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.