Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gem of the Day

After patiently explaining to 6 year old boys all week why they couldn't draw people blowing each other up on the holiday wrapping paper we were making, I walked past one of the sweetest girls in the school and saw that she had drawn a picture of a gingerbread man with a conversation bubble that said: "Bite me".

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Parenting Checkpoint

I always joke with Shawn that I am taking full and complete credit for the raising of our kids- right up until they rob their first liquor store. Then they are all his.

As a parent, there are very few times that you have any idea that what you are doing is on the right track. Most times you fly by the seat of your pants and hope that if nothing else, you have not damaged your kid to the point of needing therapy.

AJ's last baseball game was this past weekend. They lost. But at the end of the game the awards for the season were handed out. AJ got the Sportsmanship Award. Shawn told me that there was one boy in particular on the team that just never seemed to hit the ball. But every time he got up to bat, AJ would start chanting: "Let's go Michael, Let's go!" And he would do this while the other kids on the team would tell Michael to "just hit the ball already" (in a less than encouraging voice).

On days like today, when the kid is literally driving me to drink with his vibrating AJ-ness, it helps to remember that he does indeed have a good heart. He is kind to his baby brother, he does his best to be good to his mom, and he understands the value of being a good friend to the people around him.

Who knows what the next years will hold. But by design or accident, I think we may be on the right track. At least this week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where The Art Teacher Starts Listening to Her Own Lessons

So, I have been working on this rock project for about a week now. I have gotten quite a bit of it done. I still have about 3 grocery cart loads of rocks to varnish and then install. On a positive note, I must be getting into some sort of shape because I no longer feel like I am going to die at the end of each day.

As of Monday I had about 1/2 of one wall done. I was getting good feedback from the kids. I was getting good feedback from the adults. Things were going well. And then we had the storm of the century. There were hurricane force winds. The storm was so strong that even as a rational adult, I still wondered if the house was going to hold. Our neighbors woke up the next morning to find patio furniture blown into pools, holiday decorations blown blocks away and several trees completely broken in half.

And the rain. The rain was like nothing I had ever seen before. It wasn't that it was just a lot of water coming down, it was that it was a lot of water coming down with unbelievable force.


I am always telling my students that a huge part of art is embracing "Plan B". There will be countless times as an artist where for whatever reason, what you had planned simply won't work. But, I also tell them that "Plan B" leads to some pretty amazing work, and it can often be better than "Plan A" ever would have been.

This particular lesson/lecture comes in handy on a daily basis. Call me mean, but 99% of the time, I only let my students have one piece of paper. I have to beg, borrow and steal the supplies I do have. There is no way I can give out 2 pieces of paper to every student just because they have made a stray line.

For the most part, the kids are pretty well trained at this point. And they have seen the truth of my words. And now so have I.

I got to work the day after the storm to see that the force of the rain coming off of the eaves had simply power-washed the paint right off the middle section of rocks. I was mad. I was frustrated. I was distraught. I was in tears most of the morning. I had tested the varnish. I knew it was waterproof. I had run the rocks under streams of water, no paint had come off. It was simply the force of this one freak storm that had caused all this damage.

I have to admit, the whole thing put me out of commission for about a day. All that work, down the literal drain. And then the teacher in me fought it out with the designer in me and the teacher won. I realized that this was a spectacular teaching opportunity. So, I came up with my own "Plan B".

I will be taking some of the leftover plain rock and scattering them (hopefully in a somewhat of an artistic fashion) along the middle of the river. I am hoping that this will divert future torrents of rain and dissipate the water that runs off from the eaves.

So keep your fingers crossed for me. I really hope this works. Because frankly, I don't have a "Plan C". And if the designer in me and the teacher in me fight it out again, the designer may win next time. And she is not nearly so rational.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Was That Blur That Just Ran By?

Oh yeah, it was AJ. I believe I just got lapped.

So, AJ has a report to do about koalas. In the past we have done the essay route, the diorama route, the poster board route and even the flowerpot covered in clay and fake grass to create a groundhog burrow route. But apparently we are done with such mundane expressions of creativity.

AJ and Shawn are in the kitchen talking about his report. Are they making an outline? No. Are they sketching out model plans? No. Shawn is teaching AJ powerpoint. With animation. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Practicing for the Real Christmas Picture

The funny story behind this picture was that I was trying to get a picture of just Charlie. It wasn't that I didn't want AJ in the picture, but Charlie was in footy pajamas! In front of a Christmas tree!! I just needed to get a picture.

And I got one. This one:

Doesn't that just scream "holiday cheer"? He looks like he is going to take someone out back and beat them with a gigantic fake candy cane.

So, AJ came to the rescue and even got him to take out his pacifier for the picture. It was a Christmas miracle!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2009 Tree

What a difference a year makes.

This year, without really even talking about it, AJ and I chose to decorate with very few ornaments. We only used clear class balls, the handmade needlepoint ornaments that my mom has made, red present boxes, and the hand blown glass ornaments I have started collecting. I think it it turned out great. (Even though we are still missing the star.)

I started buying myself 2 ornaments each year from a store called Artful Home ( . They are a guild of artists, and there stuff is pretty amazing. It is horribly expensive, but amazing. Every year, they have a collection of handblown glass ornaments. The prices for these are a bit more reasonable. My dream is to have enough of them that when the kids are grown and gone I will have a tree completely dedicated to these ornaments alone.

Hand blown glass has always held a special place in my heart. It probably has a lot to do with spending time in Queechee Vt, near the Simon Pearce studio and store. Just the way it reflects the light makes my heart flutter. Yeah, I'm a geek. Tell me something I don't know. But it is so natural, yet sophisticated. And that is hard to pull off.

So my 2 ornaments arrived Friday. I bought "Twinkle Star" and "Blue New Mexico". And as far as I am concerned, the holiday season can now begin.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Photos of Rock Project in Progress

Here are the rocks. They are about 1/3 done. The blue that you see took about 7 hours of work, and I was able to cover about 30 ft. The blue ones are what my students have done and the other ones were done by the other art teacher.

This is a good view of the difference the blue rocks make. If nothing else, it will be a whole lot more colorful when it is done!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Channeling Fred Flintstone

This week has made me tired. Like, I come home and take a nap every day tired.

A few years ago, the art person did a project with the kids where they painted rocks to look like fish. They are beautiful. And until recently, they have been sitting in carts in the men's bathroom waiting for someone to install them.

At the school we have a courtyard. Two sides of the courtyard are lined with gravel. I started placing the fish there, and they looked good, but incomplete. The fish needed water to swim in. So, I am having the students paint rocks in various shades of blue. Lots and lots of rocks. I go load, distribute and supervise the painting of 4 shopping carts full of river rock a day. Then after they are painted, I go around and collect them to varnish them. And then I finally install them in the courtyard.

I have done this for the last 3 days. Tomorrow is the last day of the students doing the actual painting. On Friday, I will do my best to get the majority of the project installed. I have been very lucky in that a good friend of mine has come to help me the last two days with my afternoon classes. They are the youngest students and it is SOOO much easier when there is another adult around. The hand washing and desk washing alone is enough to keep two adults busy.

I have paint in my hair, paint on my shoes and I think I walked by a kid holding a paintbrush business end up, because I now have a swatch of paint on my butt. But it has actually been a good learning tool in a "don't let this happen to you" kind of way.

So if you are looking for a place to donate this season, the art department is now accepting donations of baby wipes, magic erasers and Old Navy gift cards.

Friday, November 27, 2009


We had a great Thanksgiving yesterday. In order to fit everyone, we (meaning Shawn) had to disassemble the dining room table and reassemble it in the kitchen. By doing that we were able to sit 10 adults in the kitchen and the 11 kids, (the ones that could actually sit at a table), in the dining room on a large folding table.

As you can see this created a huge problem with the chandelier. I should have given a door prize for whoever hit their head on it the most. But then again, that was probably me and I live here.

One thing I love about my friends is that when it comes to holiday eating, there is no skimping. We had stuffing with sausage, scalloped potatoes with sausage, apple bread, pumpkin pie, brownies, yams with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, green bean casserole, homemade rolls and wassail. It was all so good.

The turkey was ok. It was a little dry for me. I roasted it 20 minutes per pound like you are suppose to. But checked it at the 4 hour mark and the meat thermometer said it was already done. The problem was that my guests weren't suppose to come for another 2 hours! And even then we really didn't get things rolling until an hour after that. Fortunately for me, my friend knows how to make gravy and saved the day.

It was a really fun day. And I am thankful I have such good friends to share the day with. But more importantly, I am thankful I have such good friends to share the day with who can cook.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stone Soup

One of my favorite fables of all time is a story called Stone Soup. A man walks into a poor village and asks for food. When he is refused at each door, he then says he can make soup out of stones. He puts the stones in the boiling water, tastes it and tells the villagers it would taste much better if there was a little bit of carrot. The same villager who had told him she had no food to share, offers up carrots for the soup. Soon other things are added from each of the villagers, until the soup is made hearty by all the contributions. And they soon realize that by pooling their resources, they can all be better fed.

So, I am having 22 people at my house for Thanksgiving. It will be the biggest Thanksgiving I have ever hosted. I have to say, I LOVE doing the holiday meals. The planning, the organizing, the cooking, and the baking. I love it all. I love the challenge of trying to get everything to the table hot. But it is all over so quickly. All that work of planning and cooking is scarfed down in about 20 minutes (if you're lucky).

So, I am changing gears this year. We are having a stone soup Thanksgiving. This year I am only making the appetizers, the rolls I make every year, and of course the turkey. Everyone else is bringing their signature dish. And some wine.

I am guessing that this Thanksgiving will be a lot more fun than previous ones. Everyone will have a part in making it great. And I can stop pretending I am Martha Stewart. I don't think I was fooling anyone anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pizza PSA

Don't store pizzas on their side in the freezer.

Some Baseball Action Shots

Friday, November 13, 2009

Great. It's Contagious.

So, I was taking pictures of AJ all dusty and dirty from his first baseball game. Here is the picture:

I had put the camera away. But then Charlie came and got me and made the sign for "more".

So, I got the camera and when I got to the kitchen, I found Charlie standing like this:

Look familiar?

Then when I got home from getting Charlie from school today, Shawn and AJ were out in the front yard playing catch. We got Charlie his glove and he joined right in.

Look familiar?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Something I Never Thought I Would See

AJ is a baseball uniform. Allow me to explain.

Today we had our community garage sale. So Shawn and I were up at 5:30, dragging things into the driveway for the sale. I then manned the sale while AJ and Shawn went to the soccer playoffs. We had a busy day planned.

The boys got home (They lost their first game, so they did not move on.), and Shawn mentions that AJ is now signed up for baseball. What? We hate baseball. It is in our family bylaws. We don't watch it. We don't talk about it. We know nothing about it. I would rather watch golf, and that is saying something. We have managed to steer clear of t-ball, little league and anything else baseball related for the bast 9 1/2 years.

I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

It seems that while they were at the soccer playoffs, and AJ was asked if he wanted to play baseball this season. Sure. Why not? A game today? Sure. Bring it on.

One of the things I don't like about baseball is that the games are so freaking long. I just don't have the attention span. And my complaints seemed warranted when the boys left a little before 2pm and did not return until 5pm. I began to seriously question this baseball decision. Was every game going to last 3 hours? There are 2 games a week!

When Shawn walked in the door after the game, I asked him what had taken them so long. He sighed, shook his head and with the look of a man condemned, replied: "double header".


Off to practice acting enthusiastic and looking supportive. . .

At least his Grandad will be happy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween

We had a very fun Halloween this year. We know two families that share the Halloween party duties each year. The first family hosts a party before we trick or treat. Then we all head over to the second family's house and start our trick or treating from there. And then we have another party after.

This year, we went to the pre-trick or treating party and then trick or treated with the usual gang. But, this year we also went to my friend's Mary's birthday party. So it was a very busy night.

My favorite part of the whole night was listening to the whispers of kids when Shawn walked by then dressed as Batman. They were all convinced he was the real deal. And the parents thought it was pretty cute when they saw him carrying Robin around.

Here are the boys all dressed up as super heros. I was not a super hero, I was an Indian Princess. All the women's super hero costumes came with a stripper pole. And that would have gotten heavy to carry around all night.

This is Robin surveying the land at the pre-trick or treating party. He was making sure all the citizens are safe.

Here are Batman and Robin discussing very important crime fighting stuff.

This was the closest we got to a family picture. The boys (especially the purple one) were eager to get to the trick or treating part of the night.

Just for a quick comparison, here are the boys last year:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Torch Has Been Passed

Thomas The Tank Engine has once again found his way to our house. The bad news is that he takes up a lot of room. The good news is that I now know what to get Charlie for Christmas.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Team Day

AJ's school had team day yesterday. It is a day that consists of a lot of game playing, crafts and general hoopla. The kids love it. The theme was Rock n' Roll with a little Peace and Love thrown in. Hence all the tie dying last week.

It was so fun to see all the kids in their shirts. It was a sea of color. Every single kid's shirt was the same color as the rest of their grade. But each shirt was completely unique.

I was asked to lead an art project for the day. The organizers wanted to do symbols with the kid's hand prints surround the symbols.

1) So I painted the symbols on the canvases.

2) Then I taped the canvases off to make sure the kids didn't get any paint on the actual symbols. (This ended up being a good call. There is always that one kid. . . )

3) and the painting started

Here is the beginning:

Here is the end:

And here are the final products:

They are going to be hung in our new cafeteria.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Career Advice From a Third Grader

First Student: I want to be an artist when I grow up!
Me: That is fantastic! Do you like science? You could be a medical illustrator. Do you like buildings? You could be an interior designer. You can totally make a living being an artist. That's great that you want to do that.
Second Student (looking at me): Yeah, you might want to get a real job.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Men at Work

I know this picture is a little blurry, but it cracked me up. Both of them were so intent on their work.

And speaking of blurry, I really need to figure out how to take a decent indoor shot. If I use the flash, the picture looks horrible. If I don't, the picture is blurry. Maybe I should ask one of the three professional photographers I know. Nah.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tie Dying- In Bullet Points

  • 650 ish shirts
  • 1/2 day where the water had to be turned off
  • Almost 100 packages of dye
  • Thousands of rubber bands
  • 5 shirts dunked in the wrong color
Countless kids saying the following:
  • Is this dye going to come out of my clothes?
  • The red looks like blood!
  • That doesn't look green!
  • Can you make it say my name?
  • Can you do flames?
  • Can you make a rocket ship?
  • Can you make a dog?
And then I answered with the following:
  • No
  • I know
  • But it is.
  • No
  • No
  • No
  • No
Teaching is so rewarding.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Artistic Expression

You may have noticed in some of the pictures (including this one) that we have a bunch of white pillows on the back of our sofa. That is because the cushions on our sofa made it so uncomfortable, we took them off and got plain square pillows to replace them. I have gone and gotten about 20 samples of various fabrics in the hope of designing new pillow covers for them. So, that was what I was doing tonight. This peaked Charlie's interest.

I wish I had gotten a picture of Charlie while I was the one drawing. He stood at my side, hands folded, still as a statue, watching every move I made. Then, when I finished, I gave him a paper and pencil so he could try himself.

This was the only picture I got. Because once he realized I was taking his picture, he said "Cheese!" and did this:

Wild Suburbia

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

San Diego- Last Day

We started the day at the playground in Balboa park. It wasn't anything too special, but it did have this cool sundial that was very accurate.

It was 9:30 when we looked at this.

After, we walked over the science museum. It was a very hands-on museum so AJ loved it.

This is Shawn and AJ making electricity by pedaling.

This is Charlie in the Kid City. It is designed for kids under 5. Charlie, as usual, became very attached to balls and never let them go. He took the balls from one display and then proceeded to use them on all other displays. He had a blast.

Next we went to the Japanese Friendship Garden. It was beautiful garden, just the way you would picture a Japanese garden.

I caught AJ near the pool being contemplative. I took a picture, because he may never stand still long enough for it to ever happen again.

This is a collection of bonsai trees. I had never seen so many in one place before.

After, we moved on to the Museum of Sports. It was kind of lame. But, we did get some ice cream there, so all was not lost.

This is AJ expressing how cold he is in the 65 degree weather. I can't believe this kid was born in MN.

Here is Charlie enjoying his ice cream. I don't know what it was about this trip. Maybe it was all the walking and hands-on activities. But I have never seen the boys eat so much.

And finally we went to the aerospace museum. That was very cool. They had planes, hanging from every corner. They even had displays dedicated to Superman and Snoopy. I loved how they didn't take themselves too seriously.

This is AJ and Charlie in the cockpit of a plane. Once again, Charlie wanted no part of it until AJ gave it his blessing.

We had a fantastic trip and I can't wait to go back. There is so much to do, and we didn't do nearly all of it. But next time, we are definitely going to the beach!