Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Holidays, "Deer" Friends!

(Left - Alexander and his pre-school group doing the 'Reindeer Pokey'. Link to the video further down below...)

's been over a month since I updated. If there is a theme for the last 5-6 weeks or so, it would certainly be BUSY. Thankfully, tomorrow kicks off the final work week before Christmas Break. Last week was especially crazy, but I'm thinking it'll settle down more this week. 

The crazy "deer" theme in our lives has continued. When I was taking Mikelle to seminary early on the Friday morning of November 20th, there was a deer on the sidewalk that lost a battle with a vehicle. It was lying right at the turn from the main drag to go into the church parking lot. 

An hour later as I was headed to work (with the boys in on Fridays, Alexander is with me until about 8am when I drop him off at the sitter), I figured paying my respects to the poor deer was a great way to usher in the weekend. Hey, it's stress relief! If there's no humor in our lives, then what's the point?  The deer didn't mind. He was already in a better place. Plus, there's been a lot of stress. Part of it comes with the time of year. Part of it comes with the job. And the rest of it comes with life in general and curve balls that come with it.  Also, I'm still struggling with our big move to Wickenburg 17 months ago. You'd think with the new house, settling in the last five months, and also being back in the classroom, some of the adjustments would have been easier by now. Sadly, that hasn't been the case. I know as time goes on, it'll get easier. I just wish we had more family around. I also wish we could see more of the little family that we do have around. Yes, there's loneliness there. 

Anyway, to continue the deer fun, here is Alexander doing the Reindeer Pokey at his school's Christmas program on December 3rd. There is no need to point out which one of those adorable little reindeer is him. It's not too difficult to figure out. 

And this past Friday (December 11th) at the district Christmas party, I sported Chris's deer antlers from Halloween. I wish I had time to make a little balloon or hang little ornaments, but it was rush rush rush that day. I'm just glad I made it to the party within ten minutes of when it began, as I teach a Young Rembrandts drawing class at the elementary school every Friday around lunchtime. However, I did make it to the party and I won a cozy red blanket in a raffle! 

Of course, every November I insist we keep up our tradition of family photos. It goes along with our wedding anniversary (21 years now! Wow!) and works to have the pictures for Christmas cards.  This year was no exception. To help a little with the stress, I found a local photographer and had the pictures taken outside at the house. Of course that didn't eliminate all the issues that could arise (I can do a separate entry alone on what it's like getting our three kids to cooperate for pictures), but it helped.  When it all was said and done, here is the shot used for our Christmas cards. You almost can't tell that two of our three precious children complained about having to take another family picture. You'd think they were in the Witness Protection Program or something!

I want to devote a separate entry for the amazing artwork my students have done in the last month! I know I won't skip out on that. Their masterpieces are so important to me. I take way too many pictures, so that creates more work for me to arrange them all. However, another entry is coming in just a couple days. I promise! In the meantime, here is the door of the art room! Kudos to the many students who helped with the door whether they were the tutu makers, snowflake cutters, ribbon cutters, shoemakers, letter cutter-out-ers.... And somewhere in there we managed to finish fleur de lis ornaments and begin learning about Picasso and Cubism!

Next entry very soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TARDIS and Instant Sub Plans Needed, Please

As luck would have it, on the first beautiful chilly Fall day mixtures of the silvery beauty of dark and light gray puffy clouds, I start to come down with the same achiness, raging headache and throat problems that have been commonplace every couple of months in the last year or so. 

Thankfully my preferred substitute teacher was available for tomorrow. What's funny is a colleague mentioned that I looked pale, even though I am always pale anyway. But he said he could tell the difference between my normal pale and sick pale. Maybe I lost my usual fake-vampire (Twilight) glitter and had just a regular vampire countenance. 

However, any teacher will tell you that a lot of work goes into preparing for a substitute. Sometimes it's just easier to suffer through and come to work. And in my case, even more work goes into preparing for a sub because of my ridiculous neurotic compulsive nature. Oh yes, it's a party! 

I considered coming to work tomorrow and just suffering through it, but last time I tried that, my throat closed up and I couldn't even speak by about 11am. And because my preferred sub was available, the choice was to stay home.
Turns out I was sicker than I thought, because after coming home and crawling into bed with my blankie and favorite gray hoodie, I fell asleep knowing I had to leave soon to head back to pick up Thing 1 and Thing 2 from school. In healthy circumstances, I can never take a short nap with something like that to worry about (no matter how tired I am...I told you, neurotic...). But not this time! Luckily, I did wake up in time, but it was like some kind of sick staggering hangover to head back and pick them up.
While feeling miserable but enjoying the blankie and clouds out of the window (and before passing out), I was surprised to see a sale of my Dr. Who Tribute piece from a buyer in the UK! Of course that means I have to drive down to civilization in a few days to have it printed, but I don't mind that problem due to the fact it is a result of a sale. I have a bunch of things I've been meaning to get printed, so this is just the thing to make it happen. 

Though ever since moving up here and seeing the crazy high mileage on our car, more and more I wish for a Tardis for instantaneous lateral transportation only (temporal transportation would be too complicated).
Speaking of art though, here is a custom wedding artwork completed last month for a colleague's destination wedding in New Orleans over Fall Break. Some details have been blurred for privacy.
And another requested artwork headed to Canada for Karla who is one of my most loyal customers ever! This one is about the things that make us happy.
On that note, time for more Ibuprofen and sleep.

Until next time.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Hallows Eve 2015

Another year of pumpkin designs, overpaying on costumes and spooky decor that I don't need (because it's a sickness) and all the other Halloween fun has come to an end. Part of me is relieved, but part of me mourns the end of another Halloween. October is so much fun and it means the cooler weather is just beginning. 

Don't get me wrong - I love November. I'm just not ready for the throws of Holiday stress. Not yet.

As for Halloween, it is fun to finally be teaching at a school that allows staff and students to dress up on Halloween! I wore my Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup costume from last year. To go along with it, the students received a little art history and Pop Art lesson. In Middle School, a lot of students usually don't dress up. Still, a lot more kids were dressed up than I would have expected. It was a lot of fun.

It was also the last day of Spirit Week, so I dressed up other days too. The one that sort of ended up on camera was "Pink Day" two days earlier:
What does a teacher have to do to be taken seriously around here? Geez!
I do wish I remembered to get some new neon pink shoelaces. Those laces are old and way too short. 

As for tonight at our Trunk or Treat, I wore an old black and white stripe inmate costume from five years ago when I was very pregnant with Alexander. I wasn't about to wear this year's costume to work yesterday or tonight at our Trunk or Treat.  Oh, Chris wore his deer costume tonight, but I wasn't going to wear the counterpart costume. That was a one-time deal last weekend out in Queen Creek at an annual Halloween party. I wasn't too pleased with the pictures, so I decided playing with the "diffuse glow" setting was the only way to make the picture view worthy.  Hey, at least I'm posting the picture at.all.

Deer in Headlights
I think it also works in pink.

As I said, Chris wore the deer costume again tonight (below). The interesting irony behind our costume theme is we've had brushes with deer on our street and the connecting highway in the last few weeks. However, our costume theme was decided on way before that!  As the deer incidents continued, the costume made even more sense.
Our neighborhood is part of an area where deer cross and come through this time of year. Chris technically hit a deer a few weeks ago (he's okay, broken front light, and deer most likely limped away), and about two weeks ago there were four just standing in the street (two of them were babies) only about an acre away from our house. I wish they hadn't taken off before I could get a picture. It was quite a sight coming up on that in the dark. 

As for the kids, Alexander had his heart set on Iron Man for months. I wish he would have selected The Hulk. I tried to steer him in that direction, but no dice. Oh, I love Iron Man more than the Hulk, but costume-wise, the green skin, messed up hair and torn clothes would have been more fun. Still, Alexander was adorable in his Iron Man costume and his Tony Stark goatee underneath. And one of my, um, lights from my costume last weekend provided a wonderful addition to X-man's costume tonight.

Christian was Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I wasn't sure that over-sized radiation suit was going to work, but Chris made it happen. By the time we got to Christian's costume and he was struggling with tactile and sensory issues as a result of the wig, I didn't think the costume would work out at all. But Chris picked up where my Halloween energy left off. 

Mikelle's Martin McFly/Marty McFly Back to the Future I and II costume goes along with Christian's, but she was celebrating with friends tonight. I wonder how I can manage to get a picture. I have some ideas. 

As for pumpkins, I forgot to take a picture of the latest one before I shipped it out. The costomer knew she wouldn't receive it in time for Halloween (due to when she ordered it), but I rushed to at least get it shipped out by yesterday.  

However, three others in the last couple of weeks were photographed. The orange one was a special request from a friend and return costumer. I don't officially offer orange as an option because those craft-pumpkins (below with purple bottle and eyeballs) are more challenging to decorate with the ink because it's a darker orange and the pen doesn't go down as smooth. Still, she asked for a fun Disney villains theme with it and I was pleased with the results. 

In the picture with the orange pumpkin, the large pumpkin in the back is one I made for myself last year that contains a theme of favorite dark music lyrics fit for Halloween.  I found it had enough uniqueness to use as a prop in the picture with the two others. 

She also had me do a Nightmare Before Christmas one for her daughter with the small white pumpkin (pictured below the orange one).  

There are two other pieces of art that I did complete this month, but I'll save those for the next entry. They weren't Halloween-specific and so far this entry remained rather consistent with the whole Halloween/Dress-up theme.

 Goodbye October. Hello November. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not Cool, October...Not Cool...

Fall Break is almost over. :Sigh: It's gone by too fast. I've accomplished quite a bit (including a root canal...yayness! But Fall Break is the time to make such needed appointments...), but wished time could have dragged just a little slower. And not just with Fall Break, but with October in general.  And it feels like October is wasting valuable "Autumn Time" around here with the warm weather lingering.

Anyway, this is just a quick post with a picture sent to me by my friend Kristina who gifted the latest pumpkin to her niece, Molly, who received it today. 

Judging from her Facebook post (below), it appears Molly was delighted. 

And I have one more pumpkin order. I'm excited about this one as well. My friend who ordered it knew she wanted a particular theme, but couldn't quite narrow it down. We came up with one that I cannot wait to get started! It has to wait until this weekend. Why? I have two big non-Halloween projects coming to a close right now. One will be done by tomorrow night. The other will be finished this weekend.

As for the first annual Henrichsen Habitat's (aka "The Lazy H Ranch") Halloween decorations, it's been a little frustrating because some needed items are still packed and in boxes. That meant some imperative height and visual interest with these decorations wasn't accomplished with candle pillars that were still packed somewhere. BUT...I went to Goodwill today to find something Halloween-costume related and was able to grab 3 different candle pillars for less than $5. Therefore, these arrangements now look better (than they do in the pictures below that are shown without the stands and pillars) as those cheap and quick pillars sure help to break up the monotony. I will spray paint them black. But they don't look too bad as it is right now. 

And tonight, we put up a shelf over the piano. 

Things are coming along! 

Pre-pillar Height added to decore...
Pre-pillar Height added to decore...
Pre-pillar Height added to decore...
And yes, the Fall Break pedicure. Let's not forget that.

 Now let's think cool, breezy and Fall-like thoughts! 

Until next time....

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A World Where There Are Octobers...

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

October began with tears and heaviness. I know....that's a bummer way to start an entry. But it is what it is. 

In the last two years, I've been to three funerals. All of them were for males 30 and younger. Yesterday I attended one for a seventeen year old boy in our ward (congregation). 

Tardis casket for our cousin Kreg
And yesterday morning, Chris and Christian attended the burial of his young 30 year old cousin out in Mesa (right). The only reason I didn't attend the burial was due to the time conflict with the other funeral; although Chris and Christian did make it back just in time, but it was close. 

However, an hour before our local funeral, Mikelle had to be there to practice for the musical number, so I wasn't going to be able to attend the burial out in Mesa and get Mikelle to the early practice in time. 

Brandon just a couple of weeks ago...

This local young man we knew who tragically lost his life was one of those amazing teenagers that aren't celebrated very much. Instead, we hear about how much of a pain teenagers can be. Teenagers in general are often looped together into unfortunate stereotypes of selfishness and inconsideration. And don't get me wrong - there is a reason the stereotype exists despite the wonderful teenagers out there.

Nevertheless, if there was a poster child of the one of the amazing teenagers, it would be Brandon

This photo (above) is from last month at a youth activity at Lake Pleasant. I'm also including pictures of Mikelle having fun at that activity, because joy is all that can be received from viewing these pictures. And joy is the only thing that should be received from looking upon them.
Mikelle on the left with her friend LeAnna
Mikelle with her friend Kylie
This one is priceless. Mikelle is in the middle.
Arriving at seminary Monday morning, the 5th of October, was met with the tragic announcement from our bishop about the loss of Brandon the night before. I was numb at first and then I quickly found myself feeling overwhelmingly angry - as I tend to become with such young and unexpected losses. I had to go to work anyway and talk to the principal since the news would also affect some students who knew him. One of the ladies in our ward who also works for the district came into the office with the same thing in mind. We saw each other and just embraced. What else can you do with such a blow? That was when the first of my tears showed up and I still had to go to my classroom and carry on as if everything was normal.

Mikelle seemed stoic at first, until two mornings later, she broke down. I was taking her to seminary and she said, "Remember last week that day you had to drop me off at seminary a half-hour early?" I nodded. Yeah, that was a stressful day. We only had one vehicle since the car was still in the shop for body work caused by that tire blow-out. We didn't plan on the car being in the shop for as long as it was. As a result, we had to juggle schedules and that meant dropping Mikelle off at seminary a half-hour early and she'd just have to sit outside and wait. 

Mikelle continued: "Well, Brandon got there about 15 minutes early. He could have just stayed in his car, but instead....he sat with me."

That simple kind gesture of sitting with Mikelle was a symbol of the kind of person Brandon was. 

Therefore, to put it bluntly, it's been a sucky week. Fall break is upon us now, and that's wonderful. I do admit breaking down at work on Friday after holding it together due to these recent tragedies. Between the build-up of stress to wrap up grades for the first quarter, attempts to keep students on task, put up and deal with students whose brains were already on Fall Break (some of them have been on Fall Break since Summer Vacation), I found myself behaving more human instead of professional. 

While I've been beating myself up, I've also been assured that my feeling of inadequacy is not as bad as I've been making it out to be. Still, I have a job to do, and there were unfortunate moments on Friday that I fell short in doing that job effectively.

At least these pictures show that evidence that something is progressing in the art room. Here we are moving to the more abstract style as we tackle the Desert Landscape project with warm colors. If this project looks familiar, it should. I've been teaching this project since 2008 and loving it each time. 
Warm Color Desert Landscape in Progress - before Ink Pen stage... This 7th grader, Chip, is such a goofball!
Warm Color Desert Landscape in Progress - Black Ink Pen Stage
Warm Color Desert Landscape in Progress - before Ink Pen stage...
Sophia posing nicely with her Warm Color Desert Landscape in Progress - before Ink Pen stage...
Before the Abstract Desert Landscape, we explored the Non-Objective through our Watercolor Discovery project:
Watercolor Discovery Project
Various Watercolor Discoveries on Display...
Beautiful Watercolor Discovery.... though I do wish this student did more with the ink pen stage...
I'm well aware that I'm being hard on myself as a teacher. I need to see the good and success for what it is, and not magnify my shortfalls and frustrations as much as I have. I am just very competitive. No, I'm not competitive with other teachers. I'm competitive with myself. I want to accomplish more than I have and become a better teacher than I am. 

At least I could veg a little with this pumpkin for a client. She ordered it as a gift for her niece Molly.  These are different views from the same pumpkin. I have since squeezed in some roses and a pair of cowboy boots.

And here's a little funny from this evening. Christian was passing out (because he's an early riser), so we gathered for family prayer. Alexander was going to pray, but he still wanted us to tell him what to say. Chris said that when he's 5, he has to pray by himself. That was when Alexander said (direct quote):

"When I'm big like you, I'm going to change my name. And that name is going to be Benjamin."

I lost it. Too funny.

That resulted simply from the instructions that he was to be able to pray by himself when he's 5.

And even though Fall Break is starting, these temperatures certainly do not say Fall. It's especially frustrating because earlier this week we had nice low autumn-like temperatures with rain. Then THIS decides to come back.  
And because I'm grasping at straws for any hint of lower temperatures, here is Wickenburg's specific 7-day. At least those don't have the triple digits. But that isn't going to be too helpful when at least 4 days of my Fall Break I'll be down in the valley anyway.
However, just as I was going to end this entry with the crankiness of that forecast, I advanced it to next weekend, and it looks like it's going to start cooperating.
Until next time!