Thursday, March 31, 2011

The. Groundhog. Lied.

Plain and simple, he lied. I will never trust Phil again, I'm afraid. I'm sorry, Phil, but you're a horrible weather predictor.It may be difficult to see in this picture, but behind Hunter there are big, fat, fluffy snowflakes falling. March 31, 2011. Eleven days after the Spring Equinox, and more than three weeks after Phil said spring would begin. Granted I do have teeny tiny crocuses peeping up, a sure sign that spring has to... just *Has To* be around the corner. However, two days this week so far we've woken up to snow. And all the rest have been a thick layer of frost. I'm putting my foot down right here! April, in case no one has noticed, is tomorrow. The official "month" of spring! Easter, Passover, Spring!!!

I'm off to think springy thoughts and work on the Mario room. After all, it won't paint itself. Even when it's snowing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mario Theme Room

I look at theme rooms in magazines and online and I think, "I want one". I got tired of "wanting" one, and decided to Make one! The Mario theme room has become more than I thought it would be. Hunter has asked for a Mario room for a year now, ever since we moved in to this house. His room had pink flower wall paper, and he was a good sport for putting up with it. Taking down wall paper in this house isn't easy because it's a 100 year old house and the walls are made of plaster. Even if you use a steamer, wall paper doesn't come down nicely and often times the plaster crumbles. It's best to take down the plaster walls and put up dry wall. At least, in Husband's mind it is. He has dry walled the living room, dining room, and now Hunter's room. He has plans to do Drew's room some day as well. In my opinion, there's nothing like having the blank canvas of dry wall to slap fresh paint on.

{Picture of Hunter helping tear down the walls. He got to make the first hole with a hammer.}

The Mario room didn't take a lot of planning. We took Hunter to Lowe's to pick out paint, and Husband already had an idea of what he wanted to do. Conveying it to Hunter (and Mom) was a little difficult, but after we saw his vision (versus Hunter's vision of a fiery Mario world complete with Bowser castle) we picked out shades of blue, green, and brown to bring this Mario world to life.
Back at home, Husband slathered a layer of primer on his dry wall, and we were ready to go.Husband taped the different levels of the ground. The very bottom is brown, the little middle area is green, then the big top area is blue.
Husband did most of the painting. I am better at edging because I can paint a straight line easily enough. I don't like using tape on edges since I can free hand it. I took advantage of the Picnik photo editing website to map out how I want each wall to look. These are all rough drafts (mostly because Husband came home for lunch and saw these and said "oh, and don't forget to add this, and how about we change this to that!"). The window wall is the side of the room where Hunter's big slide bed is. I would like to do a green pipe on both sides with a Piranha Plant coming out. Maybe one with mouth open and one with mouth closed. I think that will give a nice balanced look when you first enter the room.

To the left of the bed (when facing it) is the wall with his closet. The slide comes down this side, so I don't want to put too much detail in that corner. I will keep the pictures high, such as some clouds with maybe a flying Koopa (turtle), and a few Goombas (mushroom guys) down low. We will also hang a pegboard on this wall. I made a pegboard for Louisa's room last summer and she uses it a lot. Husband thinks he can cut the pegboard in to a cloud shape. That would blend in well if he can. (Note, clouds and vine are photoshopped, the wall is actually blank right now.)

The next wall has Hunter's door. I don't think I'll paint anything on either door, but we'll see. Husband thought maybe vines going around each of the door and window trims would look nice. I also have to keep in mind that A) we won't be in this house forever, and B) Hunter won't want a Mario theme forever.
So here we have a wall that I will put some Blocks and Coins on. I will also put two Koopas on the bottom, not a Goomba and a Koopa since, as Husband pointed out, Koopas travel in pairs. He also suggested I put the coins in an arch. Notice above the door, Hunter asked us to make sure we added a "score" and "lives" somewhere in the room.

The last wall I didn't add any pictures to so you can see how nicely it's painted. Hunter wanted what he called "stairs". We need to add black lines on the foremost level of the "stairs" so you can tell it's in the foreground. I think I will do Mario on this wall, jumping from the ground to the upper level. I promised Hunter he could paint a Yoshi Egg on one of the two platforms.
Again, Husband did all the planning and taping to make these lines and levels possible. I was so impressed when I'd seen the final result. I had my doubts, to be honest. I will never doubt his painting skills again! He's done me proud. Hunter is one lucky little boy, and I hope this is a room that will give him years of fun and imaginative playtime.

I will update as I begin my contributions to Hunter's Mario theme room.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Parent/Teacher Conference Time!

I believe that one of the most significant things a teacher can do in a P/T conference is relate a story to the parent in which the parent gets the sense the teacher *really* knows the child. For example, Hunter's teacher told me how they recently got a new student in class and Hunter (being the ultra sociable Hunter that he is) was upset and crying because he wanted the new student to be placed in *his* group. The teacher told Hunter that she was placing the boy in another group, but Hunter would have plenty of opportunity to play with his new friend throughout the day. She said that she loves how Hunter wears his heart on his sleeve, and really works his hardest to make sure the other kids in the class feel like a welcome part of the group. That sums up Hunter. He loves to be in school, around friends working toward a similar goal. That's because I worked on social skills more with Hunter when he was a toddler and a preschooler. The many advantages of playgroup, Kindermusik, and sports (like gymnastics and soccer).

Drew's teacher absolutely adores him. I don't think I've ever seen a teacher love a child this much before. And not to brag.... well yes, I'll brag ;) She says he's hands down *the* smartest child she has ever taught. (And she's no spring chicken!) I'm, well, flattered. I mean, I did teach him everything he knows! Ok, not everything, but a lot! However, Drew is just a natural sponge. Not the type of cheap generic sponge that lasts maybe a day and then falls apart. The type of strong, expensive sponge that just keeps working and working. He does not stop soaking up, and remembering, information. My brain is so tired and full that when I learn new things, old unimportant (or at least my subconscious thinks it's unimportant at the time, but I usually end up needing it later on) information gets shoved out the back door.

I am not shy about my love for the boys' school. We've been through a lot in our years of schooling the children. It's about time we were able to just relax and leave teaching up to true professionals.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A little gymnastics, and a whole lotta Indian cuisine

I wish I could write about all the Chaos that has happened over the last week. I am choosing not to write about work related issues, because I work with children and I don't want any information that could affect them online. But I will say that gymnastics recital time is approaching again, and I'm getting freaked out! Last year I didn't choreograph any of my routines, a cute little teenaged cheerleader did it for me. But this year, I'm on my own! Yikes! I just relinquished 4 classes, so I will have 7 classes to prepare routines for as well as one class to assist with.
So far the songs I've picked for routines are:
~Dancing Crazy
~Ain't Got Rhythm (Phineas and Ferb show)
~Remix of Love Story
~Rubberneckin' (Elvis remix)

I need to come up with one more song for an all-little-little-girl class. They are 4, 5, and 6 and *so* cute! But I had to wait until my roster was final, and I knew there would be no new additions. That class has given me a few gray hairs lately, part of my ongoing Chaos. Now we're settled with my 4 little cutie pies and I need to pick a nice song for them. I'm thinking something princess-y/tinker bell-y.

School has also been a source of Chaos lately. Last week Friday, the 11th, in cooking class we began learning about Indian cuisine. I'm not a fan, sorry to say. My body, and all it's issues, cannot tolerate "hot" or "spicy" cuisine in any amount. I took a tiny bite of some lamb with curry last week, and my body went in to overload mode and I felt ill all night, in to the next day (while working!). Wasn't going to make that mistake again this week. I had to be part of the team that makes samosas last week, a pocket of dough made with turmeric and filled with veggies (and possibly lamb), then fried. The veggies are infused with an intense blend of Indian seasonings called garam masala (spices vary in different parts of India, but can include black pepper, different types of cumin, mace, corriander, cardamon, etc). The pockets (also called turnover) *have* to be a specific shape in order to be "authentic", according to my teacher. I wished I had my Indian friend's opinion on this, but she is on Facebook and I am not allowing myself to access Facebook right now so I'll have to wait to ask her! (Unless she reads this... Anj?!) As the teacher was staring over our shoulders (the entire time) making sure we got his samosas exactly right, I wanted to turn around and stick a samosa in his nose! I was praying I wouldn't be picked for this job on the 18th, when we actually prepared food to serve to the public!

Fast forward to the 18th, and I did not, in fact, have to make samosas! Yay! I assisted in making the Lamb in Coconut Curry sauce (whew, hot!) and I made rice pilaf by myself. Funny thing about the rice, of ALL the food in the kitchen that day... and there was a *lot*... everyone went ga-ga over the rice! haha! Rice pilaf, people! But hey, folks love their starches, and they really love their rice, I guess. I had a much more relaxed day this past Friday. I had to serve the lamb in the buffet line, trying to remember everything that went in to it so I could tell the costumers what they were getting. It is fun serving the dish you personally made, and watching them ooh and ahh over it. I definitely think I could get used to that!

Today, Sunday, is a day off for me and I'm taking it easy all day. Not going anywhere, and not doing much more than basic chores. Just hanging with the fam, and enjoying the first (cold) day of spring! I have also stopped working Fridays, so that opens up time in my schedule. I prayed a lot over the last two months for some extra time with the kids because I work when they are home, and I am home when they are in school. I'm so happy to have an answer to my prayer, and to have very able people to take over my Friday evening classes

**Side note about taking time off Facebook. I have received emails, phone calls, texts, and most notably a *hand written letter* giving me much support in taking time off. I am grateful for everyone supporting me. I don't actually miss Facebook all that much. Not saying I will never go back, but I do see the advantages in taking a break now and then. Although I haven't gotten even halfway through my ambitious list, I am enjoying my computer-free time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A story, a muffin, and a prayer

I am so blessed. There, I said it. I feel blessed, and I *am* blessed.

I think today is as good a day as any to reflect on my past year, and look forward to the coming year. I've recently had a hard time at both school and work. Nothing big, but big enough to rattle and unnerve me. I have to pause and pray that God will settle my soul after my shake ups. And not only do I pray, but my friends pray for me. I can feel a prayer from half a country away, and that in itself amazes me. As I'm in class, having a hard day, I can text a friend and she will pray with and for me. I almost instantly feel a relief. The girls in my baking class are sweet and supportive to me, always. That is like having my friend here with me, and not states away. So yes, I am blessed.

Today I felt God's love strongly as I went to Drew's 4th grade class to (finally) read my published story to the kids. His teacher and I have been trying to coordinate this since December! I'm glad she's patient with me (and my son!)

I entered Drew's room to a class full of eager faces all sitting on "the carpet" in front of "the chair". Everyone was excited to hear what I had to say. I felt calm for the most part. I had one shot to get my message across to this class and I wanted to take full advantage of it. As shy as I am, I *can* speak publicly... quite well... when I need to. Since my story is about saying good-bye to a deploying daddy, I took the time to acknowledge everyone whose parents might be gone right now. Some children's dads just came home, some are gone, and some are leaving next month. I hope this story touched those children especially, as it's for them.

They all enjoyed hearing my story, and learning how and why I wrote it. I brought some items that had inspired me to write the story, and I think they liked that also. To me, as a writer, it's interesting to see how and why authors write what they write. I know there are budding writers in this class, because the teacher has told me so.

The coup de grĂ¢ce of the day was the treat I had prepared especially for the students. Drew has been asking me to bring a homemade treat in to class, so I figured today was as good a day as any. I am hesitant to bring anything in to class because there is a child with egg and peanut/tree nut allergies. I know her, and I know what she can and can't have, but I hate leaving her out of things. Drew asked me to make muffins, so I chose to make blueberry muffins. However, I tinkered with my recipe and ended up making blueberry banana muffins with blueberry cream cheese drizzle on top. Let's just say... *everyone* loved them! Well, except for my food allergy friend, she loved the rice crispie treat I brought for her. It happened to be her birthday, so she enjoyed sharing an eggless cupcake with me. I *am* currently researching eggless baked goods, as well as some other food allergen free goodies, so I'm glad she shared her treat with me. I told her as much, and she was proud of herself.

As I left the class, I felt such a swelling in my heart. I'm proud of my middle man and how
far he has come in his schooling. We've had such a long road with him, and he's finally comfortable and secure in a classroom of kids who like him, and a teacher who adores him. A teacher, who, by the way, told the principal of the school that Drew is hands down light years smarter than any other child she's ever met. Yep.

I will share my muffin recipe... just because I love you all so much. But please, don't tell anyone because it's my own family secret. Deal?

Blueberry Banana Muffin with Blueberry Cream Cheese Drizzle

Ingredients for muffin:
2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick (no, it's not cheating!)
3/4 cup sugar (but please feel free to use less, or experiment because they are sweet!)
1 cup Light N Fit Vanilla Yogurt (you don't have to use name brands, I'm just showing the name brands I used)
2 eggs

1 very ripe banana, smashed
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

The "Muffin Method" of mixing is to mix dry ingredients together and wet ingredients together, then combine. So if you want to make up your own muffin, this is key to remember. In this recipe you combine the Bisquick and sugar together in one bowl, and the eggs and yogurt in another. Once you have each mixture combined separately, you mix them together. You do not want to over beat muffins. That is a common mistake. You can mix by hand to avoid over mixing, or just watch your mixer so that you mix only until moist. Mix in the smashed bananas until just combined, then fold in the blueberries.
This makes 12 muffins, so prepare a muffin pan with 12 liners that are sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon muffin batter in to the pan, and bake at 375 (F) for 20 minutes. Let cool before drizzling with topping.

Ingredients for topping:
1/2 Package Philadelphia Neufchatel Cheese (or cream cheese)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (play with amount to get consistency you want)
1/2 cup pureed blueberries

To puree the blueberries, I thawed them, then stuck them in the blender until smooth.
I mixed all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy, and then piped the topping on to the cooled muffins. You can use the topping any way you want, spread it on, make cute little stars or decorations... whatever. When you make these, they'll be your muffins!

Please, enjoy :)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What? No Facebook?

I know, it's hard to believe. But yes, I have given up Facebook for my Lenten Sacrifice. How will I survive?!!! I don't know. I do have a list of things I'd like to accomplish in the next 40 days with my free time, though. The little free time I have! Here's my list:

  • End World Hunger
  • Begin World Peace
  • Finish all craft projects (and start a few new ones)
  • Catch up on homework (yikes! just a leeetle bit behind)
  • Organize bedroom (cause... uh... it's officially been a year since we moved in to this house and Husband is getting a little antsy that his bedroom is the *only* room not unpacked)
  • Work on all writing projects and polish off at least one for submission
  • Spend as much time with the CK's as I can
  • Create new recipe that's MINE all MINE!
  • Perfect homemade bread
  • Spend more time with Husband
  • Work on obedience training with doggy
  • Work on Hunter's readin' and writin'
  • Get a little further down in my "to be read" pile
I think that's pretty ambitious for 40 days. However, I'm in the "bring it on" mood lately. I'm tired of winter, ready for spring, and feel like tackling whatever comes my way. A perfect time to give the all-consuming Facebook a little rest and get moving with my life!

Louisa has chosen to give up texting, and Drew is giving up junk food. Pray for us as we make our humble sacrifices. Very humble considering the sacrifice Christ made for us!

(**Note to Facepeeps, if you comment on Facebook, I won't be able to see it. Just a little hint!)