rivka: (chalice)
I never mentioned this because it happened during my hiatus from LJ, but I've been appointed to the SUUSI Board of Trustees. My only Board activity so far has been attending the wrap-up meeting on the last day of SUUSI as a non-voting member-elect, but all of that's about to change! This Friday I'm getting on a plane and flying to Greensboro, NC for a joint meeting of the Board and the Core Staff. SUUSI will be paying for my ticket, picking me up at the airport, and feeding and housing me for the weekend.

When I'm talking to people who don't know anything about SUUSI, I say, "I'm on the Board of a volunteer organization, and I'm flying down for a Board meeting this weekend," with a secret grin because that sounds like something from a life that is so much more impressive and accomplished than mine. Except, you know, I am really doing it. Somebody cares enough about what I have to say to spend several hundred dollars' worth of SUUSI registration fees to hear me say it. That's so exciting! And a little daunting.
rivka: (sex ed)
I got a workshop approved for SUUSI this year!

Here's what will be listed in the catalog:
The Birds and the Bees WThF 2-4pm
Talking to your children about sexuality is awkward, but not talking to them about it is probably worse. This practical workshop will address what to say and when, and in how much detail. We’ll address developmental stages, discuss individual situations, and practice with role plays. For all child ages.

Rebecca Wald works in HIV research, teaches middle school OWL, and faces awkward questions from her own kids every day.

And here's the detailed description I gave the Program folks:

Workshop Outline: This workshop will include brief lecture components, guided discussion, and the opportunity to practice skills using role play.

The workshop will begin with a discussion of participants’ past experiences with sexuality education and the messages they received about sexuality from their parents. We will discuss the values we wish to pass on to our children regarding sexuality. Participants will be encouraged to share their past experiences discussing sexuality with their children and answering children’s questions.

At the first session, we’ll identify a set of topics and issues that participants particularly hope to cover during the workshop. This workshop is intended to cover all child ages, so examples may range from what names a preschooler should use for genitals to how to discuss contraception with a teenager. Other topics may include (but are not limited to) sexual abuse prevention, masturbation, puberty, dating, sexual orientation, gender identity, abstinence, and pregnancy. Ideally there will be a broad range of child ages represented among participants’ families, but if not, the workshop will be targeted more precisely at the appropriate age range based on this initial assessment.

The majority of the workshop will consist of brief lectures about children’s sexual and emotional development at different ages, followed by a discussion of common situations which may arise at that age and topics parents may wish to address with their children. Particular efforts will be made to address all the issues and topics of interest which were identified at the first session. Participants will have the opportunity to submit anonymous dilemmas for group discussion and workshop leader advice. Participants will also have the opportunity to submit anonymous questions about sexuality for the workshop leader to answer. Participants will be given the opportunity to practice sexuality discussions in parent-“child” role plays.

I am excited! I think this has the potential to be very cool. I need a minimum of ten sign-ups for the workshop to be considered viable, so it still may not happen. But here's hoping.
rivka: (boundin')
This year at SUUSI, instead of taking a bunch of different short workshops and nature trips as I've always done before, I focused all my programming time on one workshop which met every day. For two hours every morning, regardless of what else was going on - and a lot else was going on - I immersed myself in bookbinding.

It was a wonderful experience.

We made three books in five days. The first day, we built very simple sewn pamphlets using materials our instructor had pre-cut for us. It was an easy project, but still exciting to make a real book. The second book took most of us two full days and was considerably more complex, and the third book was even more technically involved. I never would have imagined, on Monday, what I would have learned to make by Friday.

Our instructor teaches university-level business classes. Bookbinding, paper marbling, and papermaking are just her hobbies. Every morning she set up a complete workshop in a dorm study room, fully outfitted with tools, reference books, and examples of handmade books. Every afternoon she dismantled it, even removing the tables, so that a meditation class could meet in the same room in the afternoon. She was dedicated. She was also incredibly good at breaking down complex tasks into small, easily understandable steps; without that skill, I don't think her undeniable artistic talent would have taken us very far.

Here are pictures of my three books. I'll put most of the pictures and all the detailed description under cuts, because otherwise this post would be enormous.

Simple sewn pamphlet.

more about the first book )

Game board book.

more about the second book )

Coptic bound book.

more about the third book )

I am clearly very much a beginner, and yet I am so proud and satisfied of these books I made. Our instructor did such a great job of choosing projects and leading us through them. I liked that we learned precise techniques, but also had a lot of flexibility and creative opportunities with the design. I doubt I'll do more bookbinding - I don't have time for my current hobbies, let alone a new one - but it was an immensely satisfying way of spending ten hours at SUUSI.
rivka: (smite)
SUUSI actually got better for a while in the middle, after I wrote my last post. But you're not going to hear about that, because what happened at the end overshadowed everything for our family.

everyone is physically okay, kids are fine, Michael and I are upset )
rivka: (talk about me)
The SUUSI catalog is out!

This year's catalog looks much better to me than the past couple of catalogs have. I don't know if it's me or SUUSI, but I wound up circling more than a dozen possible workshops and trips on my first trip through the listing. My first-draft schedule looked a little insane.

So I turn to my dear LJ friends. What should I do with my SUUSI? We're planning to put Colin in children's programming this year. (And Alex, obvs.) Babies and toddlers are encouraged to stay in the nursery through lunch, so I could conceivably drop Colin off for a solid seven hours a day to do fun stuff for me and thereby prove myself to be a horrible mother.

[Poll #1542104]
rivka: (travel)
We spent most of last Saturday packing for SUUSI. Things got seriously derailed when I LOST MY PACKING LIST, which still hasn't resurfaced, and spent too long looking for it instead of just starting over with a new list. But eventually we got the car loaded up with stuff and kids and headed out around 8:15.

Our entertainment for the first part of the drive was driving through downtown Baltimore right past the Otakon hotel. (Alex: "When I grow up, I want to be an Otakon person.") Then we drove off into the sunset, west around DC and out I-66. The kids dropped off somewhere around Fairfax. My hope had been that they'd sleep solidly until we got to Radford, but instead they took turns waking a little and whimpering. I discovered that I can actually nurse Colin in the carseat without taking off my seatbelt, but it's not what you would call "comfortable."

By the time we hit Roanoke, just before 1am, we figured we'd gone as far as was practical. We checked into a Days Inn. Of course once the car stopped both kids woke up and cried in earnest, but they settled down quickly once we were in the motel room. In the morning we drove the rest of the way to SUUSI, arriving at 10:30. Wow is check-in simpler when you get there that early. We flew on through, paid the balance of our bill, got our pictures taken for the Mugbook, signed in with youth programming and the childcare co-op, and managed not to notice the workshop leaders' sign-in table. Oops. We unloaded the car and got our room put to rights fairly quickly, had a really bad dining hall lunch because they hadn't switched over to their SUUSI menus yet, and just hung out with the kids and our friends, being mellow. Laura, Michael's birthmother, showed up in midafternoon and Michael helped her get settled in.

This year, for the first time, Alex was really old enough to run with the pack of SUUSI kids. Any time we were in our room she wanted to go out in the hall or outside in the quad, where she'd run around and play with a big mob of other 3- to 7-year-olds. Several times, she and her friends even established "kids' tables" in the dining hall where they ate separately from us. It was really fun to see her dive into a peer group like that, with no shyness or drama.

We went to dinner with Laura (an official SUUSI meal, so the quality was 1000% improved) and then got our banner for Ingathering. Laura made herself a "First Unitarian Church of Oakland" sign on posterboard. The banner parade was organized to loop around the campus in an inefficient pattern, I guess so that there would be more of a march. It was tiring. As always, I loved the part where, after everyone was seated in the auditorium, the banner carriers paraded in accompanied by drums. I ditched Ingathering early because Alex got tired and cranky and Colin kept startling every time there was applause, so I can't really comment on the program content.

Afterward came Opening Circle. The thousand-odd SUUSIgoers formed two giant rings, facing each other. The circles were broken at one place and the inner and outer rings joined at the break, so that as we circled around we passed from the outer to the inner ring and came face-to-face with every other attendee. It was fun to see folks we hadn't seen in a year.

Then I took the kids back to the dorm for bedtime. It was late, and when we'd gotten our room together beforehand we hadn't fixed the beds. (Radford has unnaturally high beds, and I wanted my mattress on the floor so that I could co-sleep with Colin, which meant putting my bedframe on top of Michael's bedframe to get it out of the way.) I waited and waited for Michael to come back to the room. It turns out that a person who has never raised kids or had much to do with them (i.e., Laura) has very little idea of the powder-keg nature of a delayed bedtime; she had recruited Michael to do some stuff for her, and it took a long time. Fortunately, once he returned, he and the Wild Women had our beds set up properly in about ten seconds.

The best thing about parenting at SUUSI this year is that Alex never protested being put to bed. She stayed up very late looking at books most of the nights, but she didn't come out of our room and rarely called us, so I didn't mind. Michael and I just hung out on camp chairs in the hallway, drinking wine and chatting with our friends. Colin nursed like a nursing thing, got passed around for admiration, and eventually fell asleep in my lap.

All in all, the first day at SUUSI was much, much more pleasant than it usually is. I think we're going to try to drive the night before from now on.
rivka: (travel)
Boy, you wouldn't believe what a vast amount of stuff is required to sustain a baby, a preschooler, and two adults for a week's vacation. My master packing list is terrifying.

We are planning to leave tonight, around the kids' bedtime. This is either the best idea we've ever had or the worst disaster we've ever delivered ourselves into; I don't think there's any middle ground on the question.

Still to do before we leave: Colin needs to be bathed. (Michael is finishing up with Alex's hair right now, I can tell by the screams.) Michael needs a nap. The non-clothes part of the packing needs to happen. And we need to hit the cash machine, plus the wine store for some tasty carry-along treats.

Sometimes Colin wakes in the 5 hours after bedtime and sometimes he doesn't. I am considering pumping a couple of ounces to take along in a bottle, in case he does. I don't mind stopping to nurse for its own sake, but I mind the idea of a crying baby waking up Alex at 11pm while Michael tries to find a safe place to pull off the road.

Just in time for a week of classes, worship, and Theme Talks, he has discovered the joys of happy screeching. I may be less able to cart him around than I had hoped.
rivka: (chalice)
I just registered our family for SUUSI.

This year I am taking:
The Joy of Thrifting (two sessions of field trips to thrift stores)
Chocolates Around the World (a tasting session)
Mountain Lake Biological Station (natural history trip with a little easy hiking)

And of course, I am teaching a workshop too: Parenting in the 21st Century, with the brilliant [livejournal.com profile] bosssio.

Michael is playing in the poker tournament, touring the control tour at the Roanoke Airport, and doing a men's drop-in singing event. He's also taking Alex on a tour of Dixie Caverns.

Alex is doing the Dixie Caverns trip with Michael and taking PJ Yoga for Kids M-Th night at bedtime.

Colin is planning to nurse a lot, sleep, and chew on rattles. We won't be using the SUUSI childcare for him. He's eligible - they'll take babies of any age - but I just think he's too young. It'll make for a very different kind of SUUSI, to have a 5-month-old with us, but I think we'll have fun anyway.


Jan. 5th, 2009 07:45 pm
rivka: (motherhood)
[livejournal.com profile] bosssio and I submitted a proposal to do a workshop at SUUSI this year. We just got word that it was accepted! It will appear in this year's catalog, and if people sign up for it we will be SUUSI workshop leaders!

Here's what's going to go in the catalog:

214 Parenting in the 21st Century Limit 12
Is it harder to raise children today? Many parents feel expectations are rising while support is eroding. We'll discuss the social/cultural/economic context of parenting and brainstorm ways to support families. Not a how-to-parent class, all are welcome, parent or not. Infants in arms are welcome. [Siobhan's Name] (anthropologist, international development expert) and Rebecca Wald (clinical psychologist) are both working moms of two, and are Conscientous Objectors in the Mommy Wars.
$10.00 TTh Preferred 14+ 2pm

And here's the long-form description which we provided to the SUUSI staff:

Is it harder to raise children today than it was 30 years ago? Many parents feel that expectations are constantly rising while social and economic supports for families are eroding.

Key questions to explore:
* How has family life been affected by changes in the workplace, in the media environment, in social policy?
* Given Americans' increased ability to limit or delay childbearing, or forego it entirely, how do parents and children fit in to our new kids-optional culture?
* What are the influences - overt and covert - that parents and communities need to be aware of in defining family and the choices available (or not) to us?
* To what extent are dominant cultural messages about the dangers and necessities of family life supported by evidence, and how do these messages warp our perceptions of the family environment?

This is not a how-to-parent class, but rather a discussion about family life. In the first session, we'll discuss the social, economic, and cultural context of family life today, sharing the groups personal experiences as well as discussing research available on changes in the American family context. In the second session, we will brainstorm ways that we can be more supportive of families as individuals, as a denomination, and as a culture.

I am SO EXCITED. And I can't think of anyone I'd rather do this with than [livejournal.com profile] bosssio.
rivka: (chalice)
Thursday was supposed to be my gloriously activity-free day. I'd originally planned an all-day nature trip with Alex, and then cancelled it when the program description changed from registration to confirmation. I had also figured that I would need a day to rest and recuperate after two hiking days in a row. By Thursday at SUUSI, many - most? - people are dragging. All my muscles hurt from my insufficiently-trained-for hikes. I planned to update LJ, take a long hot shower, nap, and maybe hang out in the coffeeshop for a while. Read more... )
rivka: (chalice)
I know, I know, I only got to Tuesday in my recaps before they petered out... which is pathetic. In my defense: (a) the rest of SUUSI got really, really busy there, for a while; (b) the shooting at TVUUC has been dominating my thoughts this week and has taken me out of the shinyhappy headspace; and (c) let me just say that a head cold and the last vestiges of first-trimester symptoms combine very poorly.

But here I am. When we last saw SUUSI, I had fallen into bed achy and exhausted after a lousy hike on Tuesday afternoon, unsure about whether I'd be able to handle my Wednesday morning hike. read more & a couple of pictures )
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
This song's been stuck in my head for the last week, since I heard Alistair Moock perform it at SUUSI. I'm not crazy about the version he put on his album, which is distractingly jangly. I think it works best with a solo, stripped-down guitar accompaniment, as he plays it here.

Here's the story he told about it: he was driving around one day with NPR on the radio, not particularly listening, when he heard a commentator say the phrase, "That's why God saw fit to make tears."

"So I turned the car around and went home," he told us, "because all the singer-songwriters in Boston listen to NPR, and one of them was going to write the song."
rivka: (chalice)
I don't have anything on my schedule today, so maybe I'll catch up with my recaps? At any rate: Tuesday was quite the jam-packed day. Sometimes those who wander are lost... )
rivka: (chalice)
It's actually a good thing I'm posting this morning instead of last night. I went to bed thinking, "Was SUUSI really a good idea?" This morning I remembered: Yeah. It totally is. Read more... )
rivka: (boundin')
This afternoon I gave Lydia a bunch of information and Steve (our Right Hand Man) a bunch of instructions. I made sure that I uploaded any files that Steve might need to our network drive. I got some things in motion to be ready for me to do them when I get back. I gave Steve my key to the cashbox, just in case. I put "away" messages on my phone and e-mail. I don't have to be back at work until July 28.

I did stay late at work, but that was okay because I was waiting for the IT guys to finish configuring my new laptop, a very lovely and well-equipped Dell Precision. Okay, so they shouldn't have taken this long to get it to me, given that I ordered it long long ago. But I know from last year that it drives me crazy not to have computer access at SUUSI, so, yay for them getting it to me in the nick of time.

Tomorrow we will do laundry and pack and make some pretense at cleaning the house and pick up a banner from church. I will bake some kind of delicious treat for the neighbors who will be watering our garden while we're gone. It will be 97 degrees outside, and God help us, Alex has an outdoor T-ball-themed birthday party to attend.

At 6:45 tomorrow evening, I'll pick my father up at the bus station.

Sunday morning, bright and early, we leave for SUUSI. Alex has been sleeping in her sleeping bag every night to get ready.

I'm on vacaaaaaaation!
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
There's a teenager in our church who wants to go to SUUSI. Unfortunately, her parents aren't able to go. So last night Michael and I met their family at a notary public and signed forms that make us her temporary legal guardians, for one week in July.

She'll live in the teen dorm, of course, and do teen activities. The teen staff seems to be both ample and skilled. Our responsibility is to have face-to-face contact with her once a day to check in, and to be an emergency back-up if she gets in trouble, breaks the rules, or gets sick or hurt.

The SUUSI teen program is a weird middle ground between supervised summer camps and an open campus situation. The kids have rules to follow, and the teen staff provide 24-hour supervision with a full schedule of activities (Tie-dyeing! Midafternoon story-and-naptime! Capture the flag! 3am 7-11 run! Thrift store trips! River tubing! Teen worship every night at 1am!), but teens aren't required to be connected to supervised activities unless they want to be out after the 1am curfew. There are mandatory daily teen meetings and touch groups, but other than that our adopted teen will be on her own to organize her week.

She's gone to weekend UU teen conferences regionally, and she has at least three friends from conferences who will be at SUUSI. So she's got both similar experience and friends' advice to go on. We passed on our own advice: that SUUSI is a marathon, not a sprint, and that if she tries to run on a weekend con schedule she will burn out. And of course we handed on the traditional recommendation of one shower, two meals, and five hours of sleep every 24 hours, and the traditional caution not to try to reverse the numbers for meals and hours of sleep. At SUUSI we'll try to sit down and have coffee, or something, once a day to check in.

It's a bit weird. Michael had met the teen a couple of times before, casually, at coffee hour after church. I never had. Both of us thought the mother looked vaguely familiar, once we'd seen her, and agreed that we'd never met the father at all. Our Director of Religious Education privately vouched for the teen, to us, and presumably she also gave the parents some assurance that we're not axe murderers. But for the most part, they are sending their only child off with strangers.

What it seems to come down to is this: they trust their child. When we met yesterday at the notary public, the mutual love and respect and joy their family has in each other just sort of beamed out everywhere. They have faith that she's going to make good decisions for herself. But they're obviously not checked out or uninvolved. At one point the teen's father said "[Name] is going to be very respectful of the rules" in a tone of voice that precisely blended confidence-in-her and a touch of firmness, and they beamed at each other, and the whole thing was just such a perfect model for the kind of relationship I hope to have with Alex thirteen years from now.


Apr. 12th, 2008 04:05 pm
rivka: (chalice)
I just registered us for this year's SUUSI. Their online system is probably the most user-friendly registration setup I've ever seen. We still have to mail in a big packet of waivers and permissions, but at least we've all made it into the queue for our various trips and workshops.

My father is going again this year. He and I are taking a workshop and a hike together. And [livejournal.com profile] bosssio is going as well - yay, we didn't totally scare her off last year! We're going to be suitemates again. I'm crossing my fingers hoping that Dorian (our friend and Alex's ex-nanny) and her mother will decide to go too. I think they'd have a wonderful time, and it would be great to have extra time to hang out with Dorian.

We've got a pretty heavy schedule this year. I hope we don't regret it. I don't see anything that I'd want to cut out, but there's not quite as much relaxation time as we planned for last year.

Yaaaay, SUUSI!

our schedule, for posterity )

SUUSI 2008

Mar. 30th, 2008 06:47 pm
rivka: (boundin')
Yay, they posted the SUUSI catalog!

They've made some good general changes to the schedule this year. Instead of scheduling adult-focused musicians to play at 5pm and calling that a "family concert hour," they've moved concert hour back to the 8-9pm slot and kept every late afternoon open for chaotic community play time. Evening concerts push worship earlier, which works better for us with Alex's bedtime. And this year they're offering the opportunity to be in Covenant Groups - small groups which meet daily during SUUSI for spiritual conversations, and which can continue throughout the year by e-mail. I think that's a great innovation.

SUUSI is moving from the Virginia Tech campus to the campus of Radford University, about twenty miles down the road. On balance, I think it will be great. Radford is much smaller, and we'll have it to ourselves. VA Tech was always jammed full of sports-camp kids and freshman orientation students - mealtimes especially were a nightmare, with huge crowds and a stressful, rushed atmosphere. SUUSI will still bring a thousand people to the dining hall, but I think the atmosphere will be much more relaxed with everyone from the same program, sharing the same living-in-community expectations.

Dorm rooms will be smaller, and instead of three-bedroom suites with living rooms we'll have two-bedroom suites with no living rooms. I know that the SUUSI Board thinks of this as a feature, not a bug; it will force people to congregate and socialize in open communal spaces rather than private gatherings in living rooms. It remains to be seen how well that will work. The one thing I wonder about is what parents will do between bedtime and the start of childcare co-op. Hang out in the halls, I guess.

I am in the happy position of finding waaay too many things in the catalog that I want to do. Although there is a distressing preponderance of woo-woo workshops, which I think says less about the interests of the average SUUSI attendee than it does about the enthusiasm of woo-woo people to give workshops. (Next year I really need to think about offering the kind of workshops I would want to take.) I have some hopes for "Science, Religion, and the Universe" ("What’s new in physics and how does this relate to our beliefs. The beginning and end of the universe (mostly dark matter and energy) and what happened in between. Also some fun experiments done by participants.") being relatively woo-woo free because it is being offered by a physicist. Although one never knows.

I always think about branching out and trying something completely different at SUUSI, like (particularly) "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," or singing with the SUUSI Cantatori. But it would take up so much of my schedule. I'd have to commit to showing up to something every morning all week long. I don't necessarily want to nail myself down like that.

There are a lot of nature trips this year that are rated for ages 0+, which is nice. I want to do a couple of those with Alex, and a couple of good challenging hikes for myself. I am intrigued by the dawn canoe trip, but probably not enough to miss the chocolate-making workshop it's scheduled against. (The same one I tried to take last year, which was foiled by intense humidity. I see that this year it's been moved to the morning, which should help.)

Yay! SUUSI! I am so excited.

possible schedule )
rivka: (chalice)
I got up very early Wednesday morning and managed to slip out for breakfast before Alex woke up, armed with my hiking gear. My father and I had registered for a hike up Sinking Creek Mountain, which turns out to be on part of the Appalachian Trail. Read more... )


rivka: (Default)

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