Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Crazy Wonderful Year

Hello Friends! I'm on Christmas break right now and I absolutely can't let it pass without popping in for an update.

What a crazy, wonderful year this has been, with lots of turmoil and so, so much to be thankful for.

When I left the classroom in June, I had every intention of stepping up my blogging, and as you can see, that hasn't happened. I don't have a good excuse. I've certainly had the time. I just haven't had the blogging mojo. I think about it all the time. I just can't seem to dig up the motivation to sit down and write.

Often I'll have something small I want to share and I can do that much easier and quicker on Instagram or Facebook, so I'll go there. I'm not ready to give the blog up though. I'm just not that into it right now. I hope that will change.

I think a lot of it has to do with the changes I've had this year. Leaving the classroom has given me some wonderful opportunities and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself, but there is a part of me that misses it terribly.

In my new position I'm at the high schools frequently and I've seen a lot of my former students, and it makes me long to be back with them. 

As sure as I was about leaving education earlier this year, I'm looking at teaching in a whole new light. If, or maybe I should say when I go back, it has to be different. I knew when I left that I was part of the problem. A big part of the problem. I put too much of myself into my job and there was nothing left for me.

My new job has been such a gift. I feel like it has thrown me a life raft and said "Hang on. It's not over yet. Take some time to recover and then get back in the pool." Truly the best part about what I'm doing right now is helping teachers. I want to do whatever I can to ease their burdens.

Enough of the heavy stuff. I don't want Zoe Bug all up in my business about always whining about my job.

Did I mention that I'm on Christmas break? Wa-HOO! It's a beautiful thing.

I'm dedicating part of my break to working on Stinkerbell's stocking. I'm only a third of the way finished, so there's no way it will be ready this week, but next year it really should be. If it isn't, well then I'll just suck that much more.

And Stinkerbell reminds me about the stocking often. She's all "MOM! I'm 12 now. Do you think you could finish my stocking before I go to college?"

Well, I'll certainly try, Sweetie.

For years we've had three of our stockings finished, and Stinky's stocking is still on the cross stitch frame. It's so sad. It's like she's the orphan child.

In order to motivate myself to work on it, I listen to audiobooks or stream Netflix while I'm working. If you've never done cross stitch before, it's tedious. When this project is finished, I will never cross stitch another thing, as long as I shall live.

I have another tedious project I'd like to work on over break, but I'm not making any promises because it's one of those projects that I find depressing to look at.

It's this table. Take a moment to drink it in.

Actually, now that I'm staring at it, it doesn't look that bad. It just looks like I don't want to do it. And I really, truly don't. I'm such a whiner.

This is something else I want to spend some time on. I am now six years behind on my digital scrapbooking. It wouldn't be so bad except 2009 was a very long winded year on the blog.

Geez, I'm bored with myself already. Thankfully I also went back to work that year and I didn't have as much time for all the yapping, so things should be picking up here soon.

I've started using Digital Project Life with PhotoShop Elements, and it has changed my life. It's so much easier and faster to get my photos into books now. No mess either.

I'm hoping that future books have more than a year in them. I work on pages until I have enough to fill the maximum number of pages that Shutterfly will print (over a 100), and then I let them sit in my cart until Shutterfly runs a 50% off sale.

I started taking piano lessons in September. It's something I've always wanted to do and I'm so happy to be doing it right now.

Things were going great until a couple weeks ago when I realized I wasn't really learning which piano keys played which notes, or even what notes they were, but instead I looked at a note and by its position knew which finger played it. Well, playing the piano isn't like typing, apparently.

Dang it.

I feel like I need to start all over again. I'm a little frustrated, but not frustrated enough to give it up. I just need to start fresh.

Peanut Head and I did our usual holiday baking this year, but while attempting to apprentice Kimikaze and Angelina Ballerina, the crazy science teachers.

Man what an organizational juggling act that was. The flip side was that it was a blast. An exhausting blast, but it took the chore out of the process and put a whole lot of joy in its place.

This is Angelina Ballerina. She was all business showing up with her apron and everything. We had a hard time trying to get her to focus on Bon Bon and Buckeye nights though. The middle school boy in her was fixated on the spherical aspect of the treats. We're not going there, just setting the record straight.

And then there's Kimikaze. This girl is a handful and she puts the snap in Gingersnap. 

We had a little chocolate fight, and I'm not afraid to say that I won. She was a chocolate mess. There were pictures, but they were all too blurry on account of we are lightning fast like ninjas.

Check out our ornaments for this year from Liane and Alison. Do you recognize them?

If not, go refresh your memory with my Crazy Town post. Alison, you nailed it.

Gunny Man!

Zoe took this awesome picture of him with her phone. She's taking a photography class at school and has been taking some crazy good pictures with just her phone. Most of the pictures on our Christmas card were taken by Zoe.

Zoe has also been taking hours of video footage of Gunny jumping and we set up a You Tube channel just for him called Gunny Bun Bun. Click on the link if you want to check out the one video we were able to upload successfully. 

We're having some serious technical difficulties uploading videos because Zoe made the movies in iMovie and they are in .mov format when they need to be in .mp4 format. Does anyone have any experience with converting those files that can give us some advice for converting those videos? We are pulling our hair out trying to figure it out.

Lastly, I leave you with our Christmas card and "This is How it Really Is" letter, should you care to read it.

I hope you all have an amazing, restful, peaceful, and healthy holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!                              

I know you’re probably wondering why there are three pictures of the dog on our holiday card, and only one each of our two children. Well, it’s partly because we have more pictures of Gunny than anyone else in the house, but mostly because he’s such a lovable guy. He’s never grouchy or unpleasant to be around (except when he has flatulence), and he will let us dress him up in practically anything we’d like. In fact, as I type this letter, my friend Betsy Wetsy is making him a reindeer hat. He is very excited about it. And since our kids no longer let me dress them, the Bunnery Sergeant is now my favorite child.

Now that that’s out in the open, here’s an update on the human kids.

Zoe is 14 and a Freshman in high school. She’s always doing homework and doesn’t have time to get into trouble (as it should be). She thinks she needs to start Drivers Ed in January. I don’t know what’s wrong with Idaho, but kids can get their driver’s permit at age 14-1/2. She’s barely out of diapers, for crying out loud! One thing is certain, and that is that we are not teaching her how to drive when there’s snow on the ground. So let’s have some snow, Weatherman, shall we? On the other hand, we still have the mini van and I am itching for a new car.

Zoe has started setting up obstacle courses for Gunny to master, and I am astonished at how high the dog can jump. He will do anything for Zoe Bug. She has taken to making videos of his jumping and we have more video footage of Gunny than any new parent has for miles around. She has gotten pretty good at trimming and editing video as well. Now we just need to set up a You Tube Channel for Gunny and we’ll be set.

Annika is 12 and in seventh grade. She has been wearing a very short haircut this year (lately sporting blue bangs as well) and is regularly mistaken for a boy. She doesn’t help matters when she wears boy clothes and walks like a truck driver, but she doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least by people’s gender identification mistakes. On the contrary, I think it amuses her. We went out to dinner one night and a little boy followed her into the women’s restroom. When he realized where he was he looked at her, alarmed, and exclaimed “We’re not supposed to be in here!” She just stared at him with her stone face, compliments of her father. I’m pretty sure it bothers me more than it bothers her. Before school started, I ordered her a couple t-shirts with #notaboy printed on the front to help people out. Middle school is awkward enough. Why make it harder, right?

I had a job change this year and I left the classroom at the end of the school year. I am now working in the same school district as a Math Specialist for the middle and high schools. It’s a curriculum position where I get to nerd out on data and help teachers. I’m on a teacher schedule (same days off and vacations) without the stress and bringing work home. It has been such a wonderful opportunity for me, and I have learned so much. The only negative is that it’s only a one-year gig. It has the potential to be extended, but there are no guarantees. It’s okay, though. I am so thankful for the time I’ve had to put the focus back where it belongs. I do miss the kids and a lot of things about teaching, but right now I’m just enjoying my free time. I’m finally taking piano lessons, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

Clark hasn’t had any changes in his job this year. Last spring we decided to start getting our house ready to sell. We’d like to have some land and eventually Zoe would like a horse. We’ve both been pretty busy working around the house, replacing things and sprucing it up. We were going to try to put our house on the market by fall (just passed) but we’re not sure now when we will. Maybe this summer? There’s no rush now since the bond for our school district finally passed (after four tries), so we are no longer in a rush to get out of this house.

We still have five chickens, two gerbils, one cat, and one dog. Lucy (the cat) has taken over sleeping in Gunny’s bed when he’s not in it. We recently bought him a second bed to keep in the living room because he’s such an old man when it comes to his bedtime. As soon as the sun goes down he starts rolling his eyes and trying to get us to go to bed. Now that he has a bed in the living room, he’s in it all the time. Last night Zoe was yelling at him because he wouldn’t get his gnarly carcass out of his living room bed to go to his bed in her room. His living room bed is much more plush, you see.

As you can see, all is well in Idaho. We are happy and healthy and so thankful for what we have. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.


Clark, Jill, Zoe, and Annika

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Facebook Stalker

So, I have a little confession to make and I'm afraid you'll think less of me after I confess it.

I could just not confess it, but I feel that I need to share because then maybe I'll feel a little less dirty. That and maybe I can help someone else feel better about themselves.

I'm a Facebook Stalker.

Yes, you read that right. Honestly, I can scarcely believe it myself.

You see, I lack the skills required to meet a new person and remember their name. I'm not talking about not being able to remember their name a week later, but immediately.

Like their name goes in one ear and out the other like greased lightning. It's embarrassing.

I blame my mother for this because I can. I remember my short-term memory being a problem for me as far back as first grade. I now refer to my brain as "Dory Brain" because I'm just like the fish, Dory, in "Finding Nemo."

Names are a problem for me until I get to know a little bit about a person and their personality. When I don't remember people's names it looks like I don't care about them and that's far from the truth. 

As a teacher I relied heavily on my Smart Seat app to learn my students' names. On the first day of school I would take pictures of the kids in the seating chart app, and then go home and quiz myself until I learned their names.

Now my problem is mostly remembering adults'  names and it has become even more glaringly obvious in my job because my professional counterpart, the Elementary Math Specialist, is a rock star. You think I'm kidding, I know, because I kid a lot, but I'm not lying here when I say that he knows everyone in this town and they know him. Walking anywhere with him is tedious because of his rock star status. Rodd the Rock Star.

Now I just refer to him as Rodd Star. I'm sure he loves it. Why wouldn't he?

So I've decided that I need to make learning people's names a priority, and since "There's an app for that!" is sort of my mantra, you know I went and looked for an app for that.

Here it is. It's called Name Shark, and I love it.

However, imagine if you can, how awkward it is to meet a new person and immediately ask if you can take their picture.

"Do you mind if I just snap a quick picture of you for my Creepy Stalker Wall?"

It's not cool.

It's awkward and there's just not an easy way to sneak a picture without giving the appearance of being a stalker.

Enter Facebook.

Where you can stalk people anonymously. Now, not everyone is on Facebook, but most people are. I've found that even though I'm not Facebook friends with everyone, like Rodd Star, most of the time I can at least view their profile picture and take a screen shot of it for my trusty little app.

Yes, it does feel creepy. It feels really creepy, but that's because it is. It's super creepy and it's not supposed to feel right.

There's no way around it though. I've found that the creepy feeling mostly goes away when I delete their pictures out of my Photo Album and just have them in the app itself.

So I've been creepily adding names and faces to my app and I quiz myself with the built in quizzes in the app.

It's my new favorite app.

And yes, I feel dirty, but I am learning the names.

And someday soon, maybe I will be a rock star too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crazy Town

Would you look at those crazy, crazy colors? I just finished a project with these colors that took me a month to complete from start to finish.

Do you remember this kitchen table that I refinished over the summer? Well, I cutified the chairs that go with it. No way was I going to strip, sand, and refinish six chairs, so I opted to prime, paint, and seal instead. 

Each chair took a rough sanding, then two coats of primer, two coats of paint, a coat of crackle glaze, another coat of paint, and two coats of clear gloss. That's a lot of drying time, my friends.

Hence a month to cutify six chairs.

And it was worth every day.

I'll give you a minute to process what you're seeing.

Are you ready now?

Are you ready now?

How about now?

Peanut Head had a similar reaction. When I started on this adventure, I had just finished covering the first chair in pumpkin when he opened the door to the garage.

He stood there with his mouth agape and he had no words.

"You're stunned. I can see that," was my response. I don't generally give Peanut Head a heads up when I'm about to embark on decorating adventures like this, because I don't want to give him the opportunity to try to talk me out of it.

Hence the startled silence.

He then gave me his blinky eyed looked, not unlike the beginnings of a seizure, and replied "That's exactly the word I was looking for," and turned around and quietly closed the door.

I think he needed some time to process what he saw.

Zoe was a little more vocal with her opinion.

"Mom! What are you trying to do to us?! Nobody is ever going to want to buy our house when you keep doing all this crazy stuff to it!"

All that and still she wasn't done.

"I could maybe see it if we were a Mexican restaurant, but our house is not a Mexican restaurant!"

Then after that she just kept talking and I don't know what all she said because I had to just tune her out. Her negativity was harshing my mellow.

The yellow chair in particular is her least favorite. It looks like puke she said.

It's all good though because Stinkerbell is on my side. "It doesn't matter what they think," she said, "because neither one of them is very artistic, so their opinion doesn't matter."

Yeah. What she said.

Zoe is not allowed to sit in my pukey chairs. I sit in all the chairs because I love them all so much. Sometimes I sit in two chairs because I can't decide which one I love the most.

Changing the subject, a lot has happened since I last visited with you.

My babies started another school year.

Zoe Bug started high school.

She still has no horse.

Stinkerbell started middle school.

And Cross Country.

She's very, very tired.

Glitter Man and I succeeded in our attempt to bring the Renaissance Woman into the twenty first century by holding her hand while she bought her first computer. #shepaidwithacheck

We have crazy amounts of cherry tomatoes in our garden.

So I've been making a lot of this salad. I can't get enough of it. The recipe calls for cilantro and olive oil as well, but it really doesn't need either one. It's perfection in a bowl, I'm not kidding.

I've also made a couple batches of this Fresh Roasted Summer Garden Pasta Sauce for the freezer.

So you can see I've been happily busy doing my thing, so I think it's time to update you on my job situation. I did mention that I accepted a position as a Math Specialist in our district, but I haven't really been talking about it because a) it's a new position and I wasn't crystal clear on what all my new position involved, and b) I was still feeling a little icky about the whole "I'm leaving education/just kidding, I'm back" flakiness that it appears I'm exhibiting with this announcement.

In my mind I was finished with education. I wasn't kidding and I was serious. It happens sometimes.

About a week and a half into my summer vacation I started panicking and thinking "What have I done?! I'm a teacher. It defines me. Who am I?" Blah, blah, blah. I was practically having a midlife crisis, except I was happy and well rested. And I was still driving a minivan so there's my reality check right there.

No corvette = no midlife crisis.

Anyway, all the while I was still applying for jobs. And applying for jobs. Lots of jobs. And had two interviews. Two.

And, because that wasn't enough to freak me out, nothing I was applying for paid more than $15 an hour.

And that's not enough.

So late one night when I couldn't sleep in my unemployed loserness, I visited our school district's website.

And there was My Job. Math Specialist. Teacher Schedule. Teacher Pay. No Teacher Stress. No Yelling Parents. Nerd Out on Math and Data While You Sit in Your Chair Not Sweating.

Sorry about all the title case, but Math Teacher. I don't have to follow those other rules.

Anyway, Dream Job. It's a pretty sweet gig. I have been learning so, so much. I've been able to help teachers. I love teachers. And do you want to know what the biggest perk is? I get to go to the bathroom whenever I want. 

Let me say that again.

I get to go to the bathroom. Whenever I want.

Maybe only teachers, nurses, and truck drivers get this, but it is a pretty big deal in my world.

So I've been dressing up a little more since I have to act more mature than I'm naturally inclined to do. And I'm looking a little more conservative than usual.

As evidenced by my manicure.

Okay, maybe not my nails, but I can just shove my hands in my pockets when I'm meeting with serious types, right?

I've got to hang on to some of what makes me Me, right?

I can't wait for Halloween nails. This weekend it's happening.

Anyway, back on topic. My job is going well. I'm loving what I'm doing, I get to see all my favorite people every day, I'm meeting new people, I'm learning tons, I'm not bringing work home with me, my weekends are mine, and I have free time. Life is good.

I'm not going to lie though, I feel a little guilty. Like I've left all my teacher friends on the battlefield. 

On the other hand, from this new perspective I'm able to focus on the good in teaching and there are parts I really miss. I knew I would. I listen to my friends tell stories at lunch and I laugh. Kids and their funny personalities have a way of brightening every day.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but today I know that I am where I need to be right now.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How to Decrapify a Kid's Bedroom in Four Short Days

Do you ever get what you think is going to be a great idea and then it turns out to be an epic flop? It happens to me a lot. So much that I've become pretty familiar with failure. We're pretty tight.

Well, a couple weeks ago I got one of those great ideas and I came up with a chore list for my girls to completely clean out their rooms, decrapify and spring clean, all without my supervision and nagging.

We are all kinds of crazy in this house.

I decided I was going to break it down, with very specific, anal instructions that went day by day over the course of a week.

I typed up a list and taped one to each of the girls' bedroom doors. Then I snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram and Facebook. I was so proud of myself. Then the doubt set in. What if my kids laughed at me and refused to comply?

I'm sure my kids are very typical in that they groan and complain whenever I ask them to do chores. Zoe especially. She acts like I'm asking her to give up a kidney when I ask her to do something as simple as water the garden.

Well, much to my surprise my girls complied without any prompting from me. In fact, it probably helped that I was out of the house all week at teacher education classes, and I wasn't able to check in on them. They stepped up and did everything on the list each day, and most days they even got a head start on the next day's list, just so they could get it done.

Here's how it went down.

Day #1 - Bed/Books

1. Take all bedding off bed and dust with a rag.

2. Wash all bedding and make bed.

3. Clean underneath bed: remove EVERYTHING and sweep or vacuum and mop.

4. Organize under bed (plastic containers with lids are in the guest room).

5. Go through books upstairs and downstairs and make a pile to donate. I expect to see your donate pile, so do not dump it in the guest room.

I don't know about you, but in this house the guest room is the dumping grounds, so whenever anyone has something they don't want anymore and they are too lazy to do something about it (myself included) we just dump it in the guest room to worry about another day. That day is usually the day before a guest arrives for a visit, at which point the pile may or may not be dealt with, and is sometimes hidden underneath the tables in my crafting area. 

Denial is my BFF.

Day #2 - Closet-A-Palooza

1. Remove everything from the closet and vacuum or sweep and mop in closet

2. Wash shelves and walls in closet with a rag and 409

3. Make a pile of shoes and clothes that no longer fit for donating.

4. Throw away trash and set aside anything you wish to donate. I expect to see your donate pile, so do not dump it in the guest room.

5. Return things to your closet that you are keeping. Dust them off as you go, and put them away neatly.

As you can see, I'm very sensitive and mistrusting about the dumping of the crap in the guest room.

This is Zoe's closet after decrapification. I realize that it may not look like much, but I feel I should reiterate that this is Zoe's closet. She's my hoarding baby and she will keep gum wrappers because the trash can is so far away.

I am very, very proud of the work she did especially because organizing and cleaning has never been her thing.

It is such an incredibly painful process to clean out her room because we have very different standards and she thinks that I'm an OCD freak and completely unrealistic about the way her room should look.

Maybe, but I'm the boss and she has to listen to me because I'm bigger. And meaner. And her mom, dang it.

I know we clean her room at least once a year, but I don't have an explanation for this shirt that clearly has not fit her for years.

Day #3 - Dresser

1. Put everything in your hamper in the washing machine and start a load.

2. Take everything out of your dresser and place it on your neatly made bed.

3. Vacuum out dresser drawers and dust outside of dresser with furniture polish.

4. Carefully fold clothes and return those that still fit and you intend to wear to your dresser. Follow the Kon Marie Method of folding (look it up if you weren't paying attention).

5. Carefully fold clothes to donate and make a separate pile. Leave it on your bed.

6. Move clothes in the washer to the dryer and make sure all of your laundry is folded and put away.

So I've been reading that book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and I was sort of joking about #4. Although the book has some great advice, like most self help books do, I feel like the author could have said what she needed to say with a whole lot fewer words.

And the whole idea of thanking the stuff that I'm purging for its service and the joy it has brought me just makes me roll my eyes. Ain't nobody got time for that.

If I'm going to be talking to my clothes as I kick them to the curb it's going to be a whole lot more satisfying than that mess. I might say "I never liked the way you made my butt look you sorry excuse for a pair of jeans!"

I could maybe get behind that, but still, unnecessary waste of time in my world.

Day #4 - Everything Else

1. Move all furniture and clean behind and underneath.

2. Clean all furniture with furniture polish.

3. Wipe down lower walls, baseboards, and chair rails with a rag and soapy water (use a bucket of warm water with a drop of dish soap in it). Use 409 on hard to clean spots.

4. Wipe down window casing and clean inside of window.

5. Declutter!!!! By this, I mean make a pile of things to donate and throw away things that are junk. I want to see your donate pile, so don't just dump it in the guest room.

6. Organize your stuff. Everything should have a place and everything should be in its place. Surfaces should be clear. Nothing should be on the floor if it is not a piece of furniture.

7. Ask your sister to look over your room and give you constructive, polite criticism.

Notice the guest room/crap disclaimer is there again. I'm very, very twitchy about it.

I will tell you right now that #7 is a potential mine field. I knew this when I typed it but I did it anyway because I wanted to see if they could handle it. That, and I like cheap entertainment.

However, to my surprise, again, they handled themselves beautifully and even worked together at times.

This is Zoe's room at the end of decrapification. Zoe's room never looks like this. Never. This was a big deal for her to do with zero help from me. And Hallelujah, because I loathe participating in this particular aspect of parenting my children.

And this is Stinkerbell's room. To be honest, this whole purge, clean, organize thing was just a typical day in the life of Stinkerbell. She has always been obviously my child as far as cleaning, organizing, and all things domestic go.

Except for that brief period of time in her preschool years when she curated some very disturbing collections of fingernail clippings and crumbs from each day's preschool snack hidden in her closet.

Now, I'm sure many of you are wondering how I encouraged my kids to do this without some sort of threat or motivation, so I'm going to fess up right now and tell you that I used both.

In fact, at the bottom of their lists was the following statement.

There will be a military-like inspection every day at 5:00 p.m. I expect you to be in your room and ready for inspection. If I am happy with the result, you will receive a REWARD. If I am not happy, you will receive a CONSEQUENCE. Do not disappoint me. J

I didn't think this part through very well and most days I couldn't tell you what that day's reward was going to be. The girls would ask me and I would fake them out and tell them "It's a surprise. You'll have to wait and see."

I didn't have to come up with any consequences because they met the deadline to my satisfaction every day. And thank goodness, because I could see myself raising my arms over my head threateningly and yelling "RAWR!" at them or something ridiculous like that. In reality I'm sure I could deliver, if pressed.

I don't think they should know ahead of time what the reward or consequence will be because they might decide the reward wasn't worth it or the consequence was not a big deal. Anticipation is king.

The first day the reward was the biggest because I wanted them to get excited. I took them to the book store and let each of them pick out a new book. 

The second day we took them out for ice cream after dinner.

The third day I gave each of them $5.

The fourth day I told them that I was going to take them to the museum for the Pirates exhibit they've been wanting to see. And nobody has to know that I was going to take them anyway.

I can honestly say it was worth every penny, and I will be making this a yearly project every summer.

It was such a success in my world, that we have moved onto other areas of the house. In this picture they are cleaning out our coat closet. The possibilities are endless!