Sunday, March 30, 2008

Comfort Food

When we arrived at my brother's this weekend, it was snowing. Wintery weather calls for comfort food. I really wanted to cook for a day and stock my sister-in-law's freezer with heat & eat meals, but I got away with cooking for an evening. I made one of my comfort favorites: chicken with a cheese cloud. It's like a pot pie-ish filling with a biscuit topping. Love it! We ate it up and ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. I think everyone liked it or at least I hope they did because I made a double recipe and froze one of the casseroles.

Couldn't resist playing with Image Blender to make a recipe card--my color theming doesn't quite match the dish, but I was just playing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

from John's

My brother, John, took a bunch of pictures with his super-Nikon, so I put most of the ones he sent me into a little slide show. Though you can't see it as well here as on my flickr page, the detail he gets with that Nikon is incredible. Gotta get back out into that snow!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Car Stories

It's the last day of school before spring break. My service learning students are making up blog posts and video projects--most are finished. During first period one of the boys told a story about his car breaking down nearby. That led to me telling an"Orange Crate" tale (ie: a story about my first car--the orange VW Scirocco). Everyone has a car story to tell. After spring break, I think we'll build community with writing by drawing our first cars (or dream cars) and writing one of our car stories.

Helicopter Mom

Are there children playing with each other in your neighborhood? When I grew up there were a lot of children living on my block. I knew every family, from the Wards on one corner to the Watsons on the other. How many kids were there? Bernice & Barbie; Eric, Mitchell & Trevor; Jennifer, Rebecca, Mike & Jere; John & I; Jessica & Jimmy. Thirteen kids within 6 homes on our side of the street! On the other side of the street there was Hunter, Neil, Jeff, Kathleen, Maura, Michael, Shelia, Pat & Pam. More than 20 children on our street alone. there were many more on the other side of the block and on neighboring streets. Our parents all built homes around the same time and most were new to Florida. It was a wonderful street to grow up on: kickball, jail-break, hide & seek. We played outside after school until dinner and then after dinner until the street lights came on. That was our rule--come home when the lights come on.

We don't have any street lights out at our place. We live in the country. Where as I discovered while researching children & nature for a Stenhouse column yesterday, less than 2% of children live. Sometimes I feel isolated. I don't mind it. I love the quiet and the sounds of birds, but I've felt for Collin. Most days it's just he and I home from school. We might play sword fight, or make art, or shoot hoops before dinner but Mom is no substitute for a real friend, I can tell you.

Imgaine our surprise after Easter dinner when we looked out our front window and saw a small boy standing in front of our house. Watching us from the street, he was wearing a large, red dirt-bike helmet (though he was riding a regular bike). My first thought was that he was lost. My second was to wonder what he was doing pacing in front of our house. Once he saw us looking out, he started waving. Turns out, Nathan, who's 8, recently moved into a two-story house just down the street (about 4 acre lengths away). He'd seen Collin outside once and had been trying to meet him ever since. I've been praying for a boy to move in and would you look at that: one did! As we stood outside talking to him, his Mom, Julie, drove by and introduced herself. I can't tell you how excited Collin is to find Nathan: a friend!

So, how do I not hover? When we met Nathan he told us he's the "class clown" at school and that he recently got in trouble for calling his teacher "Miss Hots-a-lot" because she's pretty. Apparently, Nathan's dad didn't approve and said that it was inappropriate, but Nathan thinks the teacher thought it was funny. You can imagine my reaction. A wide-eyed "oh my" was all I could reply.

Nathan came over Tuesday and he and Collin played outside while Rick & I cut templates for the crown molding we're going to try to hang next week. I listened in: lots of dog-butt talk and laughter. I'd like the boys to play outside, near my house preferably, but Wednesday, Collin asked if he could ride his bike down to Nathan's house. We agreed on a time he'd come home and off he went. Alone. By himself. Without me. Boy did I want to go into hover mode and follow him, but I didn't.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

He Skates!

Collin and I went skating again today. Semoran Skateway has a Tiny Tots (under 12) skate Saturday mornings from 10-12. We first went skating in December -- he's gotten a lot better at it and spends much of the 2 hours in the big rink. He doesn't seem to have a sense of his center of gravity--you can see him sway and swing in the limb a bit, but he sure has gotten better at it. It's amazing really and I keep thinking of how kids develop muscle control and marveling over my muscle memory. I love watching Collin concentrate. His wrists turn out and he gets this look on his face. This week he wanted me to show him how to go backwards... so I did. He's not quite ready to go backwards yet. Surely he needs to really master forwards and that center idea, but what the heck... we had fun in the practice rink trying it out.

Other news, we have a new flock!

Yes, more Spice Chickens: Ginger, Honey, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Saffron & Yoda ... Collin's special chick. We think (dare I say hope) that they are all hens, but you never know when you pick from the pullets and chicks at Tractor Supply (pullets hopefully being hens). We have 3 Rhode Island Reds and 3 "Pullets" of an undetermined breed. We'll see how their feathers come in. The plan is to build an A-frame chicken tractor and move them around the yard a bit.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wild Dog

Love the Caran D'Ache colors... if I were Fancy Nancy that would be special-speak for crayon colors. These crayons are fancy: water soluble, oil based, perfect waxiness. I made this one with Michael in mind--he owns the best salon in Orlando and loves dogs.


I visited a teacher's room for a meeting one dayand saw one of my fav Emily Dickinson quotes on her wall , so I had to make her this piece--a variation of one I made for Christine this summer.

Happy Birthday

Just a quick Happy Birthday card I made on the computer to send to teachers @ school who share my birthday! There are 3 of us with birthdays on Monday; we span a few decades, but it's fun having folks here to share wishes with.
Digital art takes me a lot longer to make than art I might make in my studio at home and I'm not sure that I enjoy it as much. There is something to be said for paper bits, glue and oil crayons (not to mention paint and canvas!) but I had fun learning how to make torn edges (see the black) and I like how I combined the scanned Suess page with a couple of brush/stamps. The symbol means prosperity or luck, both it and the swirl are brushes from Obsidian Dawn.

Photoshop Brushes

Photoshop brushes are amazing. Months ago a friend mentioned how cool they were. Sara said she could waste hours of writing time playing with these brushes and altering photographs. I saw a few of the photos she or Michael had altered and was intrigued. I've been in a collage art phase here, still tinkering with animals, maps, color, scraps and rub ons. When I have time, it's relaxing to play in my office/studio and make art as Collin says. My friend Jennifer introduced me to rub-ons--they are much cooler now than they were when we were kids! You can get all kinds of tribal, celtic, scrollworkish rub-ons. Sometimes they are just the right thing for a small corner of something I'm making. But what to do when you run out? Make more! You can order almost anything from the Internet and I discovered last week that I could order rub-on (decal) paper. For about $25 you get 5 sheets of decal paper and 5 sheets of adhesive. I've been experimenting with the photoshop brushes on the rub-on paper-- I think I've figured out how to maximize the shapes on the page.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From Basals to A.R.

Collin is reading! Well, he's been reading since kindergarten but he's really reading now. At the beginning of first grade Collin's teacher began sending home basal readers for students to read aloud to their parents. She would send one "real" book (not a photocopied one) and then 2 of these basal readers. I'm calling them basal readers because I think that is what they are. They are not of the Dick and Jane variety but they are part of a leveled collection of many titles that accompany a textbook/reading program. I don't think I'd ever seen one in person, so it's been interesting. The books are photocopied sets from a textbook publisher. They are patterned stories, sometimes with some simple humor. Collin actually enjoys the funny ones or the outrageous ones. I think he finds and found satisfaction in begin able to read them. He struggled though with some words. Words I'd not recognized as tricky like could or nurse. Funny how I've faced my assumptions during this process.

Collin's school uses A.R. His teacher told parents at the beginning of the year that she would not put students in A.R. until they were ready -- this is a thing parents push for? Who knew? Like any group of students, Collin's class had all kinds of readers in it. Some came into first grade reading chapter books--one, it was rumored, was reading Harry Potter! Collin was struggling to read Eric Carle on his own, but he was reading at grade level when he entered first grade.
He was not ready for A. R. , but Collin wanted to be in the A.R. program-- he wanted it bad.

You see, if you're reading books in A.R. and doing well on the tests and meeting or exceeding your goals then you get a "free dress" day at school. Is that fair to the kids that aren't ready for A.R. yet? Collin missed all of the free dress days early on and he was not happy about it-- that six-year-old sense of justice and fairness is fierce, I'm telling you. I can see how the reward is a motivator, but man... Punished by Rewards flashed through my mind.

He began the A.R. program after Christmas vacation. This Thursday is first "free dress" reward day. He is very excited. He's more excited about his reward than he is about having a long 4-day weekend. Can you believe it? I'm thrilled that his reading has taken off since Christmas. Collin's teacher said that many kids turn a corner as readers at that time of year and she was right. He is reading. He's reading the magazine headlines in line at Publix; he's reading all kinds of environmental print (sings, and bumper stickers and menus); he's reading Eric Carle beautifully and he can read many of the picture books he has in his room. He's even reading chapter books, albeit slowly--he's just finished a Magic Tree House book , #8, I think. We were reading it at home and he chose it to read during "drop everything and read" time at school.

I'm fascinated with his reading growth and how he's changing as a reader, but his first day with A.R. stays with me. I picked him up from school and his big news was that he was now allowed to do A.R. I congratulated him because I knew he had wanted to do it. I want to support him ans support what he does at school, but in my mind I'm full of questions, sometimes outrage. Anyway, then he said, "but now Mommy I can't read anything I want, I have to read A.R. books."

Blow to my heart, I'm tellin' you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Licky Dog Snugglin'

Here's Lilly's version of tucking in Collin!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Crucifying Crudite

The other night Collin and I were eating dinner. His palette amazes me. For a six-year-old he eats quite a bit. I'd made chicken stir fry with chicken, broccoli, broccoli slaw, pea pods, etc. Collin was spearing his broccoli saying "broccoli crucified"... guess that's his Christian schooling showing there. I got to thinking about vocabulary, context and word knowledge. He's approximating -- all of the things he's learning about Jesus and Easter --trying to apply them to new contexts, but still.... crucified vegetables... hmm, I wanted to laugh, but I didn't dare. He did clean his plate.