Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walls and Grounds for Power Naps and Shortened Assessments...

Wow...so much was going on this week! The house's construction progress has been awesome. The beginning of the week there were no walls in the top level (outer walls) and by today, the entire top level outer walls, including the garage, is up! 
View of Laundry Room and door going into Garage March 22, 2015
Front Door 3/22/15
Garage  3/22/15
View of house, looking south from the street.  3/22/15
Family room looking into kitchen... 3/22/15
View looking north/northeast from a Master Bedroom window 3/22/15
Mom and X-man from Garage Window.... 3/22/15
Mom and X-man from Garage Window.... 3/22/15
X-man in family room walking toward front door... 3/22/15
X-man in Family Room 3/22/15
This may feel like I'm going back in time (and progress), but earlier this week was so much cooler and cloudy, so I liked the lighting and clouds in those house pictures:
Garage floor slab and kitchen/laundry room wall 3/29/15
View of house, looking south from the street....slabs of front turrets  3/19/15

Meanwhile, yesterday was a Girls Camp fundraiser car wash and Christian's birthday party at the park happening at the same time. Then following the party was the Pinewood Derby 30 miles away. Whew! No wonder Chris and I crashed and had an epic power nap following all that.   
Mmmmmm.....power naps.... Although, power naps are supposed to be short naps. Well, that wasn't the case! But the nap was powerful. It was one of those naps that when I awoke, I was a little confused and I didn't know it was morning or night!
Christian and his Herobrine Pinewood Derby Car....March 21, 2015
 
Wait, where was I? Oh yes. I am also finishing up my 3-credit SEI requirement. There's a reason that's a big deal. I was supposed to do it back when I was teaching before (2007-2011), but then when I resigned after having Alexander, I knew I technically didn't have to do it as soon because my teaching certification didn't expire until April 2015. Back then April 2015 seemed so far off.                                                                              Well, it's March 2015! So last month, I signed up for the course and I've been going going going trying to finish it.  I'll turn in the last assignment (which is a big write-up and analysis) later tonight!  Besides the valuable tools and training in this requirement, there is another reason this is a big deal. I don't know when it started exactly, but for years, I've been having reoccurring dreams that surround around a theme of "just almost" finishing something, but it doesn't get finished due to one last class or even one last project/assignment. And in these multiple scenarios, I keep falling short of obtaining that last class or requirement. 

Some of these dream scenarios have been as followed:

-I'm in high school, and all I need to graduate is a tough science related class. I fail the class over and over again. Then I sign up for it again, and keep missing class. Or I'm in class, but I need a huge assignment to finish, and I don't have it. Hence, I don't graduate due to that one class. 

- I have everything I need to graduate with my Masters in Fine Arts (Masters? Oh, I wish...) The only thing left is some sort of Studio Art Class. I keep screwing it up. In one scenario, I never show up for this class. In another, I think I have completed what I need in that Studio Art Class, but two days before the last day, I realize I never did the final project and it takes over a week to complete. Therefore, I still don't get that class and I don't graduate.

- I'm the teacher for a college class. It's not art or geography related. It looks to be some really boring data entry with schematic class. I don't know. But in the dream, I don't show up. I even try to change locations of the class and I still don't show up. 

As I said, there are multiple scenarios and more than those three. But they all seem to revolve around those three themes in different variations. I really hope the closure that comes from finishing this SEI requirement is a big part of putting those highly anxious dreams to an end. 

But I know I'm not out of the woods yet. 

I have approximately 9 more credit-hours after this SEI requirement in order to renew my certification.  Thankfully, I have a year after the expiration to renew. But if I'm offered the middle school art position in which I'm interviewing for tomorrow, I need to have those 9 credit hours all finished before the end of July. 

But finishing the SEI requirement is a huge pebble in my shoe that I am so relieved to finally shake out!

Anyway, the pictures I did not upload yet are from Christian's birthday party yesterday. I hope to update with those in the next entry. But let me end this post on a true story that happened while I was subsituting at the middle school on Friday. It is from the "you can't make this stuff up" and "crap that only seems to happen to me" files.

It's a 6th grade class and I already have the forces of nature against me because it's a Friday, a half-day, and I'm a sub. But the class was actually pretty good considering those factors. I was writing Digestive Assessment on the whiteboard. Just as I'm writing it, the desk phone rings, so I stop in the middle of writing it to grab phone. After I take care of the phone call, I take a brief second to remember what I was doing. It's a good thing the room of 12 year-olds were in "Friday mode" and not paying attention to what I was writing (except for a couple who were pointing and giggling) because I had stopped writing at Digestive Ass. 
 Seriously.  

Despite losing my already "just a sub on a Friday half-day" credibility with such an error, I didn't want to lose more of it. Therefore, without missing a beat, I said, "Yep, there's your entertainment for today," and I finished the word and we got on with class. 

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Good Luck Charm

11 years ago today, St. Patrick's Day took on a whole new meaning as this good luck charm entered our lives. Happy Birthday Christian! 

This is actually the first birthday Christian got to spend at school. Every other year it usually fell during Spring Break or the weekend before or after Spring Break. He says he didn't like me yelling "Happy Birthday!" as I dropped him off at school, but I saw the smile. ;-)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Springing Forward...


Happy Birthday Liz!
Spring Break and over and Thing 1 and Thing 2 were just so excited (:sarcasm:) to head out the door early this morning for the final leg of the school year! Maybe we didn't do anything all that exciting over Spring Break, but I hope someday they see this house-building progress as the most exciting adventure of 2015. I know I do! (pictures down further of progress....) Maybe they won't realize the true elation of it until they have a family and trying to buy and/or build a house of their own, but they'll eventually understand.
Plus, we'll be heading to Oregon in June for a family reunion (and for me to have a reunion with my dream location...especially for summertime! Yay!).   
 

Well, to kick off Spring Break, the kids did get to go to the Phoenix Zoo with Dad and some friends. I stayed behind to take advantage of the quiet to finish more assignments for my class...plus, it was already in the 80s and sunny. It was too yucky for the zoo and March as far as I'm concerned. 

The kids had a good time, as shown by these pictures. 


The wine glass is staged, by the way...
Over the weekend it was a mini-trip to Gilbert to celebrate our friend Liz's 50th Birthday and stay overnight.  






Birthday gift for Liz...celebrating her 50 years of education, travel, family and life!




And as promised, here are the house building pictures....! The foundation for the two turret features on the main/top level have been poured and the outline for our garage. Alexander is the perfect adorable human prop for the windows on the bottom/walk-out level.

So cute...I can see re-creating this picture later with him bigger and part of the completed house...


Garage
Yeah, the factory isn't the best background view, but this is a good shot of what will be two turrets and the garage...
View of back.dirt ramp is leading up to the garage area...
The turret that will be off the kitchen...it'll be Zoey's bird area!
Alexander and the turret for the master bedroom....

Well, back to the fun!





Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ants Quarrelling with Boots

It has been a very emotional week. There are many reasons for it, but due to the fact that this is a personal blog, I'll stick to one piece of it. 

It has to do with my decision to return to the classroom. I have begun subbing recently, and I have applied for one of the openings for teaching art at one of the district schools. I've already been contacted for an interview that I will attend later this month.

To say I am conflicted is a gross understatement. Do I love teaching? Yes. Do I feel like I can make a difference? Of course. Do I bite off more than I can chew? To answer in the affirmative is another mammoth understatement. Do I feel defeated? Yes. Do I feel like a tiny ant in a broken educational system that wears a huge boot? Hell, Yes. 

One of the quotes by Loki in the Thor and Avengers enterprise is "An ant has no quarrel with the boot."

Well, for that particular ant that is squashed by the boot, that is true. 

But there are more ants. I guess in the past I feel I've been squashed. But for some reason I'm still an ant that is moving.

There are plenty of my own demons that come into play with what the boot represents. I will address those after I address the specific legislation that occurred last night, which a huge part of the proverbial boot.

Loki
(Disclaimer) Sure, this next part qualifies as a political soapbox and it can be written off and dismissed as just that. And yes, some of my own political opinions will come into play with my remarks. 

But one thing is a fact no matter what anyone says. Arizona's educational system is broken. We are 49th in a nation of 50 states in Education. 

Our schools are suffering. Our students are suffering. Teacher morale is under that colossal boot. 

Last November we elected Governor Ducey, who I lovingly refer to as Governor Douchey.  I don't refer to him with that negative play on his name using the same motivation as an immature kid who makes fun of someone's name. Nope. I say it proudly as a teacher and parent who is sickened by this display of ongoing political excrement in Arizona that continues to keep education in the toilet. It is unacceptable. 

The morning after Douchey was elected, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew Arizona's education was in even more trouble than before.  The ant was sitting on their rock unaware of the next boot looming and moving closer.

And legislation was voted on last night that sadly made that feeling all too true.

As I just mentioned, being at 49 out of 50, Arizona's educational system was always circling the drain. Now a huge legislative boot that might as well have said "f**k you!" just voted to flush Arizona's education down the toilet.   

Last night (in the middle of the night, mind you, where there wouldn't be members of the public present to witness the events...how convenient) Arizona's elected officials who are supposed to represent the people voted on legislation that cuts even more funding from our schools. 

Governor Douchey pulled this off in the Dark, both literally and figuratively.

To put it in perspective what their votes have done, let's look at it this way (Plus, one analogy in order to make my point never seems to be enough):

That guy looks like Craig Ferguson! lol
You're crawling through the desert in search of water. You're dehydrated. You're in serious trouble. Finally, you come across a water bottle in the dirt that has a few sips of water in it. You need so much more. Your body requires so much more for survival. But thankfully, there is some water in there, albeit that minute amount. It is something. Just as you're bringing that little amount to your lips, some of it spills. It falls on the ground and instantly evaporates into the hot air. 

You were already in desperate need of water. You came upon a small amount. But even some of that was robbed from your lips.  The little bit you were able to drink barely did anything to impact the thirst that is killing you and shutting your body down.

That's exactly what our elected officials have done to Arizona's education. We are already dangerously dehydrated. They robbed us of some of the little water that was there before. 

Some will use the excuse - hey, if the money isn't there, it isn't there! 

Bull. Our kids' education was robbed to fund specific pet projects. 

And this isn't a partisan Democrat/Republican thing. Sure, I lean more on the Democrat side, but education is bi-partisan. And I'm speaking for education, not for a particular political party. And the votes to screw over education were not divided down party lines. 

For example, Senator Begay, a Democrat, provided the "crucial vote" in the senate needed to pass the budget last night. This deal got him $1.2 million dollars for a transportation project on the Navajo Nation. However, Senator Jeff Dial is a Republican and he did not turn his back on education.

Anyway, I can go on and on with more details of how last night's legislation showed our children again that they and their future doesn't matter, but I said I'd get into more of what the "boot" represents, besides the ignorance and greed at the State Capitol.

One thing that happened last time I was in teaching, was I found I had so many hopes and dreams and desires to inspire and bring art into lives and learning of the children in my classroom. I saw how art reached some students. I saw how I could teach an art history lesson in such a way that they learned about history in general where they otherwise would have found it boring. I wouldn't just teach Art history. I would incorporate general historical contexts into it and geography. I loved when I saw the light in their eyes.  I wanted to do more of that.  

That's all good, right? 

Well, yes. But that's the "ant" part.


Then there was the boot. I also soon found I was just one person. One little ant. I've mentioned before that I keep running into "myself" and my own mortality. I think I am some wizard and then I find I am only a muggle and smash into the 9 3/4 platform wall. 

This happened repeatedly in my four years of teaching. 

I grew frustrated at my own limitations. I grew frustrated at the budget limitations. I grew frustrated as a horrible attitude that existed by others that Art "didn't count" as a legitimate subject of learning and a wonderful way for students to not just be inspired, but to be educated as result of that inspiration, unfortunately emerged and became way too apparent. 

There are countless times when I saw this horrible attitude displayed. One in particular comes to mind more vividly than others. Once, when a high school student was failing my class (because he never showed up), the parent complained about his failing grade to a colleague who was an English teacher at the same school. The parent bitched, "How could he fail art? That's like failing lunch!" 

Yeah, that particular teacher cringed and said he briefly considered not telling me about the remark, due to what my reaction would be. As he did in fact tell me, he echoed my frustration and expected my reaction of disgust. 

This is just one example of how the ignorance runs prevalent and so many fail to see how art can awake students' desire for learning. And it's not just parents. In 2008, when the district I worked for formed a committee to figure out how to creatively cut money from an already broken and hemorrhaging budget, a few unsavory opinions from other teachers (via a district survey) included, "get rid of art and music. It's a waste of time of money."  Thankfully, at the time, those opinions were ignored.

Those that share such ignorance are unaware (and most likely apathetic) that it is because of an art lesson that some students who couldn't even find France on a map (or didn't know previously that France was a country in the continent of Europe...or that Europe was even a continent) were able to do so after learning about Picasso and why he left Spain to move to Paris. Picasso moved to Paris because at the time (early 20th century), it was the center of the art world. I asked the students where they would move to if they wanted to be a Broadway actor. New York City. I asked them where they would go if they wanted to break into acting for movies or television. Los Angeles. I asked the students where the majority of astronauts live. Houston, Texas. 

It was difficult for them after that to forget who Picasso was and why he moved to Paris. They were able to relate to him and learn some history and geography in the process. Oh, and that's right...they also learned Art in the process!

The artwork of Picasso we were studying at the time was his 1921 work The Three Musicians.
Picasso's Three Musicians 1921
How could American students in a small town in the 21st Century possibly care about some piece of art from a century ago in another country thousands of miles away? 


Because after we covered what collage was and the inspiration behind Picasso's Three Musicians, these students were able to create their own collage with at least three musicians. Students were then able to put themselves into their own collage with musicians.  I saw rock n' roll musicians, mariachi musicians, hip hop musicians, even Kokopelli musicians as a result of this project. Below are just two of the Three Musicians college project that emergfed from the students. 

These are from two 7th graders. I have countless other examples. These are just a couple of them.
Musicians college with ASU flair! (7th Grade Student)
Musicians Collage - (7th Grade Student)
Never mind that some students who hate math and don't even want to try anymore, were inspired to get out a ruler and make some specific measurements because they were inspired by a class project based on the works by M.C. Escher. Never mind that so many of these art masters (like Escher) struggled in school and some of them dropped out. This is something these students can relate to! I wasn't advocating that some of these artists dropped out, but it wasn't hidden from our discussions.  These artists were real people, just like them!
It amazes me that other teachers who should know better (and were obviously given a degree in education from somewhere) and allegedly learned about how we all learn differently could just dismiss art and music just like that.  (see pie chart below)

Sure, I don't like football, but I know it is because of football and other sports that many kids work to keep their grades up in all subjects so they can be eligible to keep playing! Playing the sport and doing what they loved is what provided the push to study for things they otherwise wouldn't care about. It gave them a reason to try. 

Sure, it bugs the hell out of me that sports programs seem to always get their funding while art and music are left crawling in the desert for just a few sips of water. But I know the value of these sports programs. It would certainly be nice for art and music to receive the same consideration. 
We learn differently through different intelligences...Some stronger than others...click for more information...

What I'm trying to say is aside from the uphill battle that the tiny ants are facing up against the big boot at the State Capitol, the boot also contains ignorance and a lack of support from the public (voters, parents, some other teachers and colleagues, etc..)  Combine that with my repeated attempts to wave a magic wand and fix everything in the name of art and inspiration, and no wonder there are tears and feelings of hopelessness. No wonder as I possibly head back into the classroom in the art capacity, I have feelings of dread and fear.

But just looking at the two projects above from some students reminds me of so much that is out there within these students. Arizona has failed them, but I cannot. But can I do it AND remember that I'm a muggle? Can I do it despite the ignorance from those that do not know or acknowledge how imperative the arts are in our classroom?  Can I quarrel with the boot without being squashed?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Showers Bring Desert Flowers


I'm in a bit of a fog today (no pun intended with the first posted picture) as I attempt to write a quick post. 

However, despite whatever achy, scratchy, and phlegmy crud I have, it's been refreshing to usher in March with the beautiful rain and clouds again. Needing a jacket the last couple of days has been nice. It's not so much that we "needed" a jacket. It's just nice to have a bit of a nip in the air and not have to shed layers so quickly. And the desert with the clouds and rain is so beautiful. 

I wish I had taken a lot of pictures out this way. I didn't, so I stole this one that was posted from the Superstitions. It definitely makes the point. It saddens me that some see this as "gloomy". In my opinion this trumps any old boring sunset picture on any given day! Such weather and views is one of the most enduring things about having to live through the disgusting summer months! The last few days are a breathtaking reminder about one of the few things I do love about living here. Yes, there are a few things.  

Seeing that picture also makes me want to head to Lost Dutchman State Park for a hike. It's one of my favorite local hikes. Of course now, it's more of a drive than it used to be. However, if it could be timed well with the clouds and cooler temperatures, it is certainly be something I want to do. Now with it being March, time is limited. Therefore, if the opportunity doesn't come this year, there's always next year. 
Anyway, this past Monday morning I was surprised by a sale of one of my original pieces! Sure, I do custom commission originals all the time, but I think this is the first of an original of one of my other designs that has sold in a couple of years! 

I quickly sent it off to its new home in Minnesota. Of course the print of this design along with this design for iPhones and other mobile devices are always available. 

One of the mobile devices with the Ice Cream design!
This reminds me. I need to focus and sit down to modify some of my other existing designs for Dynomighty wallets and update the mobile devices that the artwork is made available for. I also have an idea for two more music tributes that would make a fun design.  

That also reminds me of finishing up some art for a friend's birthday in less than 2 weeks. Between that and substitute teaching and finishing a huge online class for a requirement on my certification that I've put off way too long (and I think has been the reason for some reoccurring disturbing dreams I've had for years...more on that in an upcoming entry), it's time to end this post and get to work. 

That is, after more Ibuprofen kicks in. 

Until next time.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

I Defy You, Zazzy Stars!

Just a quick Friday blog post to share one of Mikelle's laughter moments. She was having a bad evening last night. It was one of those teenager things where she was upset and didn't know why. After she was picked up from Creative Writing after school, she wasn't pleased that we camped out at the land/home site with our contractor and discussed soil and concrete for awhile (but cool picture below of X-man on the stairs!) 

She also didn't want to go to Diary Queen afterwards, but we dragged her there anyway. By the time we got home, the cranky and sadness had mutated profusely. Mom and Dad were starting to suffer from its effects.

But two things snapped her out of it. She was talking about reading  Romeo and Juliet in her English/Language Arts class and making fun of the odd 90s-modern portrayal of Romeo and Juliet. They didn't see that movie in class. Apparently, there are pictures from the movie in their book. And there is some audio from the movie their teacher has shared. I think the best part of her story was how she would share about how her teacher would be making fun of it. She was also very passionate in her feelings of how Mercutio was portrayed and she would go on about how Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't cute at all and he was one ugly crier with his painful lamenting. 
 
Plus, what is the deal with that shirt? I want it. I don't know why. It's just so odd and weird...I want it. Not necessarily to wear in public, but it's just intriguing to me enough to want to see it in my closet. Kind of like on Friends when Rachel wanted the weird shell lamp. 
And the other thing that brought the laughter out in her last night was this Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon starts hoarding cats. This was a few years back, but the re-run is on our DVR. That episode is now locked (protected) and she kept rewinding this part and watching it over and over again. 

And as mentioned above, here is our X-man hanging out on the stairs that were framed this week. I cannot contain my excitement. Even a few things that have gone wrong don't bother me. They're nothing compared to the excitement of this project coming along.

For example, there is supposed to be a built in desk/shelf on the bottom/walk-out level, but the way the stairs were framed (long story and I'm not going to show a picture because it just looks like wood frames....and therefore....zzzzzzz), that desk cannot be built in the way the plans were made. But you know what? I don't care! Well, I care a little bit. But not enough to become all nutty about it. Yes, I want a built in and it'll be there. It just has to be done differently and maybe it'll stick out more. I don't know. I'm just so excited for this house.
Last detail: This was taken about an hour after Alexander got up on a table at McDonalds (it was a Teacher Fundraiser event going on there for Christian's school) and took off his pants. So yes, the crowded Wickenburg McDonalds. A tour bus full of elderly folks had just arrived too. Yeah, great timing with the school event, huh?

So there we were. Multiple teachers, parents I knew, and kids (peers of Christian) and Alexander took off his pants.  I usually wouldn't go to that crowded McDonalds (plus, it has no play area! What's that about?!), but in the 7 months we've been here, we haven't attended a fundraiser event, so I knew it was important.

Until next time.