Friday, May 25, 2012

Everyday Art

Thing 1 has been taking an art class after school this year.  With the decrease in art on a regular basis from our last school to this one, the after school art program has been a life saver.  The class meets at the school, Thing 1 just stays late once a week for it.  The teacher loves her.  One of my favorite days was when they had done a shaded pencil drawing.  I came in to pick up Thing 1 and was standing over her admiring her work after everyone else had gone.  The teacher agreed with me that Thing 1's picture was amazing, then picked up her drawing and invited me to come over to the board where she had already posted the other kid's drawings.  She held it up to show me the whole group.  The difference in skill level was not subtle at all.  Thing 1 was obviously years ahead in this area.  What I thought was funny was how the teacher didn't say anything at all negative about the other kid's drawings, or point out how much more advanced Thing 1's looked... she just watched my face with this cute little smile, wanting to see it register with me the comparative difference in Thing 1's picture.   Of course we LOVE the teacher too.  She seems very equal in  her praise for all the kids' stuff, but it seems the class in general recognizes that Thing 1 has a knack for it.
The teacher is affiliated with a very prestigious art center and gallery in town.  She told the kids that two of their projects, a vase and a chair painting, would be considered for the kid's art show at the gallery.

Thing 1 was thrilled when it was announced that both of her projects were chosen.  Only three of each of the two projects were accepted from her school, and Thing 1 was the only one who had both of hers accepted.

My folks came down to see the opening last month.

Thing 1's vase was one of my favorite things she's done with the program.


She was really proud of how she'd made the tendrils come up around the vase, how it looked kind of like it was growing. It had really annoyed her that a couple other kids saw what she was doing and started to copy her, with their own snaky parts winding up the side of the vase.  When I was picking her up that day, she had to stop and write a little circled C copywrite symbol on the bottom.
Her chair picture was a "book chair." 

It was a really exciting afternoon for her. They treated the kids like professional artists. One of the museum staff came around and interviewed her on camera.   The exhibit was called "Everyday Art," and in the interview Thing 1 talked in a kind of formal "interview" voice and explained how she sees art in objects that she uses every day.  She must have said "Every Day" eight times.  It was so cute to see her a little flustered but totally excited and proud of herself.

I sure hope some day she has an exhibit of her own in a gallery somewhere.

Monday, May 14, 2012


We celebrated Mother's Day for my mom at my brother and sister-in-law's house on Saturday.  My whole family was there, my sister and her husband came down, and my nieces were all there.  It was lovely.It was the first day they'd had their pool open in their new house.  The three youngest girls - my two and my brother's youngest - did not get out of the pool except to eat, and then when we FORCED them because Grandma was opening her presents.  After the party ended, and my SIL let our girls join her youngest for hot bath in the big master tub, and then a demonstration of my brother's 3D home movie theater system (it really is better than in the public movie theater,) and a half hour drive home, it was 11:00 pm before we got the kids to bed.
Hubby had a plane to catch on Sunday morning, and had to leave at 8:30 a.m.  So breakfast was a lovely if rather quick celebration.  Everyone gave me their presents - the girls had made all of theirs this year, precluding Hubby's need to take them on a quick Saturday afternoon shopping trip that we wouldn't have had time for anyway.  And I must say the girls did a LOVELY job.  Hubby really excels in the gift giving department, though he just can't seem to avoid the jewelry stores, despite my firm lecture of "We're remodeling the house, and you brought me back that incredible fish necklace from Australia, so we just can't afford for you to blow a big wad on for me on Mother's Day, so DON'T DO IT!"
Can you believe this?  I'm complaining about getting too much jewelry for Mother's Day.    
Anyway, Hubby sprinted out the door, and I sprinted to get the girls ready for Church ("Please please please can't we skip it?  We're tired, we're so tired, and I think my stomach feels weird.  Yeah, I'm sure it does. There's something weird going on down there.  I think it's my stomach.  Please please please? No?  Did I tell you I have a toothache, too?") and we made it on time.
Both girls promptly fell asleep, one laying across my lap, one gripping my arm.
In the middle of the meeting I had to wake them up to go up to the front to sing with the rest of the kids.  Thing 2 was a little disoriented and kept trying to go the wrong way until I bodily turned her around and pointed to all the rest of the kids in the church lined up in front.  Thing 1 started whimpering and saying "I don't WANT to!" and I whispered to her in my best hushed but serious whisper; "You mean to tell me Every Other Child in this church loves their mother enough to go up there and sing to her, but you're the Only One who is refusing, and is sitting down here in the congregation?  The Only One not singing to their Mother?"  Yes.  I used guilt. I feel guilty for using guilt...  She harrumphed and started dramatically trying to get around me between the pews, refused to climb over my legs to get to the aisle, so I stood up and helped her sidle by, completely embarrassing her, as anything that draws attention to her at all embarrasses her. 

They sang. I could barely see my kids' heads between the other kids, and I don't know how much Thing 1 actually sang... but they were up there.  I was minorly frustrated that it took so much manipulation on my part.  
I sat in the congregation listening.
Based on my brief blog research, what most mothers, including myself, would really like for Mother's day can be summarized into two categories - 
1) pretending (ironically) that you don't have kids for one day (aka doing a lot of uninterrupted sleeping), and/or 
2) having no battles with the kids, either between the kids themselves or with you and the kids.
My kids rarely fight, and they don't often fight with me... much.  But the sleep thing... that I could have gotten into.  But alas, alack, I knew it was not in the cards for me.
I got a little teary.  It was very sweet.  I heard the woman on the other side behind me sniffling.  Then I started crying.  Not totally sure why.  The embarrassing thing is when it didn't stop after my eyes kind of welled up and I sat there thinking why in the world am I doing this?  Do I wipe my eyes, the gesture of which brings attention to the fact that I'm crying?  Or do I just sit there letting the tears roll down my face and hope my shirt doesn't get wet?  And of course you can't sniffle because then everyone for five pews knows you're crying... but if I don't sniffle and my nose backs up and becomes a huge problem...   Then my face got red, and I started wondering if this is a hot flash.  I haven't really started getting hot flashes yet, but I think they must feel something like this.

By the time the kids were done singing and they came back down, my face must have been Stop sign red, I had tears running down my face, and I couldn't find any Kleenex in my church bag.  Thing 2 looked me in the face and asked a couple times if I was all right.  Fine, fine, that was just sweet.  They both snuggled up to me again and fell back to sleep.  I regained control.  The meeting ended.
I let myself be talked into going home, and skipping the two other meetings. They were obviously tired, and I was too.

The skipping church bargain was that when we got home and they'd changed clothes, they had to nap until church would be over.
Thing 1 slept until well after the prescribed time, Thing 2 slept about 20 minutes then came in and laid next to me whining that she wasn't tired.  After shushing her unsuccessfully for a while as she was keeping me awake I told her to quietly play the iPad until her sister woke up.

Then because Thing 1 hadn't read the biography she was supposed to have completed by Monday I read it to her. She hadn't read it for the past two weeks because she'd been able to tell in the two pages she had read that there was a noticeable lack of magic in the book (rendering it totally uninteresting).  It really is a great biography about Wilbur and Orville Wright, which is why I chose it, and it took me two hours to read it to her.  She loved it, as I expected.

She was pretty stoked by the time we were done, I think she wanted to try out a few flying ideas in the back yard.  I was pretty tired.  
Then because Thing 2 is in the district spelling bee on Thursday and only got the words last week, I spent about 10 minutes guilting her into letting me help her spell some of the words on the list.  We worked on that for about an hour.

We read with Hubby on Skype, I ordered a pizza to be delivered, I watched part of a movie with the girls, then sent them to bed.

Mother's Day is fine, it's often nice, but it's rarely all it's cracked up to be.  Expectations are too high, the kids try so hard to give you a wonderful day but so many other things get in the way.

They looked so cute I forced them to pose in the back yard.

Because their gifts were really nice hand made treasures, I feel compelled to take pictures.

Thing 1 made this plaque in school. 

 Thing 2 made a magnet.

They both made a fused glass thing at the school arts festival.  It was an optional craft, neither one wanted to do it, but I reminded them repeatedly that mother's day was coming up and I like glass and THEY HAD BETTER GET OVER THERE AND MAKE ONE.  So I got these!  They're not huge and I'm not sure what to do with them... make them into necklaces, or hang them in the window... not sure.  But they're neat, and the kids were pretty excited to give them to me.  Which is even neater.

Thus ends Mother's Day for another year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Let there be lights

The bathroom lights.  FINALLY!

My friend who had helped me pick out paint colors and such came by today, and assured me that they're lovely.  The reason, she said, that they're not wowing me is because they aren't the pendants that I had pictured in my head.  But if I didn't have that picture stuck in my head, I'd like the lights more.  But even these lights I think they should be further apart.  And you can see if they were pendants, they'd be hitting you in the head.  Why would the contractor put the light holes there?!?!

She assured me the lines on the lights match the cabinet pulls, and the other stuff in the bathroom.
I know she's right, and they are nice, but they're still not what I had pictured in my head.

 The doors for the bedroom closet finally came today!  The whole drama of the closet is done!  Except now I get to put in all the components.  I started, but had to stop to make dinner.  Darned those kids and their tiny stomachs!

 You can see where the IKEA cabinet stops, and where my clever cabinet maker took it to the ceiling, and added the top part for the door to close on.  He cut the piece down so that little cloth drawer thing will fit in right at the top.  You wouldn't know they weren't built in!  Turns out I didn't save a ton of money, what with the custom doors.  But I saved some.  And now since it's all IKEA component-like, I can figure out what I want in it.  The left side has to be open at the bottom, you can just see the little panel there on the left- that's the access to the water main. 
All that's left is a chandelier for above the bed there!
 Oh, and putting everything away.  I half filled Hubby's bay in the garage with cardboard boxes this week.  When he comes home tonight he'll have to park in the driveway.  But progress comes with sacrifice!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Fought The Lawn, and The Lawn Won

While waiting for the dishwasher repairman today, I decided to mow the front yard.

There is this whole mulching vs bagging issue.  I had no idea there was an issue until today.  I just knew my husband had a discussion with the guy at Home Depot about mulching.  So I figured we were mulchers.  I would mulch.

So I started mowing the lawn.  I did not bag, I mulched.  I left behind an unsightly trail of lumpy clumps and skimmed lawn trimmings.  It was unattractive.  Then I remembered hearing my dad say something about if you go over the lawn again, it will cut the leftovers even smaller, and that would improve the mulch.  Or something like that.
So I mowed again.
It didn't improve anything.

Many women in my situation would call their husband at this point.  But my husband is probably talking to the vice president of a VERY MAJOR company that I may or may not be able to mention, or is in a meeting with a group of highly paid executives, or whatever, and just can't take calls from his wife about the lawn mower.  So I don't call him in the middle of the day.  
I turn to my other go-to guys.
My Dad, first, because he's retired.  But he was here until 10:30 last night installing my new bathroom lights (photos to follow) and then had a two hour drive home.  This is a man who usually is tucked in bed with the covers pulled up to his chin and snoring by 10:00.  My mother informed me he was still snoring when I called around 9:00 a.m. this morning.
So I called my brother.
First I need to say I got totally lucky in the brother department.  I knocked it out of the ballpark, so to speak.  In the whole sibling department, really, as my sister is INCREDIBLE, but at this moment I'm focusing on my brother.  Who is married with four daughters and has a busy full time job, yet he took an hour out of his morning to advise me on lawns, lawn care, lawn mowers, and lawn mower maintenance.  
After we had discussed everything else that needed to be discussed, we got down to the brass tacks of lawns, and mulching.  First he told me I need to bring him my lawn mower blade so he can sharpen it.  Because nothing slows down a mower more than a dull blade.
Then he told me that unless I'm trimming less than an inch off the lawn, and unless it's hot enough to turn my yard into the compost environment required to properly mulch, I should bag.
All right.  So I wrap up the conversation and go back to mow again, this time with the bag.  I went ten yards, hit a metal sprinkler head and bent the blade out of shape.
A trip to Home Depot later, I returned with a new blade ($17, cheaper than having a blacksmith repair my old one, the Home Depot guy assured me), and proceeded to mow for the 3rd time in one day.  
But now my law has that lovely tartan pattern that my brother said is typical of Wrigley Field.
Totally not worth it.  
I am definitely a once over mower.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'd love to post, but my dishwasher is broken

Apparently now I need to go wash a load of dishes from the dishwasher in the sink, because my dishwasher won't start.
I'm busy tomorrow so the repairman can't come til Wednesday, so I get to do this for a couple of days.
The online repair scheduler tried to talk me into a service agreement that costs $230.  Is it a good deal? Maybe.  But I hate it when they try to upsell you.  Which he continued to do after I indicated I just want the $75 service call option, and not the whole $230 agreement.  No I don't need the range, serviced.  No I don't need any help with other appliances. No I don't need help with the remodel.  Or the garage door.  Just the dishwasher, really. 

See how good I am at procrastination?  I am still not washing the dishes. I am typing.  I really want to go read the book I started while waiting at the car dealership this morning while they changed my snow tires to my regular tires... but I must be an adult, even if just for a while, and will now go wash dishes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Outsourcing homework?

We have had huge issues with homework this year. 
My daughters are 3rd and 4th graders. The fourth grader is the one whose homework is the wonkiest.
Four days a week, both girls usually get two pages of homework, one page of math and one page of words, which is grammar or spelling or something like that.  The math is another nasty issue, what's been bugging me lately is the word homework.
The fourth grader usually gets more, with front and back of both worksheets.

Not only does it seem like there's a lot, it is often wrong.  It makes me think it was written by someone who is not a native English speaker.  Are they outsourcing the homework sheet preparation?   I know it's nit-picky of me... but shouldn't the children be taught CORRECT English?  Instead of bizarre English?

For example...
They are supposed to sort their 20 vocabulary words by different attributes...  vowel or consonant combinations, OO sound with oo or oe vowels... stuff like that.  Under each category there are blanks.  Often different numbers of blanks... and the number of blanks rarely corresponds with the number of answers in a particular category.  One day there were three extra blanks in one category, and in another she was squeezing in answers where there are no more blanks.  This caused a lot of frustration for a while, until we gave up and decided the blanks are totally random, and she needs to totally ignore the blanks.  THEN WHY ARE THERE BLANKS EXCEPT TO SCREW THE KIDS UP?!?!?!

One of the exercises that causes less confusion but bugs me is a completing the sentence exercise.  The kids are given a sentence with a blank, and have to pick from their vocabulary words of the week to fill in the blank.  This should not be rocket science.
Often it is a process of elimination because none of the given vocabulary words seem to fit the sentence.
Yesterday it was a crossword puzzle with the blanked sentences as clues.  These stuck out:

People in different countries will use a ________.

A goal you want to reach:   ________.

Gives you practice:   __________.

First.  People in different countries will use a _____.  My husband guessed "Squat toilet."  Other possible answers...  Llama?  Rickshaw?  I can't keep you in suspense, the answer is custom.   Are those people in different countries employing the same custom?  Do they use it simultaneously, or do they take turns? 
How about, instead, to say:  A practice or ritual performed by people of a particular group or country is called a _________.

A goal you want to reach  ______.   The answer: Aspire.   In case you didn't know Aspire is a verb.  The goal is not the aspire.  The goal is the ASPIRATION.  
The sentences should say:  The act of wanting to achieve a goal or accomplishment:

Gives you practice.   The answer - Intern.   An intern doesn't give you practice.... for that you would need an INTERNSHIP.  An intern is:  Someone performing a job for reduced or no pay in order to gain practice is an _________.  

I didn't used to think of myself as a real grammarian.  But these are just three from yesterday's homework.  There have been many many more.  Sometimes it's a word scramble, with some of the letters of the vocabulary words replaced with blanks.  Only the number of letters taken away and the number of blanks don't match.  
INTERNSHIP becomes  _ _ E _ _ _ S _ P
Stuff like that.

Or there's something else screwy. 
"Go back to the classroom and rearrange the _____"  answer is DESK.  How are you going to rearrange a desk in the classroom?  The desks are cleared... there's nothing on the desk to rearrange.  Oh, you mean DESKS!  Then why didn't you say DESKS!

I talked to the teacher.  I volunteered to go over the homework to check for accuracy before the homework is handed out.  She told me the homework is usually made last minute, by one or the other of the fourth grade teachers.  So those worksheets with the problems are probably not hers.


Hopefully fifth grade homework will be better.  And we're already forewarned for the next kid that 4th grade homework is wacky.  And often just plain wrong.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On carpet and fire. Not carpet on fire, thank heavens!.

The carpet layers came!  Yippeee!

Last Monday!  I have carpet!
It's hard to get a good picture of it.
It's more green than it shows here, but here's kind of what it looks like.

 Totally generic, neutral, just fine.

THis is probably the best picture I have of it because we immediately started moving in stuff and boxes and more stuff, so if I were to take a picture now, you would mostly see other stuff on top of the carpet.

One of the trials of building out the basement was how not everything went as planned.  And some of it did go as planned, on the 2nd try, and at greater expense than anticipated.
The fireplace, for example.
When the fireplace installer was done he told my contractor there are two lines, one starts the fireplace, and one starts the blower.  The fireplace is just a little igniter thing, doesn't need electricity.  In fact it CANNOT have electricity.  Electricity will BLOW UP THE IGNITER motor and FRY THE WHOLE GUTS of the fireplace.  The blower has to have electricity.  DO NOT let these two lines get crossed.  I myself heard this repeated a couple of times.

My contractor decided that he'd put the fireplace on a double switch, where the igniter and the blower were up and down from each other.  Like this.

My contractor, who saved me money by doing the electrical himself, put the fireplace on the top switch, the blower on the bottom.  HOWEVER he forgot to break the connection between the top and bottom switches, which runs electricity from one to the other.
So everything was fine when I turned on just the top switch.  But when I flipped the bottom switch, the electricity ran right up the switch to the top, down the wires and FLASH!!  POP!!  Flames burst out from the bottom of the fireplace, the whole thing filled with smoke, and the smell of burnt wiring filled the basement.  The whole guts of the fireplace was toasted.
The fireplace guy (who I called first as this is the third fireplace insert thing he's installed for me and obviously he knows more about it than my contractor), was floored that the contractor would 1) put the igniter and blower on a double switch like that and 2) forget to break the connection between the two switches.  Totally dumb mistake, according to him.  The contractor came over when the fireplace guy was here assessing the damage, and they were talking and getting to be good old friends, and the fireplace guy said "Yeah, it's a silly mistake anyone could have made," and the contractor shrugged and said to me, "See, s**t happens!"  
Not the right thing to say to me.  He's going to eat that when he gets the bill for replacing his little s**t.

Of course, the guts are the most expensive parts to be replaced.  And they have to be shipped from Canada.  Which takes forever in the fireplace world.  I don't get it, I can get stuff from Amazon in two days...  why does it take a month to ship from Canada?
Fast forward a month or more to this Monday, when everything's here and the fireplace guy comes back and installs the new parts.  Both of us were pretty nervous about flipping that switch... did the contractor REALLY fix it?  But we finally did, and it works great.
I am soooo pleased with the fireplace!  It is lovely!

The hearth thing goes to the wall on the left, just out of the picture.  The TV is just visible on the right.
Apparently I lost the little charcoal rocks that it came with, so I put some other rocks around the bottom.  A couple of larger white coral rocks that I brought back from Hawaii, with some smaller river rocks that were left over from the shower floor.

The fireplace puts out a lot of heat... really warms up the place!  I think I'll run it a lot just because it's so pretty, though.  

I'm terribly pleased!

This concludes the basement remodel.  All that's left is minor stuff... some doors on the bedroom closet, some lights...  a couple other things.  The rest is moving in and the simultaneous purge of unnecessary stuff.  I'm hoping that a lot of toys that get pulled out of boxes are deemed unworthy since they went into the boxes almost a year ago.

We shall see...