool (the jury is still out on that one), it's a small community. He will be in the same church youth group, the same summer arts classes, the same baseball team. He'll go to the same county fair, the same grocery store, the same football games.

Maybe it's knowing that this graduation marks, on some level, the end of little-boy innocence. Whether or not we homeschool, whether we live in a small town or a big city, even whether or not we make the right parenting choices - increasingly he will be in the big world and having to make mature decisions - first with our help, and then on his own.

So I cried a little bit during this silly overdone ceremony. It was dark, though, and I don't think anyone saw me.

Maybe because they had tears in their eyes too.