Sunday, February 28, 2016

Quick update on Mercer's birthday + a couple of random things.

Today was the end of Mercer's celebration week.    (but - we actually have an experience gift he'll get to go to in a couple of weeks, so his birthday is not technically over~)

On Tuesday, Mercer turned 8.  Todd took him lunch and brought cupcakes for his classmates.  Later that evening, we took him out for pizza - his choice - and he opened some gifts.  (here he is with a "tinker" crate he received from Grandma in NJ.)  

Tuesday night was very rainy, however, and it was a school night so we couldn't do too much.    We *really* celebrated today - several days later.  

Mercer had a small group of friends come over today for pizza and "racing" cake.  The real party was at a nearby entertainment venue, however, we wanted Isabella to be able to celebrate a little bit too.  She had a good time hanging with the boys.  She was laughing, eating pizza, cracking toot jokes along with them.  

After cake and ice cream was consumed,the boys went to Andretti Karting.  

Mercer - now that he's 8 - can officially drive mini go-karts at this place. Since it's sort of pricey, the # of friends was limited to a handful, but he and the boys played some arcade games while they waited on their race.  

They all raced together.   It was hard to tell who won because they basically kept running laps 'til time was up.  But - Mercer said he came in 3rd and said he had a great time.   

(Here's a shot after the party was over.  The "racing" cake - once cut into it - exposed the checkerboard pattern of white and chocolate cake!)  

Mercer can also ride in the back seat of the car WITHOUT his booster seat.  He proudly walked that into the house on his last day of being 7.  

Tonight, Mercer participated in the Presentation of Colors ceremony at Cub Scouts.  Between karting, eating cake, and being allowed to carry the flag.... it was a pretty good day for him!

As promised, here are the pieces of artwork I made in my encaustic workshop last weekend.  In one of the pieces, I focused on embedding things in the wax and trying to create layers.  For the other piece, I worked on building up the wax to create a lot of texture.  I've never tried this medium before, but I liked it.  Maybe I'll get to continue to work in this medium in the near future?     

Hopefully things will level off enough to have free-time to create.  Hopefully.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More new things......

As shown on the previous post, Mercer (and Todd) tackled making a car for the first time for the Cub Scout / Boy Scout pinewood derby.  They worked DILIGENTLY on the car for weeks -- making little bits of progress almost every night (there was a lot of layering with the paint job on the car).    His is the navy and silver racer on the left (#8 car with a 26 sticker for the derby).   Next shot are all of the 2nd grade cars (Wolf den).

We had no idea what to expect... had no idea how long we were going to be there.

We were there all day because Mercer's car did pretty well & had to race again towards the end of the event, but it was actually a lot of fun!  

Check out these creative cars.  There were were a lot of interesting designs with the "real" cars as well as an additional category called Renegade cars.  

Out of the group of 2nd graders in his Wolf, den, Mercer placed 3rd.  The kid on the right, Langdon, got 1st of the 2nd graders, but - once the cars were pitted against all grade levels, he took 3rd overall.

Mercer (and Todd) were pretty excited to have placed their first time in the derby!  Todd was already scheming on how to make Mercer's car faster for next year~  

Isabella flirted most of her way through the event with one of Mercer's friends seen here (He's the same kid that is seen in the last post @ basketball too)... she could not get enough hugs from this little boy, Sean. He was very patient with her, thankfully.  (Otherwise - I'm not sure how she would have made it there all day!)

A "season" has ended.  We have been going to the sweetest little Montessori school for ~ 7 1/2 years.  Mercer started there as a baby.  There was a little bit of crossover with both Mercer and Isabella attending at the same time before he started Kindergarten.  Isabella has been there for almost 3 years.  The end of January marked the end of our time with them.  It was a tearful departure, honestly.  The sweetest woman, Ms. Angela, in the infant room and I both shed tears.  They are like family - so it was tough!

February 1, Isabella started coming to the daycare at my school.  There is a significant cost reduction for her to come with me.  Many people point out that we also get to spend a bit of quality time with each other in the car.  We have already played countless number of games of "I spy" and have sang no less than a thousand songs so far this month!  (or so it feels like it)   The drop-off in her room has not been going so smoothly.  She has been crying and clinging to me each morning.  There have only been a couple of times that she's walked right in with no fuss, but it's mostly been pretty tough.  Often on the drive in, she says she doesn't want to go to my school. She wants to go to her (old) school.  But - when I pick her up in the afternoons, she seems happy.   
One perk of teaching at the same school.... I get to check in on her while she's napping (during my break).  I sometimes see her from my window of the science lab because she has recess at the same time I have one of my classes.  And - I got to pop in on her valentine's day party.  

This school takes things up a notch from our sweet little Montessori school. My new school has a computerized / cell-phone device check in & out system.  This system also charts her naps, food, and can offer a report of what she did that day.  Sometimes, there are also photos that show her participating in an event.  One of the other steps up:  she's got homework.   Spanish words every day to practice are uploaded to the website.  She also had a diorama due after her first week there -- complete with a rubric for he presentation.   YIKES!   The enrichments will be great for her, though.  She gets to go to a real music class, real art class, a real martial arts class, a PE class (on top of daily recess) and a computer lab every week.  (at this age, they play PBS kids, pull up dances for the kids to do an teach agility with a mouse / keyboard)

On my end, I'm hanging on.  The first two weeks, I was given the freedom to have fun and get to know the students.  I had to start teaching "for real" beginning February 1st -- the beginning of our new semester.  I have not dug into anything too major in my biology or life-science classes thus far.  Some of what I've been doing is trying to wrap up the topic (DNA) that the other teacher left-off on.  I'm putting my own spin on it -- for the upper level students -- we're looking into cloning and talking about biotechnology ethics which I think are both interesting.  

These two courses will be my biggest challenge.  The chemistry class, I have to dig in a little more on too because it's deeper than the chemistry I did in my other physical science course.  Honestly, I'm catching up the chemistry class on some fundamental subjects that they have not been exposed to yet - that they should know.  My three physical science classes.... are thankfully no problem to prep!  : )

I do like how laid-back the structure of the classes are, however.  It's very conversational and less teach / lecture.  There will be more hands-on work since it's a Projects-based-learning school... I've been working with the students on the type of project we are to develop for science that ties into the larger upper school project.  There's a model of teaching called the flipped classroom.  I found a series of online science text books (that are free).  I can use these textbooks as a framework for what I'm teaching /having the students read at home.  We can then have discussions in class, work on projects, and do labs.  Fingers crossed I can keep up with all 4 subjects!!!

Isabella and I are both on a school break.  Our break also coincides with Mercer's winter break at his school.  He's at a sports camp this week, however.  While he's doing that, I'm using this time to do some fun stuff with Isabella each day-- things that a 2nd child may not get to do that the 1st child did.  We are going to toddler programs at the library, tumbling at a local gymnastics center, etc.   I used to take Mercer to these same things.  Here's a photo of her painting pottery at Just Kiln' Time yesterday -- a new experience for both of us.  Isabella wanted to make her "mad" face -- luckily, there's a little bit of smile in there.   
I am excited to try something else new this coming weekend:  an encaustic (wax) painting workshop.  (I'll update the blog with an image -- if there's one worthy of posting.)  There's a really cool layering and depth that can be achieved using wax as a medium.  I've been intrigued by encaustics for many years & am happy to give it a try soon!

I don't think I'll be blogging as regularly as I have been.  We'll have to see how it goes with the busy teaching schedule (prepping 4 courses + architecture elective) and hanging with our active kids~

This is our new season!