For a little while, I’ve been doing these random character design challenges, where people give me random ideas, and I make something out of it. The last one I did was a Squirrel Pigeon Griffin:
These challenges really help me stretch my creative muscles and get the artistic spark going by taking a random idea and bringing it to life. Keeping this muscle strong helps me in my daily art work, as well as my personal projects.
With this in mind, I’m putting together a Creative Play Zoom meeting to do some of these challenges as a group! In the same way as my individual challenges, I will gather some random ideas from around social media. Then, during the zoom meeting, we will all try and draw it in our own styles. There’s no competition with it, only fun!
We’re giving this a try on Friday, November 13th at 4pm EST. If it goes well, I will schedule more!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Something to draw with.
Something to draw on.
An internet connection/ Zoom.
That’s all! The goal here is to have fun. The $15 fee is per household, so anyone can join in! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.
I’ve been developing this character for a personal project of mine. I haven’t revealed much information beyond that, yet, but plan to do so in the future.
She’s been through several phases of design, including style of lines and clothing, and now I’m comfortable with the design and ready to move forward.
Here’s the first attempt:
And here’s how she ended up in the final design, after a few other sketches in between:
I’ll be sharing more about this project as time goes on, so stay tuned!
This week, my Character Design Basics class starts! I’ll be teaching this 4 week course over zoom. There’s no experience necessary, so it’s a great class for kids and adults looking to learn something new. Click Here to learn more and sign up!
On Friday, I asked what I should draw, and I designed a quick character on FB live. Unfortunately, the sound didn’t turn out well. However, it gave me the opportunity to take the character design a step forward.
In this speed drawing, you can see the original sketch book drawing for a moment, before I take off with a more fine-tuned design. This process is normal for character design— the first sketch isn’t the final. It takes time, and trial and error, to shape the final character.
So, here is the final piece for “Spooky Dragon Fairy.” Thank you Vin & Liubo for the idea/ challenge.
▪️What should I draw next? Leave a comment below.
▪️To learn more about character design, you can sign up for my upcoming class: Character Design Basics. There’s no prior art experience necessary, which makes it a great class for kids, and adults looking to learn something new. CLICK HERE!
▪️Please feel free to tag and share with a friend!
A few years ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and taking in all of the First Day of School photographs that my friends took of their children. The kids had backpacks filled to the brim, and their first day outfits were all pristine and unique to them. Most of the kids smiled, while some families went with more of a humorous route and posted photographs of kids clinging to the door, or moping with arms crossed while their parents jumped in the air. I’d smile, and give them a like, then watch my son as he played on the beach.
It gave me an idea.
You see, my son is homeschooled, and for the past few years we have spent the first week or two of September on the Cape. So, while most kids had been shuffled back into their classrooms, we spent time on the nearly empty beaches and in the quiet museums.
That year I thought it would be funny to take portraits of Brayden on the beach and title them “Not Back to School” pictures. It would show how we could take his education on the road, and give a bit of a nod to the tradition of the First Day pictures. While it did get some laughs, it also became a yearly tradition. It was a way to make sure I had new portraits of him as he and his personality grew.
Here’s one from last year:
Obviously, this year is a bit different.
The pandemic has shifted things for everyone. For the most part, kids won’t be back to school. Remote learning is back on the rise, with some schools doing a hybrid program. I’m sure we’ve all been following that news, so I won’t dig into it, but the point is that the First Day pictures will look and feel different, if they happen at all for some families.
Our plans have changed, too. We were lucky to have been the first ones into the house we rent on the Cape back in June, so we could quarantine there, but the fall trip won’t be happening. We’ve cancelled all other travel, too, and we’re sticking with safe, local day trips to get us out of the house every once in a while. We’re trying to make the best of things and get creative.This year, that includes his Not Back to School portraits.
I wanted to continue the tradition, in order to capture him at this age, but this year I wanted to add just how different things are. That’s why, in some of these photographs, I’ve included his mask. Quarantine and caution have been important this year for many, and we aren’t excluded from that. With high risk family members, we’ve been careful to keep our circle small, and our outings as safe as possible.
There’s a mix of locations within these photographs. I wanted to include where his father lives, where my partner and I live, and where we take walks together. For the most part, this is how small our world has become, and will continue to be until there is absolutely safe to do anything else.
I encourage all parents to photograph this time in their children’s lives. If they’re homeschooled, remote schooling, hybrid schooling, or going full time with a mask, it’s worth documenting. There will be a day, later on in our lives, where we look back to remember how things were, how things changed, and how we all adapted. Photographs help us remember, and help us share our stories.
We have been homeschooling our son from the beginning.
There are a multitude of reasons behind why we chose to do so, but that in itself would be best served as it’s own, separate post. (Comment below if that’s something you’d be interested in). When we made that decision, we did all kinds of research and planning around how we’d approach it, including how to cover subjects outside of our area of expertise, and how he’d have social time. What we didn’t plan for was how to approach homeschool during a pandemic.
None of us did.
Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, we’re already used to schooling at home, right? Well, some of the time, sure, but that wasn’t all we did. Sit-down-schooling would only take up a couple of hours in the morning, and then we’d have the remainder of the day for other activities.
The pandemic, and thus the quarantine, has drastically changed things for us. As you look through the following changes you might want to point out that some of these options are opening back up, but in our case, we’re holding out until there are better treatments for COVID-19 because of family members who are high risk. So until then, we’re still operating like we did back when the initial spike happened.
Here are three differences we had during the second half of the school year last year, and things we’re preparing for as we gear up for this year.
1. Field Trips and Travel
Field trips were a major part of our homeschool experience. We’d frequent museums as part of the learning experience, especially the Museum of Science in Boston, which we have a membership for. These trips were a tangible, fun addition to his learning.
Most years, we’d include travel as part of his learning, too. We’ve taken trips to other states, and two other countries. He’d have the chance to explore nature, cities, other museums, and hear different languages, too.
Experience can’t really be replaced. There’s something magical about learning out in the real world, like discussing tectonic plates as we stared at the crack that runs through Iceland, and geothermal activity as we sit in a hot spring and watch a geyser go off. This change has been felt hard by all of us, though we’re trying our best to still get out of the house in safe ways, like with camping or driving up to Maine.
One thing we’ve done, and will continue to do to try and fill that wanderlust, is virtual tours. It’s not the same, but it’s something to experience the outside world while we’re mainly stuck indoors. One of our favorites so far has been the Paris Catacombs tour, especially since he was reading the Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab. He was able to better visualize the setting for the book after the virtual tour, and he has added it on the ever growing list of places he’d like to visit.
Socializing is to homeschool as protein is to vegans. (Yeah, we’re vegan, too). What I mean to say is that this is one of the most frequently asked questions or stated concerns when someone learns that we homeschool. People want to know how kids socialize with others when they’re not in school every day. I’m sure, at this point, we’ll hear it less, but it is a major change for us with this pandemic.
Before COVID forced us to stay safe and separated, we socialized quite a bit. Other homeschooled children would join us on field trips, or we’d attend a co-op, or we’d have indoor or outdoor playdates after the day’s work was done. In the evenings, he would simply go outside and play with the neighborhood kids, most of whom went to the local public school.
Now he has Zoom, Skype, and FB Messenger Kids video chats with his friends. It doesn’t even come close to the experience that he has in person, obviously, but it at least keeps the kids in contact while we’re all in separate situations. As an only child, this part has been hard on him, most definitely. Still, and again, we’re trying our best. The adults in his life have been taking more time to spend with him, and to play. We remind him, too, that this is all temporary.
B plays lacrosse. During the off season, he had been attending clinics for skills practice, too. Sports are not only for socializing, but they’re also great for exercise, sportsmanship, team building, and they add a bit of structure to our weeks. Yes— homeschooled kids can play sports for the local school. Each school district tends to have rules around this, but where we are and at his young age, he just has to live in the district.
There isn’t really much we can do about this one. Sure, we can play catch with him, but none of us played Lacrosse on any sort of serious level. We aren’t a team, we aren’t teaching how to win or lose gracefully, and we aren’t his age. We can’t fully replace the sport he lost, but we can still get him outside.
We take daily walks, which is nice for the mind as well as the body. Aside from that, he plays in the yard, either with a ball or just running around. It’s not the same, and it’s definitely not as structured, but it’s something.
For us, it’s important to keep in mind that these changes are temporary, and there will come a day where we can add life experience back in. Until then, we’re staying positive, and trying to make the best of it.
So what will our days look like now that we can’t really get out into the world? Well, with room for flexibility, because it’s one of the reasons we chose to homeschool, the mornings will be about the same. B will wake up and read for a while, from whichever novel he is working on. After that he’ll have breakfast, because nutrition is important for a growing mind. Then comes the schooling— math (aka teeth-pulling), history and social studies, and science.
Within a couple of hours, the core subjects will be finished, and he’ll have the rest of the day for fun. Every day there is plenty of time for outdoor play, free play, art, music, exercise, and quality time with his family. While this year has definitely been different, we’re still trying to make the best of it.
This week’s post is going to be a bit shorter. The last one was already late, as I’m trying to get out all of my content as I wade through the grime of what I’m working through and healing from lately. Writing is my passion, it’s one of my jobs, and even that has felt heavy. So I’ve turned to writing about my situation, and it’s been helping a little bit.
Writing can be healing, for all of us. You don’t have to be a writer in any other area of your life in order to feel the benefits. Even when it’s hard to describe how we’re feeling, it can help to try. Using metaphors, or writing down direct emotions and occurrences help our minds wrap around what’s happening, and can push us along the healing process.
Here’s what I’ve written about this situation so far:
I’d like to write more about writing as part of the healing at some point, and perhaps I will, but for now I’ll leave you with this- go ahead and write down what’s happening to you. You don’t have to show a single person. You don’t have to keep it. But get it out, and see how it feels.
For the past few years, I’ve taken multiple trips. Some for a day, or a long weekend, and others for a full week or two. Before 2020 started, I had already planned multiple trips both out of state and out of country. Visiting other cities and countries, or simply enjoying some time at the beach has become such an integrated part of my life that not having it, due to COVID has been a bit of an adjustment for our family.
Of course, we’re all having to adjust in one way or another. Travel seems like such small potatoes compared to the upheaval that we’ve all gone through this year. There has been change from every side, and pivoting, and needed flexibility. I’m definitely not discounting any of that, but traveling has still been on my mind, and the lack of it still weighed on my heart.
The year’s planned trips had long been cancelled, obviously. We’ve been in quarantine and have kept our circles extremely small since the beginning of the stay at home orders. Still, we’ve been trying to make the best of things, and still create happy memories during this year. We may not be able to travel like we used to, at least for now, but we can still have fun and explore.
We’ve been camping, we’ve taken drives to the coast, and we’ve been to the drive-in movie theaters twice. Each time we’re able to do something, it lightens the load of the quarantine we’ve been under, but we’re still taking every necessary precaution to stay healthy.
Still, I have been missing traveling, deeply.
So, when the opportunity arrived for a day trip to Maine— and by opportunity I mean access to an entirely safe bathroom— we were excited for a change of scenery and a day of adventure. It was the perfect way to get out of state, but still be safe and not need a place to stay overnight. We packed a picnic lunch, towels, bathing suits, and made plans for the day.
We kept in mind that we might need to be flexible, because each option of where to spend the day was entirely dependent on the amount of people and how well they were social distancing. While New England’s numbers haven’t spiked in a while, we know that the risk is still possible with the increase in tourism and the decrease in vigilance from a number of people.
With our top plans and contingency plans ready, we packed up the car, threw on the Hamilton soundtrack, and we were off.
The drive itself was nice, even with the, “are we almost there?” questions from the backseat. It was a warm, sunny day, and traffic wasn’t too bad as we made our way to York. I could feel the anticipation building as we drew closer, with hopes that we’d have sand between our toes and be able to wade in the cool ocean water. This was followed by quite the exhale of disappointment as we went through town and gazed out at Short Sands.
The beach was packed, the streets were packed, and there were hardly any masks in sight.
I was grateful that we had already discussed this possibility, and had previously prepared our son and come up with contingency plans. The day wasn’t lost, we just needed to pivot and try other ways to enjoy it. Flexibility has been the name of the game with COVID, and this was no exception.
We stopped at our safe pit-stop and had lunch, talked to a couple of C’s friends at a distance, relieved ourselves, and regrouped. It was during this time that an entirely different idea came up, one that we hadn’t discussed before the trip, and it sounded like the perfect solution; drive up Mount Agamenticus and check out the view.
At the very least, it would be a nice view. We wouldn’t need to worry about passing other people while hiking up it, because we’d be in the car and could park at the top. If it was clear enough, then we could get out and look around. So, we finished our lunch, and we headed out.
Thankfully, there weren’t many people atop the mountain. Those that were there were spread out, and each of them was wearing a mask. I sat in the relief that we wouldn’t be stuck in the car for the day, but only for a moment. Of course, it would have been all right to only take a nice drive and look at the sights, but it was so much better to open the door and step out somewhere new.
And what a view it was.
It wasn’t the tallest mountain that I have been on, by any means, but that didn’t make it any less beautiful. The summit’s view of forests and the sea was spectacular, and the greenery around the area was pleasant. We took our time walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the outdoors as a family. While our son wanted to rush, we were able to slow him down, at least for a little while. He loved looking at the sculptures, the distant view, and the abundance of grasshoppers. We weren’t there terribly long, but it was a beautiful stop.
We drove past the lighthouse that we intended to view, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out of the car due to the same overcrowding and lack of masks as the beach, but it was still nice to see as we wrapped up our day.
While the day may not have included the beach, or even sitting on the rocks and looking at the lighthouse, it was still a great family day. I’m grateful that we went, and that it was able to ease a bit of the gnawing wanderlust in my soul.
We’re making more plans for day trips, and how we can accomplish them in safe ways. Continued vigilance will be important for our family, for the high risk individuals especially. We know we aren’t out of the woods yet with this pandemic, but we’re determined to make the best of it, in any safe way that we can.
My son, Brayden, has been afraid of dogs for as long as I can remember. Whenever he saw a dog, he would shy away. If a dog barked, he would cover his ears, or run away, or try to climb- literally climb- into my arms. I could see the fear, the anxiety, all over his expression when it happened. I had tried talking to him to calm him down, or reminding him before playdates that his friends’ dogs were kind and safe, but it was hard for him to break down that barrier.
I can’t be sure of where this comes from, exactly, but I can speculate the beginning. Before B was born, I had a dog. She’s a beagle mix that was the runt of her litter, rescued during my time in South Carolina. While this dog loves the majority of adults, she very much dislikes children, especially young children. It could have been that this dog was not around kids enough as a puppy, and that they trigger her anxiety, but no matter the reason she became jealous of my son and tried to bite him when he was a baby. Needless to say, keeping her in the same home was not going to work, and she went to live with my parents. Whenever my son visited them, she would be separated by a gate to ensure his safety.
Perhaps it was this routine of a dog being kept away that made Brayden unsure and afraid. It very well could be that, combined with his sensitivity to sound and the loud barking that most dogs have. No matter the reason, it’s been hard for him to get to know dogs on a personal level, and would more than likely end up in a meltdown.
But not with Freddy.
Freddy is my partner’s dog. He’s a 12 year old Brittany who’s still pretty spritely. When Christa and I became serious and started talking about her meeting Brayden, I knew that it would also mean an eventual introduction between Brayden and Freddy. Of course, this made me nervous, because I knew how he generally reacted to dogs. Still, I held onto hope that maybe we’d find a way for him to work through this fear with a sweet dog.
Before the two of them met, I showed Brayden videos and photographs of Freddy. Brayden would smile and laugh at some of the things that Freddy did, and when I said that he was going to meet this dog, he seemed pretty excited. Of course, there was a layer of nervousness behind his excitement, but he was positive about it overall.
When the day came, Christa and I had everything ready and discussed, to make sure it would all go as smoothly as possible. She knew where B would sit, when we’d bring Freddy to him (after I greeted him and got some of his ya-ya’s out), and how many treats Brayden would have to give to Fred. I was impressed with Christa’s thoughtfulness around the coming situation, knowing that she not only understood that Brayden might have needed time to warm up to Freddy, but that she had a plan to help him do so. The first meeting in any situation is important, even without the added edge of fear.
The moment Freddy saw Brayden his short tail wagged, and he went over to him. Brayden, who was unsure and anxious, threw the handful treats forward so that Freddy would divert his attention away from him. I could see that he was still working through his fear, but he was also eager to try again, and to try to be closer to Freddy. For a little while, Brayden sat in that same chair and watched Freddy from a bit of a distance.
That eagerness to befriend Freddy continued. As the day went on, Brayden not only pet him, but hugged him. He’d still flinch here and there if Fred moved suddenly, but overall I could see the negative feelings fade away.
Since then, their bond has only grown.
I’ve watched with joy and pride as Brayden and Fred have spent time together and gotten closer. The two of them have swam together, camped together, and even danced together during Christa’s weekly dance parties on Instagram. Every so often I’ll still see a hint of Brayden’s caution around Fred, but for the most part I’ve seen more smiles than flinches, and heard laugher instead of gasps or screams.
When Brayden and Freddy first met, I had hoped that such a friendship would happen. Of course I did, because my relationship was quickly growing, and a successful future together meant that everyone would need to get along. This aspect can be tricky with any new relationship, let alone one with children and pets, and children afraid of pets. The relief I felt as I watched Brayden’s comfort around Freddy improve is vast, and continues to be so.
That’s only one piece of the puzzle, though. The other aspect is wanting my son to learn to face his fears, and overcome them. We all have things that we are afraid of, some fears being bigger than others, and learning to cope is important in most cases. Of course, there are things that it makes sense to be afraid of, and continue to be so, but when it comes to travel, or flying, or elevators, or dogs, we can work through them and grow from each experience. It’s an important skill to practice for anyone, and to learn it in childhood will only help him as he gets older.
I can’t point to one exact moment, or one particular decision that helped with letting go of his fear. It may have been the repetitive, positive exposure to this one dog, along with the careful planning. It might be that Brayden and Freddy have a similar energy— excitable, determined, courageous. It might be a bit of both.
Only time will tell if this new confidence with dogs will last outside of our current bubble. After all, we’re still in quarantine, and Brayden hasn’t been around any other dogs since meeting Freddy. I can hope, though, that this experience will help him with other dogs, once the world is safe enough to explore once more. Until then, I’m glad he has this new fur friend, and I look forward to witnessing more of their bond.
In a growing relationship, on the cusp of casual and committed, there are certain steps and signs that things are getting more serious. There’s the first sleepover, and the second, and pretty soon there’s a pattern of consistent visits that has one or both parties packing bags regularly. In between, the various outfits are washed, new ones are packed. Other items, each specific to that one journey, are removed. There’s one thing, however, that remains the same with each trip: The toothbrush.
Then, one day it happens. One person asks the other, “why don’t you leave a toothbrush here?” There’s even a spot that had been made available for it, or the person creates one on the spot. While it may be a simple piece of plastic, or in my case, bamboo, the simple act of having one at your new partner’s home can feel fulfilling, and a sign of a budding commitment. It’s like saying, “I plan to continue to have you here regularly, overnight, so this makes sense.”
I used to have a ‘home’ toothbrush and a ‘travel’ toothbrush, but that was before this whole COVID thing. Since my plans for the year were cancelled, for obvious and safe reasons, I tossed my travel toothbrush away, instead of having it sit in my suitcase for however long. Then, of course, things started to get more serious with the person I had been seeing. I was coming over regularly, and we planned for that to continue.
I smiled after she said that I should keep a toothbrush at her house, and again as she set mine beside hers. It resides in a Red Sox shot glass, on the shelf above the toilet in the upstairs bathroom. This had happened to me before before, and obviously things didn’t work out with those people. Still, it shouldn’t be downplayed, because the intention is clear. It’s an important step, and yet the bar has been forever raised, not that I plan to go anywhere else.
You see, I have a son. While the usual things are important to me in a healthy relationship— communication, affection, respect, and so forth— there was another piece that was non-negotiable. In order for me to have a serious relationship with all of the future steps that I want, someone needed to accept and love my son, too.
I had worried that I’d struggle to find a genuine connection with someone who not only understood that I was a package deal, but someone who wanted to be in my son’s life. Don’t get me wrong, my son is an incredible human being and anyone would be lucky to have him in their life, but it does take connection and patience to choose to love a child.
I had a clear vision in my mind of a growing family, instead of a divided one, when his father and I separated. My ex and I are friends. We plan to have holidays as a family, and attend our son’s extra curricular activities together. Both of us have discussed our wish for future partners to not only understand this, but to truly be part of a family. I wouldn’t settle for less, even if that meant dating casually, or not dating at all.
Not everyone agreed with my vision. I was told that I’d need to date someone who had children of their own, because it was the only way they’d understand. Others said that someone new would want a child with me, though I tried to explain how that worked between lesbians. Still, even with the nay-sayers and the relationships and dates that didn’t work, I held onto that idea. I knew, deep down, that it was possible.
I started to see this vision coming to fruition as my partner spent time with my son. They would laugh, and create, and play together. She made plans for camping, and other fun things that we could do during our quarantine. She has been patient, and loving, and good to us both. It made my heart swell with joy to see them getting along so well.
Still, I wondered if it was safe to get my hopes up, and plan for the future. There had been one other who got to know him, and changed their mind about everything. The whiplash had me treading carefully, even as I struggled to let go of the projection. My fear was pushing for me to wait and see, and not get too excited. I wanted to protect my son, and myself, from getting hurt. By the time I introduced the two of them I was already attached, but I knew that step would only make it harder if something were to go wrong.
That’s not how it went with my partner, though. She didn’t pull away from either of us after our time all together. Instead, she expressed happiness and excitement. After spending a day with him, my partner would start to plan the next. It didn’t take long for me to see that she was being genuine, and that the bond between the two of them was growing.
Then there was a third brush added to the shelf at my partner’s house; child’s brush, for my son. A piece of plastic, and yet, so much more. It says, “I plan to have him here regularly, too.” It happened the first time he spent the night at her house, in the guest room we had set up for him. She ordered it for him, and now it sits on the shelf, beside ours.
Of course, this wasn’t the only sign of commitment, and of our growing family. If it had been, it would feel more like grasping at straws. It was, however, one of the first signs that made me believe it was all real, and that she truly intended to be in our lives long term. When I see it, that small piece of plastic, I feel my fears dissipating. In place of the fear is a growing love for our growing family.