Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back To School Night: Grace, Courtesy, Respect, and Responsibility...

Last night was Back To School Night at Sj's new school. Most of us know what that means, sit around reading handouts, listening to the teacher talk about what their vision is for the year. As new parents not knowing one another the group is rather awkward. Typically I anticipate a handful of questions from one parent in particular, some that just smile, and others that want to ask but don't muster up the courage. We chat briefly making mention of our children, wondering in the back of our minds if our children play together.

This Back To School Night was different. My daughter's new school is different. A large part of the conversation was about being a part of a community, a classroom community not rigid academics or curriculum. The first words in the handout about "a day in class" are Grace, Courtesy, Respect, and Responsibility. The class is opened with greetings, followed by singing while Sj's teacher plays the guitar, and then stretching in a Brain Gym style to waken their minds and bodies to prepare for the day. Students have individualized work plans and goals for each day. They are given the support to take charge of their own learning. The teacher uses terms such as "great lessons" and "key experiences" to describe how learning takes place in the classroom. 


Very lucky for me, my daughter loves school. She's focused when it comes to school work and loves learning, so this style of education is a fit for us. Everyday since starting school, she comes home and during snack time at the kitchen table she has her two spiral notebooks out working on math or writing. I have some Math Linking Cubes in a basket and she's been using them to build groups (visual to represent the number) and create addition problems that she records in her notebook. She's exploring and through that exploration she's also learning which is a wonderful combination in my book. 

We arrived home from the meeting and were decompressing about the night. When I say decompressing I mean it in a wonderful way. There's a lot to take in considering Sj's education will so starkly contrast our own experiences and even my experience as an elementary school teacher. The overwhelming consensus, we feel so lucky for our daughter to finally be attending a school that allows her to be who she is. There isn't going to be heavy pressure to conform to the mainstream ideal of what education should look like. Her learning style will be nurtured. 

There aren't enough ways for me to express my gratitude in how this all unfolded, even with the struggle of the open enrollment process. I can't help but wish for any parent that their child's school and education really provides a place for them to be authentic to their own nature. If you have doubts about your child's school, be their advocate. 

Even though I miss Sj through out the day, I know she's at the best place she could be away from our home and that's her loving school community. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Where Have I Been: Let My iPhone Lead The Way...

Lately, I've been seizing the moment and not spending much time in front of my computer. But my iPhone is always close by. During the past couple of weeks, I've been snapping photos on my iPhone that could've possibly accompanied a real blog post. Instead of writing a post, I'm allowing the photo mosaic to give a glimpse into what I've been up to so far in August. 

Top Row:
New adopted Doggie from the Humane Society
Tie Dye fun
Possible New Bed for GL?
Strawberry Mojito with Colorado Rum

2nd Row:
Sandbox Cupcakes
Peanutbutter Chocolate Cupcakes
Dollie on my potty
Girls night, wings and fries 10pm

3rd Row:
Annual check up, feet in stirrups
Large bug in my shower (undetermined species)
Weeding out, everything must go!
Giraffes at the Zoo

4th Row:
Empty Refrigerator
Oops Giraffes at Zoo! (wonder which one I skipped)
A NEW refrigerator
Amusement park fun

5th Row:
Breakfast in bed
Interesting 80's party
Hello bees nest in my shed!
Homemade cheddar animal crackers

6th Row:
Colorado beach time
Chair re-do
Boulder Creek
Denist visit (with really bad angle of chin)

That's it, that's my life in 24 photos and not many words. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blog Anniversary, So That's How It Goes 2 Years Later...

For a few weeks now my Blog Anniversary was looming in the back of my mind. I thought a little giveaway would be fun and maybe even a re-design of my site. Well the redesign is definitely looming in my future, I'm way OVER the dots template. But with life, change takes time and I was certainly not going to stress myself out over getting everything up and running by August 19, my blog anniversary. 

Why is that? 

Because today I sat down at my computer and realized that I actually started this blog on August 13, 2007. NOT August 19th. Oops. And then the thought that crossed my mind instantly was, so that's how it goes two years into this. Last year this wouldn't of happened, but two years into and the start date is just a number of my distant past. Sometimes I feel very lucky to still be around two years later, even if it's not everyday anymore. 

So if you've been around for two years, gosh it's been a long journey. If you are new around here welcome, I hope you stay a bit longer. And if you fall somewhere in between, I hope I have the chance to stop by your blog (if you have one). Say hello and I'll be sure to. Most certainly I'd like to wrap with a big thank you, the community I have found blogging has really inspired me tremendously. 

Stay tuned for a newly redesigned blog, coming sometime Fall 2009, now that I can commit to. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

One Dollar Investment, My Reupholstered Chair Story...

Last weekend, the girls and I were headed off on an adventure to the dog park with our new boy Milo. As we drove down the street we decided to stop by a large garage sale that was just setting up. A chair caught my attention (for obvious reasons, it's orange) but I looked beyond it's 70's fabric and examined the chair further. The chair was pretty solidly constructed and while I was poking and prodding the chair the woman hosting the sale said, "One buck and it's yours".

I really need a second chair for my living room and finally I think I may have found it. And how could I pass up that offer... Here's the orange beauty:

I've never reupholstered any furniture, but rather I just went with my instinct as to how to tackle the project. I covered the chair with white batting first with out removing the original orange velvetly material. Then I applied the floral material. I stapled with a staple gun the batting first then followed with the material. I invested $6 a yard for three yards of material.

After the floral fabric was stapled into place, I added green trim with glue to cover the staples on the edging. Considering I have never done this before, I didn't go overboard with my investment in material and trim. I picked out a color that coordinated nicely with the fabric and that was on clearance for .50 cents a yard. Yeah, I'm thrifty like that.

The final phase of my project is recovering the pillow that sits on the back. I'm waiting until the weekend because this involves using the sewing machine. But so far, I'm proud with how the chair looks and can't take my eyes off of it. It's a nice addition to the living room, I have two other pieces of solid colored furniture so the chair really pops and creates a focal point. Now, it's even got a great story to go with it.

I will post a picture of the final project. I recommend keeping your eye out for a gem even if it may take some vision to see it's possibilities.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Hughes Sampler: Amazing Film Legacy

When I heard the news of John Hughes passing, I was immediately taken back to my most impressionable years. Even though film making has evolved over the last couple of decades, John Hughes (his full work listed) ability to capture life as a teenager always left a mark on me. Although it's hard to name my favorite John Hughes movie, I would have to say Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science topped my list. I found the trailers, unfortunately many of the clips are being removed now because of terms violation. LAME.

Sixteen Candles, Original Trailer (Classic!)

Sixteen Candles, The Ending My favorite Part! (In Spanish!!!)

Pretty In PInk Trailer! (Duckie vs. Blaine)

Weird Science Trailer (My introduction to Robert Downey Jr.)

I almost feel bad stopping at those three, when I look over John's complete list of work, I have strong feelings of admiration for so many movies he made. When you can recite movies pretty much line for line, you know the impression they left on your life. Thank you John Hughes for making some of the best movies Hollywood ever produced. It's a shame you were never formally recognized by the Academy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Teaching Takes Heart

When I spent my days in the classroom, teaching over thirty fifth graders, the holidays were always a difficult time. My students had hard lives, many of them getting themselves off to school in the morning with no one to return home to, some of them living in foster care, and others cast off to any relative that would take them in. Out of thirty two students, I would estimate about five of those kids lived in a home with both of their biological parents that were married. 

The families for the most part were working class. The majority of them were good people that had just fallen into hard circumstances. I can't imagine the impact of today's economy on my former school's community. Not many days pass when I don't think of those students that left an impression on me. Like a stereotypical teacher I think about where they are now, how they are doing, and sometimes I even run into them in the most unusual places. There were a special few that I just wanted to take home with me, adopt. Be a mother to them, someone they didn't have in their lives, surround them with the love they deserved.

I never took for granted my job, the time I had to spend with them or how impressionable a typical ten year old is. I was the one that always brought up the importance of college and how I expected each and every one of them to pursue a college eduction. I always divulged to them that I was a first generation college student in my family and if I could become a teacher, they could become anything they wanted. But there is only so much you can do.

Many years near the holidays my heart would grow heavy for them. I knew some of them would be showered with gifts, all paid for with borrowed money. Or others wouldn't receive any gifts. I made a point to find a way to make the last day of school before holiday break special for them, knowing it may be the only celebration they would have for the holidays.

One year on a Friday before break, early in the morning my desk was filled with small paper plates of baked goods, handmade cards, little tokens and trinkets from my students. Occasionally I was given a gift, but I never expected it. I will never forget a heavy aluminum foil wrapped gift that was placed on my desk. My student asked me if I was going to open it. I remember thinking as I picked it up, boy is this going to be some dreadful baked good that I am going to break a tooth on and smile with delight saying how much I loved it.

When I ripped open the aluminum foil, in a green plastic tray sat a big rock. The rock was shaped in a heart and my eyes just filled with tears. It was so beautiful. My student, Sean told me how he spent weeks searching for the most perfect rock to give me for Christmas. Finally one night when he was exploring the neighborhood, he happened upon this rock next to an open field. He wrapped it himself in aluminum foil and couldn't wait to give it to me. He explained how the rock was perfect for me because the heart reminded him of how much I cared for him.

It's one of the only gifts I've kept from my students other than handmade cards and letters. It will always have a special place in my heart. Here's a photo of the rock, the rock my daughters ask about all the time, the rock that sits on a bookshelf and is so much more than a piece of earth to me. It's a beautiful reminder of the importance of caring for other people because deep down we've got a lot of heart to share.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet Me, No Meet My Garden Vlog

So the story goes, I was given a Sony Webbie as a gift from my hubby for our anniversary in June. I'm not very comfortable putting myself out there on video, but instead of just posting a photo of my garden that's doing awesome, I've decided to put all that hesitation aside and create a "meet me and my garden vlog". The only edits I made to this vlog was in length, it was five minutes long, which is painful. Hopefully this shortened version will be just about the right. 

Here is a photo of my garden the day it was planted, in June. And here is the video of my garden tonight:
My response to vlogging, it wasn't so bad. One thing to majorly work on, breathing and talking. I think I was trying to get through it so fast I sound like I am panting. Lovely. And with that, the creation of the Vlog label is born at EatPlayLove. Eek