Friday, November 6, 2009

I Allow My 9 Year Old Daughter to Wear Make-Up and Hang Around Bad Influences

...On Halloween that is!

Here she is on Halloween night with one of the storm troopers who entertained people in line for the "trick or truck" at our town park for their big Halloween event.

As stated in the previous entry, Christian and Mikelle took a more traditional "monster" theme this year for their costumes. Mikelle's costume was officially called "Monster Bride" but to me it just looks like a relative or side-kick to Frankenstein's monster.

Daddy put some cardboard in his hood so it took a more "monstrous" appearance.

Christian got in on the "Dark Side" action as well:

And that was one beefy Vader!

Posting these inspires me to scrapbook. Halloween layouts are my most favorite to scrapbook. I love looking at the kids through the years in their Halloween costumes. Starting with this year:



(just Mikelle! As Christian was "in the oven")

The first one looks a little Hallo-freaky, but the second one is so adorable
I can just eat up that cute little chubb a wubb wubb face!

The really scary thing? I think I already know what Mikelle and Christian's costumes are going to be next year. I guess they should have a say! lol Well, we'll see........

Friday, October 23, 2009

If the bank account is draining, it must be....OCTOBER!

Halloween, AZ State Fair, Halloween, Carnivals, and oh yes, Halloween!

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Autumn (the little "hint" of it we get around here in hell) and it's no secret that Halloween is the best holiday ever, so of course my passion for it tends to drain the bank account more than I'd like to admit (especially when I really go Halloween crazy).

But October also means the State Fair. I don't know. I have better memories of it in the past, but I feel it's really gone downhill. Not to mention that whole place is the perfect place for the news to get stock footage of "what not to wear" and the obesity epidemic in the United States. Unfortunately, a marriage to my wonderful husband also means an annual visit to the fair.

I made the most of it by entering my best Heartland student artwork from last year into the fair. I was surprised how many of those awesome pieces didn't even "place" in their category, but entering the work is also going the extra mile as a teacher and getting the work viewed. If every art teacher entered artwork, they'd need the entire coliseum to showcase it. And I will be entering my highlights of my high school students' artwork into the fair next year.
Anyway, the fair this year was also bad timing with an emotional week at the high school and PMS (hence the "My Other Car is a Broom" message above) PMS and crazy emotions just don't go well with the state fair. I mean, we went on the first day of the fair because it was $1.00 admission, so a million more people were there than normal. It was also too warm for my taste (even for October here in hell) and the fairgrounds in Phoenix are located in the most ghetto gritty scary part of town. If they would re-locate it to somewhere more nice out of town (you know, like where the Renaissance Faire is annually held) that alone would give it more appeal. And then of course everything is overpriced. So you go to a scary part of town to spend tons of money. Sounds like a drug deal! However, I think the kids enjoyed themselves:

10/16 Christian and his Daddy on the Ferris Wheel.
Christian is happy just going on Ferris Wheels. He LOVES Ferris Wheels.

Christian, Mikelle, and their friend Katie on the "Free Fall"

(Disclaimer: There is a side effect to allotting kids only 2-3 rides. The 9yo female becomes really upset and forgets all the fun she had just moments prior. Another bad side effect of the fair. But it's all good. The next morning we had a huge discussion about thankfulness and gratitude with her and even watched Veggie Tale's Madam Blueberry. And now when she says her prayers every night, she has to name TEN things she's thankful for first.)
But I digress. More from the "Free Fall"

Last year when we went to the fair, they had this TieDye thing going on and Mikelle didn't get to do it. Well, for a year she was asking if she could do it again. So this year, we let her TyeDye a T-shirt. We rinsed out the dye and washed it the next day.

Fall Festival

Why can't they just call stuff Halloween? This whole PC "Fall Festival" mumbo jumbo makes as much sense as calling Christmas Trees "Holiday" Trees. But again, I digress. Mikelle and Christian dawned their costumes tonight at the Halloween Carnival for their school (Oh, my bad, I mean "Fall Festival")! The Fall Festival was fun, but clearly, people are losing the spirit of Halloween. Every year, less and less kids come dressed up in costumes. :sigh: And course it's taboo now to wear costumes to school on Halloween. Another unfortunate casualty of this 21st Century PC world. Digressing again. Here are my Little Frankie Monster with his adorable Monster Bride sister!

And Little Frankie:

Lil' Frankie, the spider (which is SO COOL at night as the legs move!) and the unfortunate victim.
Too Pretty To Be Scary. (Now THAT is Scary....For her Dad and I!)
What was I saying about pretty? Well, you have to admit the black frosting works with the ensemble!
...Or with Pink Vampire Teeth and Cotton Candy:

So that's the Halloween fun for now! Into the bath for those two weirdos!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Month in Pictures...

September that is, despite the picture to the left.

A couple of days after Labor Day, when I started my new teaching assignment, I blew off steam one afternoon at my friend Mandy's house making out with her rat, Waffles. She has a hairless rat too which ina couple shots is sitting on my, um, "cleavage" area:

A few days earlier, my sister Rebecca came down from Idaho with her three kids. We made sure to take advantage of this by having pictures taken with all the cousins together. These 5 are the only grandchildren on my side of the family. (On Chris's side, there are 15, ranging from ages 19 to 2! Getting all those grandchildren together would be even more of a feat!)

This first one captures exactly what it's like getting a 9 year old, 5 year old, 4 year old, almost 3 year old and 7 month old magically to sit still. You can't be too picky of the results. My almost 3 yar old niece Brisa, on the left cracks me up in this shot, and the way the baby is pulling down Mikelle's shirt, it's pertinent that I should have had her wear a camisole underneath. But thank goodness his legs are covering a potential crotch shot.

And to show that the baby is not as cranky as the above pictures indicate, here he is in better form. This first picture would be even better if the stupid sunlight wasn't there. It just sucks that is was already officially fall, but that doesn't count when your upside-down mortgage is in HELL.

This one is better in better diffused light:

And here's Christian and Garon. This one will be a fun one to pull out in about 10 years.

Another good one of the baby to prove to my sister that he wasn't screaming in every single shot:

Cousins enjoying the ducks.

Shifting gears, here are some highlights of the first project I took on with my high school studetns. When I arrived, they were in the middle of a self-portrait project. THe results were amazing. There is quite the fun range of talents in these students.

Therefore, to segway from the self-portrait project, we did a more "behind the face" type of self-portrait. A visual personal narrative with some 15th century narrative examples compared to of all things, modern "Where's Waldo?" illustrations .

Technically the project isn't due until tomorrow and there are more amazing examples that I'll see from that, but here are some of the highlights thus far. On a couple, it looks messed up, but that's because I digitally blurred out their name that was included in the design. I don't think I should have to do that, but in this world of litigation and everything being legally tied to something, I had to CMA.

Blurring out the name in this piece takes so much away from it, but I still wanted to share it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Whirlwind Changes on the Art Teaching Front..........

If there was ever a time that this painting (the best masterpiece of all time!) is completely apropos of occurrences and drama in life, this would be one of those times. If you told me a couple of weeks ago, that I would be teaching high school art this year, I wouldn't have believed you.

But here I am!

I mean, I knew I would be trying to narrow my field a little and eventually only teach junior high or high school, but I fully intended to complete a third academic year at Heartland, which is K-8. However, it appeared that my 7-12 certification was a problem considering I was teaching K-8. I was up front with this issue over 2 years ago when I was hired on. At the time, they said it "didn't matter". Well, since then, art has become a "core" area. That is a good thing. Art is seen as important as math, science, language arts, etc. And it should be. Art extends into all those disciplines. We "have to" use math and language for the rest of our lives, but we GET to have art in our lives, whether we have it as a hobby or job goal or not.

Therefore, in order for the schools to get the funding they need, teachers need to be in their proper spots.

The high school art teacher at one of the district high schools had the opposite problem: her certification was K-8. Therefore, it became necessary for the district to have us swap places. Of course this could have been done in much more organized manner with both schools offering more support with the situation, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

Last weekend (Labor Day weekend), myself and the other teacher were stressed to the limits trying to get our rooms switched while dealing with the emotional components of leaving our students behind. I did come to a breaking point. I won't lie. It was just all so much with so little assistance (which is contingent on the disorganized way this "problem" was first introduced to us and how it was discovered after the school year began and not before!). It was tough because neither school was willing to bend very far making it possible for us to have access to the classrooms on the Saturday of a 3-day weekend, but we did get some wiggle room. It took some begging and unfortunately, more aggressiveness that I really felt comfortable putting forth. (to those of you laughing and going, "Yeah, right! Since when is Jill uncomfortable being aggressive? Many times. This being one of those time. I didn't like it one bit.)

On Tuesday September 8th, I began as the high school art teacher. The previous teacher's students miss her of course, just like mine miss me. It'll be challenging with them at first, but so far, I can see this being a very good situation (even though the good situation was done in the most wrong and disorganized way. Did I mention that?! Well, it won't be the last time).

Now, instead of 600 students and 9 different grades, I have 4 grades, 5 classes and same students everyday. This high school is also closer to home. But I wasn't really complaining of my commute before, but the closer commute is still a nice bonus. Still, I feel bad for the other teacher. I do hope she does well taking on the Heartland crew. I know she will. She's a wonderful teacher. I just wish I could work with her as a fellow art teacher at a high school with our classrooms near each other, instead of me taking her class and sending her down to mine at Heartland.

It was quite emotional as many of my Heartland kids made me good-bye notes and cards. One 6th grade class signed their names on a red piece of poster board. I have that hanging in my high school art room.

Here is the Heartland Newsletter sent out to many of the Heartland parents this week. It also is a good re-cap of the artwork in August from my K-8 students.


I apologize for the delay in getting the second edition of the newsletter sent out. Some or most of you might be aware of some changes that have been made in terms of the Heartland art department. Due to some certification requirements, it became necessary for me and the art teacher at one of our high schools to switch places. This had nothing to do with the abilities of myself and the other instructor in being able to inspire, teach and educate in the arts. It was simply state-requirements on our certifications, and it’s important that everyone is teaching in the right place as per our state teaching certification.

Unfortunately, that means I am no longer at Heartland. My final day at Heartland Ranch was Friday, September 4th. This whirlwind switch was also a difficult and emotional one, as I’ve gotten to know and love these Heartland students over the last two academic years. I’ve watched them grow from young kindergartners and first graders to more confident second and third graders. I’ve watched second, third and fourth graders enter into middle school “zones” or close to it. They have grown up so much and I am grateful for the time I was able to be a part of that. I’ve watched junior high students improve their self-confidence and prepare for high school in hopes that many of them continue to take advantage of art programs.

Fortunately, the Heartland School of Art has been left in wonderful, creative and capable hands. Ms. Shari Barry began as the art teacher on September 8th the day after Labor Day. She has a full spectrum of art experience as she was the K-8 art teacher at Mountain Vista, and then high school art at San Tan Foothills High School. I am certain plenty of creative masterpieces will continue to emerge from the Heartland School of Art!

However, before the switch was made, we accomplished quite a bit at the Heartland School of Art in the first busy month of August!



1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders began the year with a drawing lesson. One of the animals as part of our important Character Counts credo is Ansvar the Elephant. We learned about the pillar of Responsibility and why the elephant is its symbol and why green is the color of responsibility.

The students were challenged as we combined simple shapes and plenty of use of erasers to put together our own pachyderm of responsibility. Then, they would add color and embellishment around it. Depending on the grade level, students were to practice their writing and label it with responsibility or write a short description of what it means to be responsible.

1st thru 4th graders also explored combining shapes in a collage form by taking circles or even a variety of other shapes to create a new composition that could only emerge from their imaginations.


Even though Dr. Seuss’s birthday isn’t until March, Mrs. H wanted to introduce him as the person, Ted “Seuss” Geisel, who was inspired by his mother’s reading of poetry and singing chants to him as a child. His mother’s influence later led to his innovative poems, stories and characters (that we affectionately call “Seussels”) that changed our enjoyment for reading forever. Students from grades 1-4 had the opportunity to create their own “Seussel” character, and even contribute one to a classroom book of “Seussels”.


The Heartland kindergartners began the year at the Heartland School of Art getting to know simple procedures that involves taking care of supplies ad following directions. They learned this while completing their own gum ball machine of various colors as Ms. H helped them see which gumballs were labeled which colors. The following week, they were read a book called Where the Wild the Things Are and how the boy Max in the story used his imagination. The kinder kiddos then used their imagination to create their own Wild Things with two sets of googly eyes that were pre-glued on the colored construction paper.

The kinder kiddoes were also given a packet of animals that they were able to complete however they wanted. They could make their lions happy or sad, their zebras with thick lines or thin lines, or their elephant drinking water or splashing with its trunk. The kindergartners were then able to work with both Ms. H and their new art teacher Ms. Barry to use a simple circle and then use their imagination to decide what it was going to become. The simple circle became a lot of things such as bicycles, asteroids, flowers, and suns! Our kindergartners certainly have gotten a jump start on using their imagination at Heartland!



The Middle School students began the year getting to know art history and figuring out if they could guess which art pieces were more recent and which ones were truly of ancient history. They then got to know three French Impressionist artists (Monet, Renoir and Seurat) and formed groups determining the differences in their painting style. The objective of this activity was to accomplish much more than a simple introduction to a style in art history. It was also symbolic of looking at things in a different way, and finding symbols in the artwork. This was an excellent activity for the beginning of the year, because it is difficult sometimes to “find your own style” and appreciate the differences in each other.

From late 19th century Impressionism, we moved on to modern artist Keith Haring and his vibrant use of colors and symbols that he completed in the 1980s. We discussed symbols and what certain symbols meant to Keith Haring. Grades 5-8’s first art-making project was to create their own symbolic piece of artwork with a brief explanation of its meaning. A wide-arrange of styles and symbolic artwork emerged from this project.

Tidbits from the Heartland Gallery:

Some Haring-Inspired Symbols

Elephants of Responsibility

Those Silly Suessels!!!

A page from a fourth grade class's book of Silly Seussels:

And now, pieces of my Heartland art room that I left behind. A lot of stuff came with me, because it was my own stuff. However, a lot of stuff I made for the room and student artwork remained. After all, it is their art room.

Closest thing you'll find to an aquarium here in the desert:

And even though I am liking my new post at the high school, I struggle with the memories I had at Heartland and the kiddos and friends I left behind. It's very bittersweet but the Man Upstairs clearly knows what he's doing. I would have been too stubborn to make this move on my own. But already, it is so much better for me. Still, this whole process is lot like the song "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. Just listen to it and look at the Scream image on the top of this entry and that's what this lovely process has been like, even if in the end it appears to be the right move. (Sabotage is #67 if you want the whole surround sound effects of this posting.)