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.

I’m on a float, yeah!

Everybody look at me cause I’m riding on a float …

The Colonial Heights Civitans are a wonderful group of people. They’ve been supportive of our local Arc chapter for a few years, and asked Lia and Joe to join them on their float at the annual Christmas parade. So bam! We’re in a parade.

… take a good hard look at the $&#$%! float.

Christmas Parade 2016

Christmas Parade 2016

Christmas Parade 2016

Christmas Parade 2016

Christmas Parade 2016

Basic Training

Camp Easter Seals was cray. zee. Not really, it was pretty low-key and relaxing, but Joe had a terrific time and that’s all that matters. We went for a family weekend, sort of a try-it-before-you-buy-it intro to the camp. One day we might send Joe off on his own for a week or two in the summer. Not anytime soon, we aren’t ready. He is. We aren’t.

It all started with fire. Then art with pieces of plate glass. Then arrows. Then climbing. Then horses. It was a little paramilitary (no, no it wasn’t).

Camp Easter Seals
The pros call it “practical effects.”

Camp Easter Seals
The original 1957 merry-go-round may have been Joe’s favorite part.

Camp Easter Seals
Not totally cool with the horse, but still totally cool.

Camp Easter Seals
Adaptive bow. Who know?

Camp Easter Seals
Our barracks were designed for 24 troops. For our visit they replaced the regular beds with tiny cots. Joe brought his tent because he thought we were going to rough it. “Milquetoasts!” he said, and slept in his tent anyway.

Camp Easter Seals

MONDAY! NIGHT! FOOTBALL!

It was our second elementary school night at a Colonial Heights High School football game! Joe was all about seeing friends and was totally digging the band. Some new friend gave him a C.H. t-shirt, that was really neat. And there was a football game or something, too.

Plus, we know the principal of Joe’s school reads this blog – how cool is that?! Hi Mr. Staples! Go Tussing!

Colonial Heights Football!
Tussing Tigers ready to take the field.

Colonial Heights Football!
Joe catching up with Mrs. Resnick, his terrific kindergarten teacher.

Colonial Heights Football!
Zebras, unaware that tigers are lurking about. Watch out zebras.

Colonial Heights Football!
The Colonial and Cheerleader ready to watch the carnage unfold.

Colonial Heights Football!
Not a football fan. Kinda boring. None of the intense action of a, say, Kidz Bop or Daniel Tiger episode.

Lights and music

Joe’s brilliant mom surprised him with his new favorite thing tonight – a wireless disco light and speaker. We’ll get video next time, because Joe was in awe of the light itself and on the walls and ceiling. He’s so great.

Disco lights!

Disco lights!

Disco lights!

Disco lights!

Hey! We went bowling.

We had a terrific weekend – museum, picnic, running, swimming and finally a couple of games of bowling. Not much to say because I’m tired (from the terrific weekend), but thanks as always to Tracy and the greater Lowery family for all you do through Special Olympics and by just being good people.

And welcome to the team, Jordan! There’s always room for a home-girl, the South needs more Western New Yorkers.

Bowling

Bowling

Bowling

Bowling

Bowling

Bowling
Thanks Tracy!

Not going to Rio

Joe has decided to skip the 2016 Rio games. He made the decision a couple of weeks ago, just before the Virginia Special Olympics at the University of Richmond. It was partly the whole Zinka thing (makes his nose look funny), but mostly it was the lack of competition now that the Russians are out. He’s been waiting for this moment since he saw Rocky IV, and embarrassing all the Usain Phelps in the world won’t give him the same gut-level satisfaction as kickin’ some drugged-out commie ass. Joe gets so angry sometimes.

But we did go to the Virginia games, thank goodness, as it calmed him down a lot. He quickly compartmentalized those nesting-doll-loving pinkos and laser-focused on his four events.

First was the 25-meter dash, where he ran triumphantly! The crowd on their feet. A tear on Vangelis’ cheek as we collectively realized the majesty we were witnessing. It’s not slow motion …

Joe is actually running that fast!

Next, the two-person tennis ball toss, where Joe and his throwing coach Carleigh put some stank on it and almost cleared an unmeasured distance of grass. It went so far! Poetry in motion, as ol’ Johnny Tillotson used to say.

Then the team of Mama-Joe-Carleigh combined for the double-assisted-lift standing long jump, rocketing Joe to a personal best. Mama Joe Carleigh would also be my name if I was a drag queen who specialized in country music. Is that a thing? Just googled it, and sure enough!

Joe focused his real energy on the unsanctioned event he’s dominated since getting into the game – making friends with random folks, mostly the ladies. Like this first place effort …
Special Olympics 2016
These former strangers followed Joe from the field to the awards, offering to babysit, asking for photos, and making all the college boys that much more insecure. How did this tiny man, with mismatched teeth and a balding dad, snag this caliber of women … without even saying a word? Because you smell like Axe and you trying to hard.

Special Olympics 2016
Coach Carleigh took the podium with Joe, rightfully so. Helping people are good people. Thanks Carleigh!

Special Olympics 2016
By now he’d forgotten about the Russians. Felt sorry for them even. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.”

Special Olympics 2016
Not Joe, I just like this photo. The streak of a lone athlete as he celebrates personal victory. Faceless every-man spectators, maybe coaches, watch with awe and love as he passes. That’s Special Olympics.

Since 2008