Friday, December 16, 2011

Exhibit night #2!

Last night was the second exhibit night of the year for Alice's school. Less pictures this time - it was a crazy day. Alice and I went when it started, Tim met us there in time for Alice's vocal music performance and I left for my rehearsal. Typical for December. It was just as wonderful as the first exhibit night, though.

I apologize for the poor picture quality. These were taken with my phone.

1st grade made this enormous Venus Flytrap complete with bugs in the "mouths."

Alice's class built two kitchens - one that would have been used in the 1800's and one that is modern. They visited the Ramsey House on a learning expedition (aka field trip). The Ramsey house is an old plantation from 1797 that has been turned into a museum.

Ramsey house kitchen

Modern kitchen

There was also a display of watercolor houses that 2nd grade had painted in art class. Alice had come home from school complaining about this project a few weeks ago. She had said that she wasn't able to finish painting her picture because she had spent so much time drawing it. It had to be displayed half-way finished. When I saw her picture, my jaw dropped a little bit:
She's drawing in perspective! When did that happen?!

There was a Flat Stanley display inside Alice's classroom. Flat Alice was the most traveled of the whole class! Her teacher is happy to continue getting letters from Flat Alice's travels, so we'll see how far she can get by the end of the year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Last night we went over to Jen and Ildar's house for a photo session. They had attempted to go to Portrait Innovations yesterday morning but they left after waiting almost an hour past their appointment time. Jen asked if Tim would come take pictures instead. It was fun - Tim set up in their living room with his enormous (thrifted) light bar and 15 minutes later came out with some great pictures.

Christmas 2011

Family photo 2011

The girls 2011

Alice and Sasha - 2011

Tim and Sash - 2011

We were trying to get Sasha to show off her new bottom teeth.

Ildar and Sasha
Daddy's girl

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa isn't something one should agonize over. Yet, every year around this time, hot cocoa becomes a thorn in my side. Is this brand gluten free? How about that brand? What about that flavor? The artwork on the package has changed - has the formula also changed? Do I have time to call the manufacturer to play a game of 20 questions? (The answer to that last one is NO!)

Hot cocoa should be easy.

So, now I make it myself. Every ingredient in this recipe is a staple in our house. As an added bonus, I can pronounce and identify all the ingredients! Like most scratch versions of convenience products, this tastes miles better than any mix. I will NEVER go back to those little packets.

Hot Cocoa
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup dry milk
splash of extract if desired
hot water

Mix the dry ingredients in your mug. Add a cup or so of hot water. Stir. Add extract. Drink.

You can, of course, leave out the dry milk and substitute hot milk for the water. Hot soy, almond, rice, or any other kind of milk would work here, too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

There's something about sewing at the 11th hour..... We had "trunk or treat" at church on Sunday. I don't know if y'all do this up North or not. Essentially it is trick or treating in a parking lot. People decorate their trunks and hand out candy. There are usually other funfair type activities going on and it is an event that is usually sponsored by a church. We have a lot of "Fall Festivals" or "Hallelujah Celebrations" down here as an alternative to Halloween. Hell houses, too, which are the conservative Christian version of a haunted house. THAT warrants a whole separate post, though.

Anyhow, our church had a very small trunk or treat that the big kids hosted for the little kids. There were less than 50 people there and it was all very sweet. The problem was, I realized on Sat. night that I had to work all day on Sunday and wouldn't have any time for last-last minute costume shenanigans before trunk or treat. I hadn't done anything on Alice's costume.


Enter speed sewing. I made this costume start to finish in 2-1/2 hours. I have NO idea how I managed that. (The combination of the serger and ingesting too much caffeine is my guess...) My goal was to be done by midnight and I finished up at 10:30. I ditched the dress pattern that came in the envelope and made up my own. The dress is a front, back and two sleeves. All cut generously and then I used elastic for the neck and cuffs.

I didn't follow any of the instructions on the pattern. I actually threw them in the garbage after trying to read through them and getting confused. My way was better.

In any case, I got it done and it fit perfectly. Phew!

Alice as Laura Ingalls Wilder Halloween 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Kiri's Dress

Made by me, photographed by Tim.
Kiri is the daughter of our associate conductor, Jim, and his wife Sarah (who is a trumpet player.). They asked if I would make a baptismal gown for Kiri.

The gown - 40 inches long!

The slip

(Alice wearing pants! Of her own volition!)

Here is a link to Jim and Sarah's blog with pictures of Kiri at her baptism.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Exhibit night!

Earlier this month, Alice's school had its first "Exhibit Night." The school is the arts magnet elementary school for the county (as well as housing the honors program). They do all sorts of neat things. There is an actual dance studio, multiple rooms for music, and art has a main classroom and second classroom with a kiln. At exhibit night, the whole school was transformed into an art gallery. It was really neat to see all the student work.

A student-made mural of ceramic tiles

2nd grade ceramics - Alice's is the yellow and brown cup in the center.

This map is in the hall near Alice's homeroom. It is HUGE!

Art by the other 2nd grade classes:

Alice's class did an extensive unit on Japan. They went to a museum to see Japanese artifacts, learned how to play "rock, paper, scissors" in Japanese, and had a visitor come talk to them about Japanese culture. All this was in addition to the more typical types of learning that go on in a classroom!
They learned how to write their names in Japanese:
They also each learned to write another word and created a picture around it. Alice's word was "school":

Next we went to see the instrumental music teacher. He is AMAZING. He had all kinds of instruments laid out all over the classroom for kids to play. Everything was very hands-on. His room was loud and chaotic in a good way. Everyone who walked into his room that night left having learned something new - myself included.
A piano Mr. Reynolds took apart so the kids can see how it works.

Demonstrating sound waves and vibration with a ping pong ball dancing on a speaker.

We also got to meet some of Alice's new friends.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Finally done!

It was a push, but I got this done for church on Sunday.

Alice's dress

I started this dress a year ago, and, at some point got tired of the embroidery (or distracted by Christmas dresses). It sat in my sewing basket until a few weeks ago. I decided I'd better get to finishing it before it was outgrown.


I wasn't happy with the vertical buttonhole, so I changed the rest. I was going to rip out the first one and re-sew it to match, but Alice said it looked cool and I should leave it, so I did.

Now I'm madly constructing a baptismal gown for a friend. I'm all out of smocking, though. Time to pleat something new!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

M: (picking up Alice) "How was school?"

A: "Great! I lost my tooth today!"

M: "WOW! Where is it?"

A: "I swallowed it at lunch. Will the tooth fairy come anyway?"

M: "Of course! So, it came out while you were eating, huh?"

A: "Oh, no. It came out in gym."

M: ????

A: "I didn't want to interrupt the gym teacher while she was giving us instructions. Also, I don't think she has any baggies for teeth so I just put it back in my mouth."

M: "Huh. And then you had lunch?"

A: "No. Then we went to the zoo. Then we went back to school and then we had lunch."

M: ???? "So you had your tooth in your mouth that whole time???"

A: "Yup. I swallowed it when I ate my strawberries at lunch."

M: "Huh. You didn't take the tooth out of your mouth at lunch?"

A: "Nope."

M: ????? "Did you tell your teacher?"

A: "Nope. I just told Harry (a classmate) at lunch after I swallowed it."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pretty Flowers

Today Alice disappeared outside with a notebook and a pencil. She was writing an essay - just because she wanted to. Here it is -

Lots of Pretty Flowers
by Alice

There are many flowers. Some of them are here for a porpes (purpose). Some of them mite be eating bugs, like the pitcher plant. Others mite be for scareing aminals. But my favrets are sunflowers, dazys, poppies, indian paint brush and the iris. What are your favrets? I would like to know! The flowers I listed I call show off flowers because they don't do much esept (except) look cool and look pretty and smell good. But theres a job that every flower does. The job is to polnat (pollinate). Now I know bees help with that, but it's importint. If it weren't for flowers and bees we would have to eat dirt and we would have to drink out of a sewer. But we would only be alive for a day. Then there would be no people liveing. Luckily theres food for us to eat.

Not bad for a 2nd grader, huh?

School is still going well. We are all still very, very happy with the move. Mid-term report cards came home today - all E's (excellent). Alice was the most proud of the + she got for reading level. The reading level scale is -, = or + indicating below, at or above grade level.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Initial Highlights

School is going really well. Alice is happy. Home is peaceful. Here are Alice's highlights so far:

* The second teacher in Alice's class is a graduate student at UT. She is certified and is getting her master's in education. She is doing her internship in Alice's class this year.

* The other kids in Alice's class bring "strange" things for lunch and snack like homemade yogurt, pickles, and hummus just like she does. (She was excited about this.)

* In addition to their very own desk, the kids have lockers (that don't lock) inside the classroom for their coats.

* They are studying geography in social studies (YAY!) and there is a map of the US painted on the playground. The class is also doing a super cool project - more details coming soon... For now I'll just say that Alice might be paying some of you a visit via USPS.

* Transitioning from home to school to home again has never been an easy thing for Alice. Picture storm clouds over her head on the way to school and a full out tornado on the way home. This year has been different (knock on wood!). She is happy and calm when I pick her up.

Which leads me to the only negative thing Alice has had to say about her new school:
"There is more work in 2nd grade and it takes me longer to finish it. It's really cutting into my reading time at school."

This made me chuckle.

Last year Alice spent a good portion of the school day reading a book from home or playing math or reading games on the computer. This year she hasn't had a spare minute to read. She is doing work - work that makes her think.

THIS makes us all happy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Last night Alice got to meet her teachers and walk around her new school.

It's nice. It's old, but it's nice.

Last year Alice's class was in a portable classroom (aka a trailer). The ceilings were low, it was small and dark, there were tables instead of desks with a common pot of supplies in the middle. When there were storms, which happened often last year, the kids had to go in the main building because it wasn't safe to be in the classroom. To get to the main building, which they did several times a day, the kids had to tromp outside without coats. I guess I didn't realize how crummy this was until I saw the classroom she will be in this year.

It's big and bright. Alice has a desk! Another parent asked about supplies and the teacher said that she thought the supply list was pretty good but, you know, if there were other things the child might want - markers, colored pencils, etc, then they should bring those too. There is a boys and girls bathroom INSIDE the classroom as well as a water fountain. One child even has a taller desk because, "he is REALLY tall."

There are two teachers in her class. One is quite young and looks to be a student teacher / intern / educational assistant. I don't care what her title is, I just think it's awesome that the student - teacher ratio will be 10-1 or so. She will be there for the entire year. Both teachers are super nice.

We also met the instrumental music teacher, the art teacher (who's name is Ms. Musik), and the dance teacher. All were very welcoming. The kids have a 6 day rotation at this school of art, gym, instrumental music, general music, dance, and library. There is a dance studio. The art studios (!) are huge and include a floor loom and a kiln. There are glass display cases all over the school showing off student work.

All of this is very encouraging and exciting, and I haven't even gotten to the best part of the night... I was talking to Alice's teacher about gluten and she told us that there are a lot of kids with food allergies in the class this year, including another little girl who cannot eat gluten. Alice was so excited. She was literally jumping up and down and clapping her hands. The teacher said the other little girl (who had come in earlier) was also very excited.

fingers crossed....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sponsored by....

I was so shocked by this I had to share it here: Scholastic InSchool Backing Off Its Corporate Ties.

No, I'm not shocked that Scholastic is backing off. I'm shocked they have ties with these industries in the first place! The coal industry?! Egg producers?! The Brita water filter people?! What are they doing in the classroom and WHO decided it was okay to let them in?!

I know. It's all about $$$$$$. Schools don't have any, industries do. Children have more consumer power these days than at any other time in history. Schools get something for free and possibly some $$, industry gets a captive audience with ZERO parent monitoring. Makes sense. Except that it is so very very WRONG...

I was probably exposed to marketing at school as a child. I don't remember it. It would have had to be in print ads because when I was in elementary school there were two or three TV's for the entire school and the computer lab consisted of two PC's in the library. When I was in school, an ad would be glanced at. Now? It is a constant bombardment.

Walking through Alice's (old) school the past two years, there were several times I noticed posters on the walls advertising movies that were coming out. Other ads would come home in her backpack. The kid who sells the most for the districts fall fundraiser wins a bazillion chicken nuggets from Chik-Fil-A. A different elementary school sells ad space on their fence to local businesses (The ads face the road, NOT the playground). I've always been annoyed by these things. I would rather schools be completely separate from corporate America. I do know that the $ isn't free flowing for education, especially in this state, so I figured it was a necessary evil. I am NOT okay with it, but I don't see our schools getting the $$ they need elsewhere, either.

But, advertising disguised as curriculum?! Whoa, now. That is a HUGE step over the line.

This summer is the first time we have allowed Alice to watch any TV other than the shows on PBS. We've branched out to a very few shows on Nickelodeon. Her screen time is still very much limited and it is rare that we are not either watching with her or in an adjoining room. Part of our afterschooling this summer has been to talk about advertisements and the different tactics companies use to make you want to buy things.

Alice has gotten quite good at seeing through ads. Which is a good thing, because school starts in a little over a week.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer in pictures

Our only storm damage from June - this isn't even our tree. It is the (absent) neighbor's tree, but this branch is precariously hanging over our yard. Has the neighbor been to their house since the storm? Of course not!

The butterfly bush that we planted last summer. Only one didn't make it.

3 Year old butterfly bush by the kitchen window. Also, Tim's jimmyrigged grill stand made from an old bed frame. :)

My basil - grown from seed this year!

The garden thinks it is a jungle...

We tried some different things this year - this is a red kuri squash.


Alice watching the washing machine...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This morning Alice and I made the trek all the way across town to the fancy store that only sells gluten free things. I discovered that I was out of the flours I use to make up one of my mixes, which is a bad thing since someone's birthday is right around the corner... I also have this cupcake cookbook coming in the mail tomorrow. (Their other cookbook has my go-to pizza crust in it. Yum.) Alice and I shop at this particular store once a month or so because it is a good 25 minute drive from our house. She looks forward to these trips because they have a small in-house bakery where everything is gluten free.

Today as we were leaving, we ran into an organist from a church at which I often play. As he headed into the store and we headed out, Alice and I had the following exchange:

A: "He is SO lucky!"
K: "Why is that?"
A: "Because he gets to eat gluten free. Gluten free is the best, Mom. People who don't eat gluten free are missing out."
K: "So, does that mean you're lucky because you get to eat gluten free?"
A: "Yup. Gluten free is the best."

I'm sure the brownie we bought didn't hurt this sentiment, but it still made me a little bit choked up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Twister

Just a quick note to let y'all know that we're okay. We've had massive storms come through the past week. Tuesday we had a microburst that was CRAZY. The weather went from fine to armageddon in a matter of minutes. 70 mph winds that ripped trees up by the roots. I've never seen anything like it - it looks like a tornado hit.

And, actually, one did - but it waited until Thursday night. Our weather radio woke us up with a tornado warning last night. The tornado actually touched down about 1/2 mile from our house. Again, the destruction is pretty impressive. I have never before seen a giant billboard twisted in half.

Like I said - we're fine. Our trees are all okay and no one else's tree fell on our house. Our MIA neighbors fence fell into our yard and a tree limb that hangs over our backyard is broken and will eventually come crashing down, but we are very, VERY lucky. We lost power last night and it has been flickering on and off since Tuesday. There are still about 30,000 people without power from TUESDAY'S storm, though, so a few hours is nothing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. The end of the symphony season / school year has always felt like a water slide to me. You go go go go faster and faster until - splash - nothing. We are on week 3 of nothing now. We are slowly adjusting to the summer routine. I have stopped waking up in a panic sure that I am missing a rehearsal.

We are afterschooling this summer: reading and math as well as science and social studies. I also have plans for art and home ec.

Alice's social studies workbook came home at the end of the year basically untouched. This coupled with the public school students who told me that Germany is located in Africa has made it clear to me that social studies / world geography is not given a whole lot of emphasis in the early grades here. Same with science. Since a big reason we afterschool is to fill in the gaps, science and social studies / geography / history will be a big part of what we do this summer.

Here is our curriculum for the next week or so:

Reading: whatever she wants, she is required to read 30 minutes a day. She usually reads more than that, though, and I don't think I've had to make her do her reading yet. She's been reading the Goosebumps series, the diary of a wimpy kid books, and the American Girl books.

Math: Singapore math curriculum book 1B (2nd grade) - addition with regrouping
Singapore mental math curriculum book 1 (2nd grade) - strategies for mental addition of two of the same number (37+37, 44+44, 52+52, etc)

Social Studies: we're discussing commercials - why companies advertise, how they advertise, etc. She is keeping a tally of commercials aimed at kids vs commercials aimed at grownups during Sponge Bob Square Pants. I might have her keep a tally of commercials that are realistic vs unrealistic too.

Geography: US states, capitals and landmarks. We are playing games, doing puzzles, and reading books about different states.

Afterschooling only takes up an hour or so of our day. There is plenty of time for running in the park, swinging, swimming and all the other wonderful things about summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Circle of Life

I'm not sure if it is due to the personal nature of our work or the personalities music attracts, but playing in the symphony is like one never-ending family reunion. You know some people better than others, and there are the inevitable clashes. Ultimately, though, when something happens - good or bad - we are there for each other. I experienced this generosity first hand when Alice was born. Players I had barely spoken to brought us food, diapers, and lent sympathetic ears. It is truly a caring group of people that feels the ups and downs of life together.

This week has been a whiplash of emotions for my symphony family. (And it's only Tuesday...)

On Sunday one of our colleagues passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Calvin was our principal horn player. He was really a great guy - I know people always say this when someone has died, but in Calvin's case it was absolutely true. He was a good man. Calvin was always smiling and ready with a story. If you sat next to Calvin at a gig you were sure to be in for a good time. He was also a tremendous musician. Saturday night he had a solo in our pops concert. His sound just soared over the orchestra. I made a mental note at the concert to compliment him the next time I saw him. Sadly, I did not have the chance.

In extreme contrast, our associate conductor's wife delivered their first baby yesterday. Everyone is doing well - the baby is gorgeous.

We had rehearsal this morning. The mood was somber - everyone was distracted. The arrangements for Calvin's funeral were announced and then someone said to Jim (our associate conductor), "So, Jim, do you have any good news you can give us?" He looked at them blankly. After a hint he announced the birth of his daughter, Kiri Jane. We hooted and hollered.

Sunrise, sunset.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Career Day


Today is career day at school. Alice was all atwitter about this because, looking through her dress up clothes, she concluded that her options were to dress up as a princess, a dancer, a wizard, or a clown. She wants to be a scientist. Right now she has her interests narrowed down to being a geologist, astronaut, or blood doctor. (Have I mentioned that this child devours science books?!)

Luckily, there was no shortage of lab coats to be found at Goodwill. We also picked up some snazzy safety goggles. Alice is very excited to have her very own lab coat. She was disappointed when I told her that her teacher probably wouldn't allow her to wear the goggles all day. She was hoping that the first graders would be working with dangerous chemicals and breaking rocks today.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We're Ok

We are all fine after the storms that came through yesterday / last night. No damage to the house, either. People in West Knoxville were not so lucky. My quartet attempted to rehearse last night at our 1st violinists house in W. Knoxville and about 20 bars in, the power went off. 10 minutes later the hail started. We toughed it out in his basement for a few hours and then zoomed home between storm cells. I risked taking the back roads, which turned out to be clear. Our cellist, who lives on the same side of town as we do, took one of the main drags, which was completely flooded. Everyone made it home safely, though.

Its crazy here - Knox co schools are operating, but everyone around us is closed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Sweater

My mom sent Alice a sweater for Easter. It fits perfectly (and so does the one for her doll Kit!). Now to make the dress that goes with....

Easter sweater

Thanks, Grandma!!!