You Came to Rescue Me

The thing about the death of Nina is that she represents to me a section of my life. And it has come to an end. So I’m evaluating the beginning, middle, and end of this time. It’s over. And, sure, it’s not the end of the world. But, it’s still an end.

When did the end begin? Maybe a few years ago when she first needed medical care for her issue. But maybe it was just the last year or so when I felt more and more tender toward her, and felt our time together was reaching a close.

It’s was actually easier to forget about her because she needed less exercise. She was content to laze around for longer periods. But I invented ways to interact with her that weren’t exercise. I talked with her more and cuddled her more, for instance.

I couldn’t imagine life without her, and wanted to “add” to her good feelings about our friendship. Like, I wanted to be more than a caretaker. I wanted to be like a daughter would be toward her aging mother. I wanted to thank her.

Now the birds are chirping the way they did the morning she died. And my tears are flowing. Will I always feel like I wasn’t good enough to her? She was the absolute best. I was okay. I appreciated her. But I couldn’t find a way to demonstrate how much I adored her, loved her.

Nina, Rest In Peace, my good puppy. You improved my life at a magnitude impossible to express. You accidentally fell on hard times and I rescued you. But who was really rescued? It was me. You came to rescue me. Thank you, little girl. You did it. I will love you forever.

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The Grandies are the Subjects, but Nina Shines Through

 

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This is how I like to imagine Nina at peace.

Always with someone to press up against.

Always with a light touch from a kind source.

 

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Some of us were napping and some of us are awake.  It was about even.

Some of us were napping and some of us were awake.

It was about even.

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Like all good caretakers, Nina would take naps between sessions.

 

Like all good caretakers,

Nina would take naps between sessions.

 

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There are tiny infants in these little rain-protective baskets/car seats.  Nina knows.

 

There are tiny infants in these little

rain-protective baskets/car seats.

Nina knows.

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See the swaddled baby beside Nina?  I don’t know which twin that is. LOL  Nina looks tired.

See the swaddled baby beside Nina?

I don’t know which twin that is. LOL.

Nina looks tired.

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After a full day of taking care of the new young puppies, Nina had had enough and retreated to her soft little bed.

After a full day of taking care of the new young puppies,

Nina had had enough and retreated to her soft little bed.

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Nina guarding the twins in their cribs.

Nina guarding the twins in their cribs.

 

 

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Nina taking a break to relieve herself and check out the remains on the the previous owner’s garden.

Nina taking a break to relieve herself and check out the remains on the the previous owner’s garden.

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One baby and two dogs.

One baby and two dogs.

 

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Two babies and two dogs.

Two babies and two dogs.

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Nina realizing there is no room on top of me.  She has temporarily lost her spot. Also her leg has temporarily lost its place in her harness.

Nina realizing there is no room on top of me.

She has temporarily lost her spot.

Also her leg has temporarily lost its place in her harness.

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Nina appearing to accept the situation.

Nina appearing to accept the situation.

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Murray is happy to have two babies to protect.  Nina is happy that the twins are not her problem.

Murray is happy to have two babies to protect.

Nina is happy that the twins are not her problem.

 

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Nina and Murray hold grandson in perfect harmony.

Nina and Murray hold grandson in perfect harmony.

 

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Nina loved a good soft spot. She was always finding a spot to curl up on the babies’ play gear. (Granddaughter)

Nina loved a good soft spot.

She was always finding a spot to curl up on the babies’ play gear.

(Granddaughter)

 

 

 

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Nina loved the babies’ gear.  What was soft for the babies was soft for her.  She’s now in a soft spot in my heart.

Nina loved the babies’ gear.

What was soft for the babies was soft for her.

She’s now in a soft spot in my heart.

Four-Second Clips Show Gentle Nina Nurturing Babies

 

Already the title is too long and I’ve chosen too many clips, but at least the clips are short, short, short.  And dear.

In no particular order, here are some 4-second clips of Nina’s reactions to two new additions to my life. The twins arrived in 2016 when Nina was already 9 years old.  I mistakenly thought that time would stand still while I enjoyed my grandchildren and my mature dog. It. Did. Not.

But I saved a few moments in time to assist my recall of the prime memories of my short, ecstatic existence as a grandmother of little ones.  How did Nina know to insert herself into the frame?  Did she know I’d be replaying these clips for the rest of my life?

Like, I won’t be replaying every clip I’ve ever made of insignificant moments with coffee in hand or chillin’ by the pool.  But the clips with the babies will be revisted until the day I die.  Surely, Nina could not have understood this?  Either way, it worked.

The first four clips use the Boomerang App to show Nina checking out first the boy and then the girl, one at a time, as they lie under their little mobile.

Then she reclines on the sofa between the twins at either end.  And don’t worry, the coffee was cold and could not have landed on anyone but Nina or me.  Calm down.

Apropos only of fact that I was “helping” with the twins all weekend, here’s Nina on her way back from the vet where she’d stayed overnight. She’d had one of her health emergencies that would eventually lead to her demise.  Age was gonna get her eventually, to be fair.

This speeded-up clip shows Nina standing between me and the twins.  That was her signature way of claiming me as her own.  She never growled at a baby or did anything other than silently assert her ownership of me.

Here’s my granddaughter reaching out with her little hands to feel what Nina was all about, latching on her collar as she flailed.

Here she is again but Nina isn’t wearing her collar or harness.  Notice how baby’s mouth is wide open.  She wanted to taste Nina, and who could blame her?

Here’s the longest clip, 10 seconds of Nina lounging on the bed with granddaughter seeming to have some tummy time? She was maybe thinking about crawling?  Nina adjusts herself a tiny bit is all.

The last clip was filmed in a different location, the place where I live. It doesn’t show the twins, who are in the background somewhere, but shows Nina clinging to me as if to say, “What’s the deal? What are they doing here? It was fine when we went to their house, but this is taking it a bit too far…” Nina was afraid, quite unnecessarily, that she’d lose her spot in my heart. She’s kept that spot, though, even from the other side of the veil.

 

 

I Didn’t Break Down Today

 

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For the first night since Nina died, I slept through the night.  Nina died at daybreak, but she’d been up during the night and I’d found her under the sewing machine table at about 4am.  My final walk out to the car with Nina was serenaded by songbirds, who have reminded me of this moment each morning for days.  This morning it was light out when I awoke.  Quiet.  Making a cup of coffee, I realized that my parents had already been out in their car because the garage door was open.  That would be the second time my dad had driven my mom to the hospital in a week.  I remember talking about Nina as I drove my mom home from the hospital the first time.  We talked about how old Nina was getting and how her symptoms were fluctuating and causing confusion.  Would this be Nina’s last illness?

Of course we talked about my mom’s illness, too, but mostly that conversation centered around how difficult it was to convince the doctors to release her.  That first time it had sounded like they were going to admit her against her wishes.  But today was not a problem.  She flew through there and out the door into the waiting car.  But this time Nina was gone.  I had slept through the night and missed the songbirds.  I would continue to walk my mom’s dog, but would never walk Nina again.

That is, unless you count the sense I feel when walking the old logging road that Nina is off in the woods “following” me.  She would often walk surreptitiously on the upper or lower side of the trail, sometimes ahead of me and sometimes behind.  But she always knew where I was.  She did this during her last couple of walks the day before she died.  After several days of being unable to handle walking the trail, she had been unusually perky that day.

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When I walk the trail now, I imagine her out in the woods, just barely hidden from view.  I don’t need to have her in my line of sight, but I’m aware of her presence.  While she lived, this was mainly a habit I had.  But now it’s a choice.  I want to connect with her, but I know I’ll never see her or hear her stepping.  That’s okay.  I accept it.  But I can still relive the experience of knowing she’s with me.  I can keep her in my mind and in my heart.

Assuming she’s in Doggie Heaven now, (a belief that I actually haven’t needed to rely on this time but that helped me survive my first dog’s demise), Nina would not be playing fetch or chasing frisbies or whatever it is dogs are imagined to do up there.  Nina would be “hunting” just like she did on earth.  She’d be poking around the woods or around the field, sniffing out chipmunks and hedgehogs, and fox and deer.

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So I’ve been letting Nina be in Doggie Heaven “Earth Version” as I walk my parents’ dog, Willie.  They used to “hunt” together sometimes, especially at the place on the trail where I turn around to go back.  They would linger in the woods where the deer tended to travel from the woods to the field.  We never saw deer while in there, but I saw the signs.  I often spot when the deer enter the woods from the field and it takes them right up to the dogs’ favorite “hunting” spot.  (Neither dog had ever been on any human sort of hunting expedition.)

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I love this video because of Nina’s patient tolerance of me with my camera phone, in this case with the SnapChat app.  She did not like the camera pointed at her.  In fact, she didn’t like my phone or my ipad at all.  Stay through to the end to see her patiently tolerant expression. And her banana hat.

I said yesterday that my walks with Nina were rain or shine, but in the case of the rain shown in this video, we headed right into the house after returning home during the start of a dark storm.  Stay through to the end to see the massive damage Nina has done over the years to the outside of the door where she would scratch to be let back in.  I will miss that sound, no matter how irritating it once could be.  She’s never coming back inside, but I know she misses me, wherever she is.  Even if it’s Doggie Heaven.

 

Remembering Nina’s Moves in Movies

It’s been four long days since Nina left this world and I’m slowly letting go. Her belongings are mostly out of the house.  I chose her collar to hold as a keepsake since its sparkles remind me of her simmering personality.

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I haven’t been sleeping the good, long way I’d been sleeping. I’m back to early morning wake-ups.  It’s not a good sign, but I think I’m okay.  One thing I did this morning was to browse through my video files of the past couple years.  And I happened upon a few silly memories and a few that had a little sadness, too.

Ridiculously, here’s Nina in the woods doing a little Reversed Running

using the SnapChat app.  You see the old logging road where we did most of our walks while we lived here. I’ll never be able to go up there without thinking on Nina.  That’s okay, though. She loved sniffing and “hunting” and in some cases Getting Tired Digging.

In her younger days she wouldn’t have paused to rest her body, but age has a way of catching up. You see in the video that at 12 years old, she’s really able to dig that dirt like a machine.  I will miss the sound of the dirt flying, but won’t miss refilling the holes around the house that she would immediately redig as soon as I’d fill them.

Speaking of vibrancy, here’s Nina with her dogmate, Willie, Running In The House.

So much happiness and excitement! No idea what it was about, but those two spent Willie’s whole life looking for the next adventure. Willie will miss her big sis. Speaking of adventure, here’s Nina showing me with her expression, using a dreadful app called My Talking Pet , what she thinks about waiting for me to take her for a walk.

Our walks were rain or shine, for the most part.  In later years, Nina was more understanding about my lack of enthusiasm for walking in foul weather.  But if it wasn’t too cold, I could be convinced to brave the woods even if it meant Going Around The Puddle.

Right now, today, it’s actually snowing (On May 9th!) even though we recently had some good Spring weather. I am not in a hurry to take a walk this morning.

Rewatching this video of Nina last year when where was hiding the food that she’d vomited up reminds me of Nina’s tense last week as she had trouble holding down her food. It’s a silly little video I call Nina’s BellyAche.

(Note: The video is a montage that includes a trip I took to look at some weaving looms while good little Nina waited in the car. Wait to see her at the end.) The conceit of the silly video is that she had actually tried to hide her vomit with a plastic bag she’d found lying around.  She’s not hiding that she vomited, though.  She’s hiding the food from whoever might try to eat it. One of her weirdnesses.

I’ll end with a happier note.  Nothing was happier for Nina than licking the Peanut Butter out of the jar.

We did it in two stages.  First, she’d lick the top half of the jar that she could reach.  Then I would saw the jar in half and give her the bottom half to finish off.  Those were good times.  I miss my happy baby friend. RIP. 😭

 

Post-Nina Normal

This morning was still rough, but I feel like I’ve turned a corner.  I managed to sleep through the night.  The sound of song birds, ever present on the morning Nina died, didn’t hit me as painful today.  Funny that I hadn’t of late been feeling the urge to walk Nina first thing in the morning, but today I had the urge to get right out there.  It passed, though.  I took little Willie for a walk as soon as he got up, bringing along with me some psalms to read on the trail where Nina and I walked nearly every day.  I was doing okay on the walk, got to the spot I had in mind, sat on a stump, and talked to Nina for a bit.  I told her I was going to read a couple psalms and that they were for her as well as for me.  The atmosphere could not have been better.  Willie was off barking at chipmunks, but that seemed somehow appropriate.  It felt good to say the words.  They felt mostly aimed at myself, for I’m the one in the world of the living who needs to have faith.

The only picture here that wasn’t taken while Nina was in my care is the one in the diablita costume.  That was taken at an adoption event and posted on the rescue agency’s website and printed in their brochures.  Nina looks desperate for someone to walk up to and put her forehead on their leg.  She’s not one to muddle joyfully through a halloween costume parade like a big lumbering labrador. She wanted to be held.

The other pics were taken at Sanibel Island where she met my family for the first time.  I love the one where we’re in bed and she is back-to-back with me.  That is so Nina. Always making sure she is as close as possible, that I can’t abandon her.  I also like the selfies with Marco, my son.

On the way back from my walk with Willie, who had wandered off, I encountered Maysie, the neighbor dog who was friends with Nina for years, ever since we moved here.  Maysie was looking all around for Nina.  Waited for her to walk out of the woods. Looked behind me and all around in search of her buddy.  She followed me up the driveway in search.  She sniffed the ground and followed me all the way behind the house to the pool area.  She paused by the door waiting for Nina to come out to play.  I opened the door to see if she wanted to come in.  She didn’t.  Even after I came inside, Maysie continue her pursuit of Nina’s most recent deposit of pee.  She went on the deck to look for her out in the field.  During most of this I got choked up here and there but it didn’t turn into a full-scale ugly cry.

The pictures below are also of the early, early days.  One was a visit from Marco. Others were taken upon Nina’s return from a six week stay in the hospital after she was hit by a car.  She improved every day, always walking up the stairs to our second-floor apartment with renewed determination.  She had lost the muslce tone we had built up with runs on the golf course.  But one day she got a little lost and crossed the road to go back home while I was calling her from the golf course.  I wanted to cross the street to get her, but she turned and came back, not making it all the way across.  It was another trauma, to her as well as to me.  But we got through it. Oh, and I bought her a stylish jacket for Miami.  It could get cold in the winter.

 

I was glad that Mom wants to keep Nina’s bowl because I was sad about putting it in the pile of things to give away.  Her harnesses, which sent me into a loud, loud ugly cry yesterday, made it into the washing machine at last to get clean for their next owner.  I’m keeping her collar, though.  It’s pink and grey studded with little diamond-like stones. She rocked it.

Here are some pics of Nina visiting with her Aunt Linda’s dog, Angus.  They were kids together.  Just about the same age.  Angus taught her to stay level with her on hikes up Mount Philo in Charlotte, Vermont.  (I’d flown home with her for the summer.)  There are also pics here of our new home when we moved back up here and lived in Rutland.  She met my cousins Priscilla and Susan who had flown up from West Virginia for my Uncle Bob’s funeral.

Yes, I’m lingering on Nina for an hour when  I could be accomplishing some other tasks, but I feel like I’m turning the corner.  I’ve already bathed and checked my emails, both of which I neglected for the first full day of grief.  I have things to do today, and people to see (social distancing, of course), so I won’t be malingering around clinging to my parents all day like I did yesterday.  I’ll try not to distract friends and family with texts about Nina.  Yesterday I worked with Priscilla on determining that Nina had actually been fostered beginning in 2008, not 2010 as previously thought.  So Nina was probably born late in 2006, which would make her 13 and 1/2 when she died.  That’s older than I previously realized.  Thanks to Priscilla for calling it to my attention.

Those were weird years.  I’d moved around the world with my Cambodian dog, Tiger, and then had to have her put down for complicated reasons.  It had taken me over a month of despondency to finally rally.  I’d made her a MySpace page with pictures I had scanned from the old days when I used a real cameral.  Each one had a caption.  It took weeks to accomplish.  I couldn’t let go.  After two months or so, I was finally able to talk about him without choking up.  This time, it’s going better.  I have learned from experience, so I know what to expect.  Plus I’m in therapy, which rightly coincided with the day Nina died.  That helped.  Shout out to everyone who helped me through those first 24 hours of intense shock and pain.  You helped me realize that I had done well for Nina despite my shortcomings and should be at peace.  I accept that now and appreciate y’all’s kind words. Thank you.

Letting Go a Good, Good Girl Who Hung On As Long As She Could

Nina was rescued as a stray dog, having had a litter of puppies, loosely associated with a pack of stray dogs in a trailer park in the northern most parts of Miami.  She was about two years old. She’d lost a bunch of fur to a bacterial infection due to being without shelter during rainy season in south Florida.  The very moment she was caught was captured by a film crew for Animal Planet’s reality TV show “Animal Cops Miami.”

In the next frame, she’s shown at the vet who had tested her for mange and heartworm.  Tests came back negative and she was put up for adoption by Paws4You.  Having suffered the recent loss of my Cambodian dog, I was at the time beginning to be interested in adopting a new furry friend.  Our paths crossed.

At the adoption event, at which shy little Nina stayed in her crate indoors, she became my number one.  She basically told me that I was hers and she was mine and that we should be together.  She did this by putting her little forehead up against my leg upon being released from her crate.

She was so gentle and affectionate.  I was told that this was common after a dog has had a litter of puppies.  She let me hold her and walk her around as I talked to her and asked myself if now was the time.  She was wearing her heart on her sleeve and this act alone won me over.

Knowing what she’d been through and what shape she was in, I was taken by how hopeful she came across.  She had an aching heart that broke my own. The love came pouring out.

I was allowed to take her home on a temporary basis until I could be cleared for a final adoption.  With only a bicycle, I walked her on her leash on the sidewalk.  We came to a little park with fresh green grass that she rolled in and let her tongue wag for the first time.  She was a happy girl for the first time in a long while, it seemed.

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We made it home. I was amazed by how quickly she made herself at home, including on my futon that lay on the floor.  We bonded.  That was 2010.  Now it’s 2020 and she’s moved on to doggie heaven.  I held her and let her go. She was brave and vulnerable, trusting me to the end. Always accepting my affection, even when it was only for my benefit. “You’re the best baby. You’re my sweetest best girl. I love you. Thank you for being in my life. I’ll miss you.” And with that, she was gone. She’ll remain in my heart forever.

 

 

Back at it

First post in a long long long long time.

What has changed?

I’m no longer doing my thing in Waterbury and Shelburne, Vermont.

Not working with students, dancers, makers.

Everything is out of my own little quarters up on a hill by a farm with dogs and dearest family members and sometimes sheep.  Occasionally from the local library.

What happened?

Not much.  Things just changed.  As they often do.  Focusing inward now. Processing, integrating, adjusting, re-evaluating, becoming more open, unraveling in the good sense.

And sometimes in the not-so-good sense. But mostly in the good sense.

 

Sometimes visited by blood-sucking montsters, and having to slay them.

Covering up the gaping wounds left by their invasions.

It’s great good fun.

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Thought this thing sticking out of Nina’s mouth was a porcupine quill, but it turned out to be a lil ol’ twig stuck between her teeth.  Easily removed.

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Chain Reactions Extravaganza: A Family Event

Coming up:  Chain Reactions

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

TO REGISTER:        Chain Reactions Extravaganza: A Family Event

More information here on my newsletter:       NEWSLETTER Chain Reactions

Chain Reactions is a collaborative experience. You work mostly within your small group.

Independent of each other, each small group builds a contraption investigating cause and effect. Each “machine” consists of a sequence of events, commonly referred to as a Rube Goldbergmachine. It gets interesting when all the machines in the room are linked. Each machine sets off another’s group’s machine, culminating in a performance in which the whole room comes to life.

We will have two types of components in our chain reaction. One is simply physical (ramps, balls, blocks, etc); the other is electrical (batteries, lights, motors, sounds, etc.). Join us for some hard fun!

Learn about cause and effect in an inventive way. Explore electricity, motors, friction, gravity, circuitry, and acceleration. Observing ways objects relate to each other, designs are constructed and tested instantly. Common objects behave in surprising ways leading to unexpected experiments. Solutions and creative designs are sparked by each participant’s individual interests and ideas. Collaborative opportunities are available, too. Each table must trigger the next table’s contraption. The final collective “run” brings participants and groups together in a spirit of cooperation and celebration.

VT STEAMspace at Vermont Teddy Bear is a unique makerspace for kids where students can learn new skills through classes, and then make their own stuff with our tools during open studio time. VT STEAMspace is operated through the Champlain Valley MakerFaire, a 501 c3 nonprofit which encourages making and STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) throughout Vermont. Like our Facebook page Champlain Valley MakerFaire.

99 Amazing Chain Reaction Tricks Part 3

Videos to check out:

AMAZING !!! Chain Reactions

THE INSANE TAPE DISPENSING MACHINE (Massive Chain Reaction)

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – Rube Goldberg Machine – Official Video

LEGO visit Chain Reaction

Vacation MakerCamps in Waterbury, Vermont

Registration Page at Green Mountain Performing Arts

 

What can you expect at Vacation MakerCamp?

 

We make JitterBugs, ScribbleBots, and WiggleBots using Teachergeek materials.  We experiment with all sorts of movement, including with ArtBots that spread glitter or draw repeated patterns with markers.

 

Cars. We build all sorts of vehicles beginning with sailcars powered by everyday floor fans. We set up a track using sliced up pool noodles taped to the floor. Get ready for a friendly competition. Get set. Go!

 

After using wind power, we then build vehicles powered by rubber bands. It gets “tense,” but don’t worry. All the tension leaves us as our cars zoom around the room.

 

Finally, we build electric cars. Beginning with experimentation on gears and pulleys, we figure out how to make the turning shaft of the motor transform into motion upon the wheel axis to propel our cars forward. Vvvvrrrroooommmm.

 

That’s not all.

 

We build Keva Plank structures and then knock them down. We film their demise and edit our video to play it in slow motion and reverse. Building Keva Plank structures is both fun and educational.  The blocks do the teaching. Mechanical and engineering concepts include inertia, friction, trajectory, momentum, and chain reaction. Ping pong balls help.

 

We also experiment with sewn circuits using conductive thread and Lilypad electrical components from Sparkfun. We make illuminated bracelets, plushies with buttons and slider switches, and then move on to twinkling microcontrollers.  

 

There’s more.

 

Never let a day go by without a messy art project. That’s a rule. Watercolors, fingerpaint, tempura, puffy paint, and even acrylics are on hand.  Don’t forget the neon glitter paint! We have a blacklight standing by to make for some spooky creations. We aren’t limited to painting on paper. We paint all kinds of things. We have clay, model magic, popsickle sticks, and pinball machines. “What?” you say? Read on:

 

Cardboard pinball machines provide us with a clean canvas, so to speak, for manifesting our wildest imaginary games. Have you seen the Pinbox3000 created right here in Chittenden County? It’s a blast!

 

Oh! Don’t forget the programmable toys that roam around the rooms with direction from devices such as iPads, iPhones, and iPods. We have Ollie, Sphero, Dash&Dot, and an Ozobot. New this year is a flying machine. Look out!

 

Participants will have opportunities to learn stop motion photography and video creation, including with green screen technology.  This gives families an inside view on what we do here at Vacation MakerCamp. Follow along!

 

Returning MakerCampers will have opportunities to replay their old favorites or explore new projects and passions. We’re always adding to our program.  Whether it’s coding or soldering or directing their own films, participants will always have something new to satisfy their creative aspirations.