Precious little Snowflake

The annual Snowflake Ball was this weekend. As always nothing but thanks and love to Tracy Lowery and her entire family for putting together this incredible event. This is such a big deal, and so much work, and they do it all just because it’s an unbelievably cool thing to do. How great is that?!

The local Special Olympics group – which puts on the Snowflake Ball – relies on donations. Each winter Special Olympic supporters from all over Virginia jump in the cold, cold ocean – it’s the biggest fundraiser of the year. So if you’ve got a few bucks laying around, consider donating. Go here, and just pick a name. They’re all terrific people. Pick a Duong, because Konnie and her family have been great to Joe since he started pre-school at age 2. Hi Konnie!

There are a lot of photos on Flickr. A few of my favorites are below but it’s such a wonderful event you should check out the rest.

Snowflake Ball 2017
Carleigh escorting Joe. Alert readers may remember Carleigh from last year’s Snowflake Ball, or from Joe’s visit to this past summer’s state games.

Snowflake Ball 2017
Two young teachers from Joe’s school.

Snowflake Ball 2017
With Mama – Tracy Lowery and friend in the background.

Snowflake Ball 2017
Joe’s favorite dance partner of the evening.

Snowflake Ball 2017
Joe does the Charleston to Bruno Mars. Old school? Psssh. I’ll show you old school.

Suit up.
Getting his hair done by Mama before going out.

Day on, not off

For Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year we joined our Arc South of the James friends Bryan and Anita on a trip to the Virginia General Assembly to lobby our representatives about intellectual disability issues. Specifically, Virginia needs to provide (fund) more Developmental Disability Waivers, and look for long-term ways to make our schools more inclusive. Read more here, and please contact your representatives if you’re so moved.

The Gen. Assembly building was PACKED, and some of the folks were there for really important issues like “they’re gonna take ma guns!” It was standing room only, lots of Glocks and Smith & Wessons, and representatives were lucky to have 10 minutes to give anyone. That’s why we brought our secret weapon, our silenced, snub-nosed assault rifle for peace.

Joe stops time. Crowds part. He charms assistants. Doors open. Majority Leader Kirk Cox wants to catch up. Senator Amanda Chase has a son named Joe. Del. Rosayln Tyler is swamped, but “I know she’d want to be interrupted to see him.” Del. Riley Ingram isn’t in, but come on into his office and his aide will talk with you. And while these speech-makers are finally speechless, lost in Joe’s eyes, we drop some knowledge.

It’s really something to see. Joe is instant perspective. I believe if he was aimed right, everyone would have laid their guns at his feet. If we could air-drop him into certain spots in the world, he could stop some of the greater hate. Maybe Jesus was just a quiet little kid, and all the red-letter stuff was simply what people wrote because they knew it was right, but were too scared and human to say it themselves.

Anyway, I don’t think the Second Amendment (or the $13.5 billion gun industry) is in any danger in Virginia, and Obama has less than three days to Takbir from house to house scooping up our freedom. But an 8-year old has to lobby for us to get past shoving certain kids into the forgotten classroom next to the bus garage. And worse, the Department of Justice has to flex to help us stop sentencing people to life in a “training center.” SM damn H.




Camera obscura

Joe has learned a lot from observing other people. Over time he’s figured out things like how to cough into his hand or arm, or use typical inflection and hand gestures when having a conversations (with words he made up). Lately he’s started taking long, satisfying swigs out of water bottles, just because he’s seen other people do it. The bottles he uses are sealed, or empty, but does he care? Goodness no!

It wasn’t surprising, then, when he held the camera his grandparents gave him for Christmas to his face. We wanted them to get Joe a camera because his Grandpa has started taking terrific photos in the last few years, mostly landscapes and wildlife he sees as he walks around the rural area where they live. We though Joe with a camera would be cute, kind of like when he points the remote at the TV, or holds a “phone” to his ear (often also the remote).

What happened, however, was a big deal.

He started taking pictures, with no help. And they’re pretty good! Years of pressing buttons, looking at screens, and seeing Mama and Daddy using cameras all crash together in a very Joe way … blurry, odd angles, lots of feet, no concept of what he’s doing. But, like all things Joe, there’s art there. And it’s a huge deal for us, because it’s our first true look at what he sees.

It’s also a big deal because it reminds me how little I understand about how he learns, and what he has the capability of figuring out. To me, and I’m sure his mom, part of him will always be the six-month old who was a lump on the floor, not doing things a six-month old should be doing. That lump as a point of reference makes everything Joe does today awesome. That lump eventually rolled. Then sat, then crawled. The other day he took my picture, then camera-dropped and walked out of the room singing Kidz Bop. These things are magic.

I hope he always takes pictures, it’d be great to see us grow old through his eyes just as we’re watching him grow up through ours.

Joe Originals
Mama in the Car. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay (part of his Rest Stop collection)
Lia gave Joe his camera to play with while on the road. We’re so proud that he took this – if we were a sports family, this would be a “my son hit a grand slam the other day” moment. Nothing but net.

Joe Originals
Daddy Sur La Table II. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay (part of a series of photographs of tables, centerpieces and people sitting at tables)
The camera takes grainy pictures, much like a phone would shoot way back when people were saying “Damn Gina! You got a cell phones with a camera?! Word.” But that’s part of the charm, like Nicéphore Niépce with a Razr. Plus it plays a little game where a bunny jumps across logs in a river, sort of like Frogger. Let’s see your Hasselblad do that.

Joe Originals
Papa Plays Guitar. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
Music and family come together in this intimate portrait of Joe’s Papa.

Joe Originals
?. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
I don’t know what the hell this is, but you try to recreate it. Are we inside? Outside? Is it day, is it night?
Yes. As an award-winning writer once said, he “went Jackson Pollack on that mofo.”

Joe Originals
Breakfast Table with Three People. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
This is one of my favorites. There’s just enough shape and feeling to identify the three subjects. Joe makes bold use of his own finger to blur the bottom half of the frame. And the pop of red? Frosting.

Notice that Joe uses his middle name in his work, a nod to the Dutch masters of old. I just made that up (not the middle name, who could make something like that up?), but it’s kind of true. Google those guys and tell me the palette and use of light aren’t reminiscent.

And again, does anyone read this far? Seriously, go do something constructive. Hug your child, or take a picture. Study, don’t you have a test coming up? Did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer? Word.