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Teaching Kindergarten art is a great way to learn to let go.  My first lessons came back when I first got Julianna some watercolor paints (far too young, I’m sure.  I probably gave them to her at 5 mos, the way the first child always gets rushed) and discovered that rinsing the brush between colors was just NOT going to happen.  Crayola should just sell a big cake of dark grey paint and not bother with the individual colors.  Not worth the hassle.  Likewise Playdough should just come in a greyish-brownish shade.  It was hard to learn that 3 year olds just. don’t. care. about that stuff.  It’s the process, not the product, lighten up.

I’ve decided to continue my once a month Introduction to Great Artists with the Kindergarten.  I no longer have one of those insane monkeys living in my house (praise be), but I can go in once a month, right?  The other K teacher asked if I would come to her class this year, too, so I do two classes of 15 kids. I went all Montessori on them this year and I start by showing a world map and finding where the artist is from.  (Kid One: Hey!  There’s North America!  Kid Two: I live in North America!  Me: NO WAY!  Me too!  We must be neighbors!)  Then I have a timeline from 1900-2000 to show when the artist was working (Montessori loves timelines).  We do a brief look at the artist’s work, and then a project.

Last month, I started us off with Paul Klee, who once said “A dot is a line that goes for a walk.”  Or something to that effect.  And in German.   I gave them each a black oil pastel crayon and a sheet of watercolor paper.  I had them draw a big dot as a starting point, anywhere on the paper.  Then I told a little “story” along the lines of “I left my house and went down a wiiiiiinding road.  I had to hop 3 times to get over the puddles.  Then I stopped and turned left…” and so on, guesturing wildly to enourage them to draw along with my instructions.  Some got it.  Some didn’t.  Some got it and flat ignored me.  Then I gave them watercolors to paint over the drawing.  I used my brilliant liquid watercolor in an old popsicle mold method–each color with its own brush.  But it’s impossible to make sure 15 kids are keeping the brush with the color and soon they were muddy messes.  Mostly.  The funny thing is always that each table has a style.  If one kid starts mixing the colors and slapping them around, the other kids at that table do the same.  If one kid is watching, and keeping them separate, that table stays clean.  And that child deserves a pony.

Here’s the bulliten board, with both classes on it:

See how some have white space and some don’t?  That’s one table of 4, one of 3, and one of 2.  You can tell which kids sat together pretty easily.  In the end, though, I really like the effect of the washes better.  So messy kids rule!

On Friday, I went back to the Keith Haring well for a new project (the photos are all screwy.  Shutterly explained why and how to fix it, but instead I just started using Flickr instead).  Kids love Haring’s work because they GET it.  It’s bright, cheerful, looks like what it’s supposed to be.  And, it teaches them about safe sex (no, I don’t show them those).  This time, I did a project that Haring himself used to do with kids.  He’d seat them around a large sheet of paper (I had to use two pieces of poster board) and give them each a marker.  While music played, the kids doodled on the space in front of them.  Then the music stopped, and the kids moved one space over and started doodling to the music again.  Repeat a couple of times.  I started them with black markers for doodling and then switched to colored markers for coloring in.  Stupidly, I had an idea in my head of what would happen.  I tried to be realistic and prepare for trouble.  “When you change places, someone else’s drawing will be in front of you.  You can add to it if you want, or start a new one.  someone else might add to a drawing you started.  That’s okay.  This is a group project and that is what happens in group projects.  When we color in, you will not get to color in the things you drew.  And that’s okay.  Someone else will color the drawings you made.  That’s okay.”  And “I will give you a colored marker.  It might not be your favorite color.  That’s okay.  It’s not the only marker you will ever get for the rest of your life, it is just the marker you get for this project.”  One kid piped up “You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit!”  Seems they’ve been down this path before.  Albeit by way of Alabama.

Well, as I am so often reminded, their priorities are not the same as mine.  In spite of my nattering on about “doodling” and making small doodles and not worrying about details–just make outlines!- and not coloring in, once they get that marker on the paper, I just fade to the background.  A lot of them are still firmly in what probably has a fancy developmental art name, but I call “process drawing”–he draws a car and then draws a tree right on the front, which causes flames to errupt from the hood!  Like Howard and the Purple Crayon but with more mayhem.  And little girls screeching “Miss Deana!  Jimmy is scribbling on my spot!”  “Miss Deana! Tommy is making a BIG drawing, you said to make SMALL drawings!”  It’s so hard to find the balance between knocking the marker out of their disobedient mits and just staying out of it.   Sadly, I couldn’t catch ALL the scribbling (and some of the kids really just wanted to scribble.  Defiantly. I take comfort in not having to take those kids home with me) and redirect, so the finished effect is a tad schizophrenic  (literally.).

Look!  One of the kids remembered the Klee lesson!  Give that kid a pony!

The Klee project was better in terms of process and product both being rewarding.  The Haring project had great process–TomTom Club on the CD player!  Changing places!–but the product wasn’t as pleasing to my eyes.  I think it would be a terrific project with older kids, which is probably what Haring did.  Who’d leave their 5 year old with that guy anyway?

I’m in each classroom about 45 minutes.  When I leave I need a nap and a bourbon.  Kindergarten teachers, my hat is off to you.


I also have a very sore index finger from a rotary cutter accident this afternoon, so I won’t be as wordy as I’d like to be.  I know, I know, but courage!

Backstory:  I’ve been learning about opera by listening to The Teaching Company’s CDs by Robert Greenberg (no relation).  He’s a fantastic, infectiously enthusiastic lecturer and he’s really gotten me interested in opera–an area of music I’d previously scorned.  (Except for Mozart, particularly The Magic Flute.  Seeing Amadeus in high school literally changed me and shaped my taste.  I was blown away by the Queen of the Night’s Aria, “Die Holle Rache” [insert relevant umlauts yourself, I can’t be bothered {and I need to go one more just to show off my bracket prowess}] and have held affection for that opera ever since.)  The only thing I don’t like about these Teaching Company CDs is that they cannot tell you who is performing a given piece.  The recording of the Queen of the Night’s aria on the Great Masters: Mozart Cd was breathtaking.  I want to know who it was.  I want that recording.

I did a Google search, trying to find the best recording of the Queen of the Night’s aria and I found my new hero.  Florence Foster Jenkins was an early 20th Century socialite who decided to sing opera.  She was unswayed by those who told her she had no sense of rhythm, pitch, or tone.  She gave grand recitals, wearing homemade costumes that sometimes featured wings or tinsel.  When some in the audience laughed, she dismissed them as “jealous rivals.”  She became enormously popular and when, at age 76, she was finally convinced to give a concert at Carnegie Hall, it sold out weeks in advance.  She was aware of her critics and said, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”  I. love. her.  And, Ceiling Cat bless the internets, there are recordings of her.  She quite literally sucked out loud, and died 60 years ago, but she’s still out there.

Here, here’s the best recording of the aria I’ve found on YouTube:

And here, bless her heart, is Florence Foster Jenkins:

Die Holle Rache. Kind of.

Gives me the courage to sing it loud and sing it proud.  I’ll play Eponine yet!

I’ve been listening to CDs from The Teaching Company in the van–How to Listen to and Understand Opera currently–and I don’t like to pop them out when the kids are in the car because I don’t want to lose my place.  So, we’ve been listening to the radio of late.  First–oh how I hate commercial radio.  Tivo has ruined me for advertising.  I’m so irked that I can’t fast forward through the ads that I feel hostility toward all the companies mentioned.  Second–no good stations since HFS went salsa.  Not that salsa isn’t great on its own, but with the change of format came a change in…wattage?  Radio units?  far-reachingness?…and I can’t get the station in most of the time.  I’ve fallen back on a “soft rock” station that mixes horrible pop with 80s songs (and “soft rock” is what?  shale?  Soapstone?) and a “classic rock” station that delivers the same damned songs it’s been playing since it was Top 40 back in the mid 70s.  I had that one on this evening when “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by the excreble Gordon Lightfoot came on.  After a few stanzas:

Ben: Um, what is he singing about?

Me: The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Ben: Is that a ship?

Me: yes

Ben: was it an important ship?

Me: I don’t think so.

Ben: Did it sink in a big battle?

Me: nope, bad weather.

Ben: Um…why is there a song about it?

Excellent question!  Wow.  It is just a bad, bad, bad song.  As bad 70s death ballads go, it is worse than most.  However, I had to admit I didn’t even know if it was a REAL ship, so I hit the ol’ Wikipedia.  And I’ll be darned, not only was it a real ship, carrying steel “From some mill in Wisconsin” (nice detail work, Gordon), it sank in Lake Superior in 1975.  Only one year before the song came out.  I’d always assumed that IF it was real, it was some 19th Century event.   It was some current events folk-type song.  A crappy one, but there you go.  Musician types, you’re welcome to go on making current events inspired music, but let’s all agree that the line “Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms/When they left fully loaded for Cleveland” must never again be used as a lyric.  K?

Julianna had her performance in Willy Wonka, Jr. on Thursday night.  She played Mrs. TeeVee (mom of Mike TeeVee in most productions, but mom of Michelle TeeVee in our girl-heavy cast).  The show was cast last June, but rehersals didn’t start until September.  The woman that started the school’s drama program was focused on the community-building aspects of the experience.  She said that the production itself was secondary and thus they only do it once per cast.  Most roles are double-cast so that all the kids that want to be involved have a role.  A few always drop out, so some characters are played by the same kid both nights.  Since it’s a 5th-8th grade performance, I see the value in letting everyone have a part.  I’m afraid I don’t really see the point in only two performances.  Why not Thurs, Fri, Sat, and a Sunday matinee?  I saw both shows and the kids that did their role both nights were muuuuuch better the second time through.  And, well, I’m afraid I see value in casting according to ability, not just enthusiasm.  But enough about that.  My wittle baby girl had on make-up, stockings, and heels (albeit low) and a retro-styled fitted dress.  She was suddenly 15.  Upsetting.

Here she is with her buddy-since-Kindergarten, Ally.  Ally was Veruca Salt’s mom:

I missed taking photos at the dress rehersal (she only got to go through it once)  so I only got a few shots at the final night of going over the musical numbers and then a few shots of them taking their bows on show night.  No flash photos during the show, of course.  It causes actors to go mad and rush into the audience, goring and stompling.

Here in the all-denim production, the moms and kids react with HORROR!  ACTING! to the notion of a world without chocolate (and seriously, I”m with them).

Only girls between 5’2″ and 5’4″ with hair of a blonde to sandy shade from shoulder length to mid-back will be cast.  Denim not optional.

The box step requires a high degree of concentration.  FOCUS, people. Remember, you have to go forward before you go back… Let’s not suggest a production of Fame, okay?

And show night, all on stage, clapping for the set-moving folk:

The real star takes a bow:

The squids go to school in what was once a Baptist church.  That’s why it looks like they’re in a church.  Because they are.  So it’s cool that they get a stage, but the seating isn’t stadium.  The folks that choose the back row at church are banking on no one seeing them when they doze off, but for theater seating it means it’s hard to see if you aren’t in the front row.  So Steve and I had Ben and/or Lily squirming all over us and moaning about not being able to see for the whole show.  That always makes for crankiness.

There’s a scene in which some kids are buying candy from a cart pushed by the disguised Wonka (yeah, not in the movie.  It’s what would be the candy-shop scene).  They buy lollipops and put them in their mouths.  Ben urgently whispered to me “The wrappers are still on, right?”  When he saw that they weren’t, he whispered “I hope they do this show again and I can play one of those parts!”  Yes, he’s planning, 2 years in advance, how to score a lollipop.  A candy he does not particularly favor and has access to on occasions fewer than 2 years apart.  he needs an intervention.

yes, I’m missing a couple of stars. I’ve decided to grant Texas sovreignty (sorry Austin) and combine the Dakotas.  I thought about jettisoning Florida, but they keep us in Carl Hiaasen.

Go vote.  If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain for the next four years.  Surely that’s motivation enough?

I dragged everyone out to Gambrill park today for a hike.  Perhaps I underplayed a bit the level of effort that would be required, but if I’d said, “Hey, let’s go climb straight up the side of the mountain for about a mile!” would anyone have come?  I do not think so.  But they came and it was pretty and no one burst a blood vessel.

Lily was complaining toward the end.  She’d have been a lot less tired if she hadn’t Jazzercized the whole way.  I swear she expended twice as much energy as the rest of us.

By the time we reached the overlook, it had gotten a bit cloudy, but it was still really pretty.

It was good to smell the fall leaves and hear the silence…whenever Lily stopped to draw a breath…and enjoy the season before it goes.

“Duck bites” is what our friend Kevin’s little sister used to call goosebumps.  I find that insanely cute.  But Goosebumps is what my kids are watching on TV of late. Because Halloween was coming up, Nickelodeon has been showing lots of Goosebumps.  It’s a Canadian-made live action adaptation of the R.L. Stine thrillers.  And it’s…bad.  The monsters appear to have been borrowed from the old Dr. Who props closet.  Which crew member has a monster suit?  Doug, you have a rubber clown mask?  Bob, you have a purple sparkly suit?  Done!  We have a monster!  Even when the latex is reasonably good, the monsters talk (oh, and they all talk. this is one yappy bunch of monsters.  It gets lonely in Saskatoon) without moving their mouths.

And the acting!  I’m thinking they all graduated from the Degrassi School For the Performing Arts.  This is what they get instead of Fame.  But oh, how the kids love it.  All three will watch it.  Ben likes the Goosebumps books, too, which is funny considering how little scaring he can stand.  But part of that mystery was erased by this blog I found.  Blogger Beware recaps the Goosebumps books is a…somewhat derogatory manner.  I thought at first it was to be a sad fan site, but in actuality it’s a funny fan site.  I found it pretty amusing and I’ve never read one of the books.  I imagine that people who read them and then grew past them will find it hilarious.  If you’re one of those people, give over a couple of hours.  But I cannot recommend the Goosebumps show unless you’re pretty stoned.  Or 8.  But not both.

So I got my Halloween off to a scary start.  I was just about to go wake Lily and Ben when the Guy That Fixes Things showed up to look at our gutter that blew off in the wind last week.  He looked, hrmmed, moved about, and announced it’d be about $275 to replace it (Aiee!  Scary!).  Then I went up to wake Ben.  Not in his bed.  Not in the pile of covers on the floor.  Found him once in his closet, is he there?  no.  Sometimes winds up in Steve’s office on the chair…no.  “Julianna, where’s Ben?”  “In his bed, I guess.”  The panic starts to seep in.  Because I poo-poo everyone’s fears of child abduction by a stranger (statistically, it never happens), I have this fear that the universe would find it amusing to have one of MY kids abducted by a stranger.  The Irony Police are nasty bastards, I tell you.  So my pulse is racing, I yell “BEN!!” and hear his “what?” from the downstairs bathroom.  He’d gotten up and downstairs while I was out back with the gutter guy.  I sit down for a bit to recover my legs.  Phew.  hadn’t realized how ramped up I was until the adreneline subsided.

So I got the kids dressed for International Children’s Day at school.  Julianna was from Libya, Ben was from England (again), and Lily was from China  The kids parade around the school by class, parents take photos, and then we all head into the sanctuary (our school is in a building that was once a Baptist church) for a little program.  Then we go to the classrooms to sample the foods of many lands.  Sadly this year the Health Dept said we can no longer bring in foods that must be kept warm or cold.  Jerks.  Boo hiss.  Anyway, I head out side to watch the parade, chatting with friends.  One of them says how much she misses our principal from last year.   I countered that I like the new principal.  She replies that the new principal looks like one of the teachers we are both afraid of.  Slander! So I jump to her defense and say that she’s a much better communicator than the old principal and that I, for one, did not miss being told that things would change and then nothing happened (a fairly common complaint).  I said, “I liked (insert name) as a person, but not as an administrator.”  then I hear “Hi.” at my elbow.  It is the old principal.  Saying hi to keep me from shoving the rest of my leg into my mouth.  Could have died.  Will likely rehash this scene for the rest of my days.  But I’ll learn nothing and continue to mouth off when I should shut the hell up.   I spent the rest of the morning dodging around trying to to run into her.

But the pictures!  As usual, they are cruddy.  The parade goes by at warp speed b/c the kids are chilly:

All the interior pictures are always bad because I take them from the balcony.  But cool thing!  I noticed this time that under the seats up there, there are little wire frames for men to place their hats and a hook for ladies’ handbags!  Isn’t that adorable?  Speaking of adorable, here is blurry Lily, “I’m Lily and I am from China”:

Her class each put up a piece of a puzzle until they’d made the whole world.  Her teacher, Miss Amy is in blue, the assistant, Miss Dena is a mountie:

Look how cute they are!

Ben’s class sang a song.  Ben seems unenthusiastic.  See Ylena in Lily’s India costume from last year?

Julianna’s class all chose an African country and they sang a Zulu carol. Or so they said.  It was in whatever the Zulu speak, so it might have been a shopping list or a call for jihad.

Yes, she’s wearing my skirt.  And for Halloween,she wore my boots:

Lily’s class had the best spread by a long shot.  I’d been told that Miss Amy always has the best grub, and it was true.  Gotta love a class with a dedication to food.  For the first time, I didn’t cook anything and just sent Lily in with some Chinese snacks (hold the melamine), one a sweetened puffed rice thing and the other a rice cracker called “Want Want.”  But there were donuts and scones and cakes and other yum produced by harder working mommies.  Julianna took hummus and pita.  Ben took digestive biscuits.

And then home for Halloween.  I had to finish up the Day of the Dead chocolates I was making.  No, I have no idea what possessed me to do this.  But I was bagging up one chocolate, a couple pieces of Wonka mix, and a piece of paper with a paragraph about the Day of the Dead and our address to quell any fears about candy that isn’t sealed in a factory.  No worries, fellow citizens!  I almost always wash my hands after handling the mice!

Should you become similarly deranged, the molds are available here.

Julianna and her friend Ally were pirates:

ben was Indiana Jones and Lily was a witch:

Much walking about and asking for candy later, we went up to Home, the restaurant at the old Braddock Inn.  Years ago, there were rooms upstairs, but now they are in disrepair so they owners staged a Haunted House type thing there.  It said “kids” on the sign, so we headed over.  They asked us if we wanted to be in the low key group or the regular group, so Ben and Lily and I decided to go up with the low key group.  Yipes.  The upstairs was terrifying on its own–ceiling caving in, dismantled bathrooms, smashed plaster, etc.  Add to that strobe lights “blood” spattered on the walls, and darkness?  Way too scary, even without anyone jumping out.  Ben bailed and went back downstairs before he even saw anything.  I let Lily peek into a couple of rooms before I called an end to it.  I told Julianna and Ally that they should stay at the back of their group so they could leave if they needed to.  They made it to the top of the steps and went back.  So bravo for a really haunted house, Home, but maybe next time don’t encourage the little guys to come.  Ben cried most of the way back to our house and swore he’d have nightmares.  But he made it.  And he was there in the morning.  Phew.


November 2008
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