Friday, May 23, 2014

In Which I Cram as Many Updates and as Much Randomness as I Can... ;)

Hey everyone!  It's great to be back from the whirlwind.  School is officially out, my art classes are officially over, and my kiddos are mostly over their ickies. ;)  I have so much to share I hardly know where to begin!

Since this post will be a rather random mish-mash of various subjects, I thought I'd begin each new topic with a title or label of some kind.  That way, you guys can skim through and decide whether you want to read the whole thing or just pick the topics that interest you. ;)  Hmm, maybe I should start doing this with all of my longer posts... :}


No matter how hard I try to prepare for it, the month of May always seems to take me by surprise and carry me along in a tidal wave of activities.  This year was no different, or perhaps even more so since I had my art classes to wrap up...but more on that later. ;)

One of the first projects that I needed to wrap up at the beginning of the month was a set of illustrations for our pastor's wife.  Every year, she writes a story to use in a summer program for the elementary-aged kiddos in the church.  The kids have a meeting every Wednesday night.  They get to sing, do a craft, play a game, and hear about God's Word.  One of the highlights of the meeting is hearing a chapter of Mrs. F's story.  She reads them one chapter per week, and is always sure to leave them at a real cliff hanger at the end of each week so they want to come back. ;)

After the summer is over and before the next summer begins, Mrs. F has me illustrate the story and then prints up enough copies for each of the children to have one to take home.  It's a fun way for them to remember the previous summer and to get excited about the next summer. :)

This past year, the story was about a boy and a horse he befriends while on vacation (I'm keeping the names a secret since I did not get permission to share them).  I had a lot of fun doing the illustrations for this one and thought I'd share a few with you. :)  [Side note: I apologize for the quality of these photos.  I haven't figured out a satisfactory way to photograph my artwork.  If any of you fellow artists out there have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!] :}

The two main characters.  This was my idea for the cover, but another picture caught Mrs. F's fancy instead, so this will be used for the title page. :)  I really need to get a new skin-colored marker...mine's starting to wear out, as you can see from the boy's chin and neck. :}

A brother and sister on the beach. 

Meeting the neighbors.

I think this is my very favorite illustration out of all of them.  The horse ended up looking a lot like an illustration from the Serendipity books I loved so much as a child.  It wasn't an intentional homage, but I'm pleased all the same. :)

The plot thickens!  This picture gave me a LOT of trouble.  The boys were supposed to be looking at tracks from a huge truck.  I spent a long time drawing and tracing the tracks, but then realized that they were too close together for the truck described in the story.  Sigh.  I compensated for this by adding several other tracks and hoping that it would look like the truck had backed up and pulled forward a few times...or something. :}

As if that wasn't enough, I realized after I'd finished the picture that the fence in the story was a barbed wire fence, not a wooden fence (as I had drawn).  I didn't want to redo the whole thing, so I cut a thin, long triangle of paper, drew a wire fence and grass behind it, and glued it on top of the field behind the blonde boy.  Whew.  I was relieved when this picture was done. ;)

Another picture at one of the more suspenseful parts of the story.  I'm still not 100% thrilled with my dune buggy (yes, it is supposed to be a dune buggy), ;) but hopefully the kiddos will enjoy it just the same. ;)

This was my final illustration and the one that Mrs. F. selected for the cover.  I actually prefer my first picture of the horse.  She ended up with a rather vacant expression here. :}  Also, I meant to have the boy's cheek touching the horse's face, and as you can see it didn't quite make it. :}  Oh well...the important thing is that Mrs. F was pleased. :)

Art Class

While we're on the subject of artwork, I thought I'd share a few pictures from my art classroom with you.  I wanted to take a few pictures on my last day to help me remember the year. :)

In the interest of protecting my students' privacy, I have pixelated all of their names, as well as any references to the name of our school.

Here is my desk.  Behind it, you can see my wall of artwork from my students. :)  The white screen was used with a projector and laptop camera so I could demonstrate the art lesson on paper and the students could follow me step by step.

A closer look at my wall of art and our art class rules. :)

My big project of the year was an elementary school art contest.  It was quite an undertaking, but well worth the hard work. :)  All of the students were required to participate.  I gave them three class periods to start and finish their projects for the contest.  It had to be their own original work and I asked that they give it their best effort.  The students competed against their own classmates, and first, second, and third prizes were awarded to each class.  

I wanted to come up with a way to make the contest as fair as possible, making it about the art and not about popularity.  For my first attempt, I think it went pretty well. :)   No one put their names on their papers (the entries were numbered instead), and the winners were chosen by vote using anonymous ballots.  The students did not vote for their own classmates, but for the other three classes (4th and 5th are combined at our school).  The other three elementary teachers and the Kindergarten teacher voted as well, but I decided not to vote (since I knew who had done each of the entries).  

  The students really loved doing the anonymous voting (they took it quite seriously), and were very excited to hear the results.  The first place winners got a small sketchbook and a set of twelve colored pencils.  I gave the second place winners a box of ten markers and the third place winners a set of eight watercolor paints.  (I hoped to encourage them to use some of the things they'd learned in art this year over the summer.) :)     

I tallied the contest results just in time for Open House, and then set up a classroom "Art Gallery" for the parents to enjoy. :)

The winning entries for each class were displayed on the bulletin board, and the rest of the entries were put up on the wall around it.  I added each student's name to the bottom of their work so the parents could easily find their child's entry.

Our 1st Grade winners

2nd Grade winners (Middle Gal was one of the first place winners...hers is the light brown horse with the yellow mane and tail). :)  [Another side note:  This was one of the reasons I did the voting the way I did.  I wanted my daughters to have a fair chance to compete without others feeling that I had played favorites.]

The 3rd Grade Winners

4th and 5th Grade Winners (Oldest Gal won first place in her class as well.  I'm so proud of both girls!) :)  

The morning of Open House, I went in and announced the winners to each class at the beginning of their elective period.  After I'd made each announcement, I hung up that class's winning entries.  Because I'm the creative type and not the "plan it out first" type, I ended up with a big open space in the middle of the bulletin board. :}  To cover this little mistake, I put up a piece of black paper, printed up a couple of pages explaining the Art Contest and how we did it, and added a quick sketch.  Nice save. ;)

The 2nd Grade Entries

4th and 5th Grade Entries

1st Grade (We only have six first graders!)

3rd Grade Entries

I was very proud of all of them and the work they did.  There were definitely some rough things about art this year, but I will always remember this contest with fondness.  

After a lot of thought and prayer, I've made the decision not to return as the art teacher next year.  Even though I was only doing one day per week, it was just a little too much for me to take on.  With Hubby's schedule the way it is, I'm the all-day, all-night caregiver five and a half days of the week (he usually has to sleep half of Saturday since he's so tired).  My kiddos are usually out of commission two times a year for at least a month due to various colds/flu bugs/etc.  Adding the responsibility of thirty-four more kiddos to my charge one day a week (albeit not at the same time) is just a little more than I can handle right now. :}

I've also discovered that I don't particularly enjoy teaching kiddos at this stage in my life, especially when many of them are still learning how to sit still and listen for at least a few minutes at a time. ;)  Teaching one day a week is almost like being a substitute teacher.  It takes half of the class period for the students to get used to you and the way you do things again.  I've found that I really prefer public speaking with an adult audience.  The fact that they usually have an interest in listening to what I have to say may be a large part of this. ;)

And, of course, I still have high hopes to finish my book (by this December, Lord willing).  My class time and prep time really took away from that.

I don't regret teaching art this year.  I learned a lot about myself and art (I finally understand the color wheel!).  I had a wonderful time visiting and talking with the other teachers and several times experienced the joy of my students' faces lighting up when they "got" whatever I was teaching.  Hopefully I gave the kiddos a basic foundation to art that they will be able to use in later years. :)  I have to admit, though, while packing up my art supplies for the last time and turning in my key was a bit bittersweet, overall I just had a sense of relief.  Art got really overwhelming, and my family suffered from my exhaustion and bad attitude. :(  I really want to refocus this coming school year.

I made an important discovery this year.  Being a stay-at-home mom with three kids at school is kind of like having an on-call job.  Most of the time, you're not needed at all during the day.  You start filling up your time with activities and get a part time job and everything is great.  Then someone gets sick...and gives it to the next kiddo...and suddenly you realize just how very much you are still needed.  Being able to drop everything and focus on taking care of your kiddos (especially when you're not getting enough sleep at night) is invaluable.  I realize that not every mom has this luxury, but my husband and I have decided that this is a priority for our family, especially after this year.  It will make paying school tuition more difficult, but my hope is to find things I can do from home to bring in some extra income that will not cause issues when my kids need me.

Room Issues

I made a rather unpleasant discovery this month.  My bedroom window, the one that is usually covered behind my white shelves featured in this video, has a mildew problem.

It's an old single-pane window that needs to be replaced (especially now).

 I hadn't noticed it before because I never look back there. :}  However, a week or so ago, when I was in the backyard, I noticed that the foam core board I had in the windows (to protect my dolls and things from sunlight) were wrinkled and spotted with mold:

That night, I moved all of my collections and shelves off of the dresser.  Thankfully, there was no mold damage on any of my collections.  I'm sure it isn't the greatest thing for our health to have all that icky stuff on our window, though. :(  We are hoping to replace the window within the month.  In the meantime, I've figured out a way to rearrange things so that the area in front of the window is clear, which is a nice change anyway. ;) 

For now, until I can get everything ready to rearrange, this is what our room looks like.

And here's the other side.  I've moved my third doll room back up on top of the others (where it will stay for the foreseeable future...time to rethink the doll rooms!), and all of the shelving and collectibles that were on top of the long dresser are now stacked on the shorter one, waiting to be set up again when things are rearranged.

The plan is to get this project done sometime this week.  I'm missing my nice haven in our room (especially since the rest of the house is in need of a major cleaning). :}  I'll keep you posted on the progress. 


I thought I'd wrap up the post with some pictures of a few of the goodies we've gotten over the past couple of months. :)  Some of these items will have more detailed reviews at a later date, so this is just a little preview. ;)

First off, Oldest Gal and Little Gal finally got their Kristoff and Elsa dolls from the Disney Store! :D  They've been waiting for these since January, so it was wonderful to finally get them.  As you can see, Elsa's box got pretty scrunched in transit, but Little Gal didn't care. :)

By the way, I wanted to apologize for the horrid job I've done keeping all of you informed when the Disney Store restocks their Frozen items.  I'll try to be more helpful in the future. :}

New Zelfs! :D  Dandy Lion and Kitsu joined my collection when my mom went on an out-of-town trip and stopped by several Toys R Us locations.  Aren't they adorable?

My Zelf Collection :)

Hooray for new blind bag-sized ponies! :D  Here are the three newest sets, found at my local Target.  Reviews to follow! :D

My new magnet from Mimi, found at Hot Topic.

And speaking of Hot Topic, I very foolishly went in there the other day, thinking I would "just browse".  Then I saw the Frozen pins...and the Buy 1, Get 1 50% off storewide sale signs. :}

These pins are the mini pinback buttons.

I put one of them on my purse to go with my 10th Doctor pin. :)

And while I was there, I happened to notice the exclusive pre-release Funko Vinyl figures of Big McIntosh and Princess Twilight Sparkle.  Applejack was there too (looking absolutely adorable), but I was being bad enough as it was getting two.  At least they were part of the sale as well. ;)  There will be reviews of these coming up as well! :D

Finally, today is the first day that the American Girl Isabelle toys are in McDonald's!  I didn't open my toy because I'm holding out for a mini doll, but it is pretty cool. :)  Review to follow.  In the meantime, you can see pictures of all of the toys on the Happy Meal website HERE.   Who else will be calling all of their local McDonald's restaurants every week? ;)  Happy shopping (and eating). ;)

Whew, if you made it through that entire post, congratulations! :}  Hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend.  I'll be back with more posts next week! :)


Ampy said...

Yay! welcome back!
congratulations for surviving your whirlwind ^^
your students are quite talented! for a young age,they can draw nice pictures....I like the 3rd grade's dog's amazing!

anyways,our mcdonalds here have different happy meals,one set was some boy things,and there was my little pony for the girls,their hair is molded(mane and tail).It includes fluttershy,twilight sparkle,rainbow dash and pinky pie...

Juliet XD said...

Wohoo to summer! I read your entire post, those art entries were awesome! Tell littlest and oldest Gal congrats for me. If I may ask, what's your book about? It's another thing to look forward to :)

Addy and Emma said...

Great post! I can't wait for the reviews!

beastsbelle said...

Thanks, Ampy! :) I was super proud of all my students. :)

It sounds like your McDonald's is a few toys back from ours. We had the same My Little Pony toys just before Spiderman, which was just before the AG ones. I wonder if you'll get the AG toys later, maybe this summer, or if they'll be a US exclusive?

Thanks, Juliet, and kudos to you for getting through everything! ;) I'll pass your message along to the girls. :)

I rather not get too specific on my book (or books, to be exact), but I can tell you they are fairy tale related. :)

Thanks, Addy and Emma! :) I hope to get the reviews up starting next week. :)

Ampy said...

*sorry if this was posted twice,our internet is acting funny

hmmm,were late again? maybe that explains why mcdonald's here changes their happy meals too fast(they change in 2-3 weeks). I do think the AG happy meals are US exclusives...

They aren't called american girl for nothing :PP

a little off-topic but doll related,I finally found Zelfs at a far away toy store,sadly I didn't have money with me that time.both wave 1 and 2 are there and they were more adorable in person! I can see why you collect them!

meanwhile @ ever after high,Someone found the rapunzel twins,they look awesome!

aaaand Dexter charming is on amazon!

Agangel said...

I enjoyed the post, and by the way have you ever thought of getting a bookshelf dedicated to dolls? You fill it with furniture and what not, then there's room on top too. Makes for a good doll house.

Also I love your horse, you should make more :)

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Even as my daughters got to be teens, they still needed Mom around. It's good to be there.

My daughters are now 15 and 18 and they loooooove Hot Topic! Dr. Who, Frozen, Hunger Games, you name it.

BlackKitty said...

Welcome back! I've missed you. Sorry I didn't comment on the short posts, I didn't want to add the burden of reviewing comments to all that was going on. I'm glad the teaching experience is over and you'll have more time to spend with your family. Your daughters did well in the contest, send them hugs from me :)

beastsbelle said...

Hi Ampy! Great to hear from you. :)

I'm sorry you weren't able to pick up any of the Zelfs. Maybe next time? ;) They really are cute in person.

I've seen the pics of Holly and Poppy O'Hair on Facebook. :) I like Holly better than Poppy. I may get the set and sell Poppy...I haven't decided.

I'm really excited for Dexter Charming, although I saw some pics of his non-stock photos and his hair looked pretty awful. I'll wait to buy him until I can see him in person. ;)

Hi Agangel. Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

I actually have several shelves dedicated to dolls and also a few doll rooms. If I had more room in my house, I'd do more shelves that looked like actual dollhouses. :) You're right, though, they work great for storage and display. :)

Glad you enjoyed the artwork! I hope to keep it up this summer as an activity with the girls. :)

I agree, Barb. :) I always said that my girls were my primary responsibility and ministry. It's so easy to get caught up in the busyness of society and forget how much our kids need us. :}

Oldest Gal is the only one who's been to Hot Topic (she's 10), and that was only for a few minutes. I don't like taking the girls in there yet because of the music and some of the other stuff in there (vampires, zombies, etc.). It's definitely one of the best places to find Doctor Who, My Little Pony, and Frozen collectibles, though. And the employees are all really sweet. :)

Thanks so much, BlackKitty. It's great to hear from you. :) Having fewer comments in the middle of everything was rather nice, although I wouldn't have minded hearing from you anyway. ;) My biggest thing is I like to answer every comment personally, and I feel bad when I can't or can't get to it right away. :} It's nice to have more time for blogging now. :)

I'll be sure to give the girls their hugs. :)

Mark Patraw said...

You're going to finish your book in December, I'm going to write one now, lol:

[Illustrations] I seldom draw anymore, but, for "serious" pieces (i.e., not the quick reference scribbles I usually make prior to beginning work on one of my papier mache models), I like to use my scanner instead of a digital camera. I bought mine a long time ago, used, on eBay, for around $30, including shipping, and it still works great. As long as you're not getting something big and fancy, they're not terribly expensive (sometimes you can find scanners in thrift stores for a steal too, and, alternatively, some libraries/universities have ones that are free for the public to use). I think that your drawings look fine in your photographs--what is it about them that you're specifically not satisfied with? Something else you could try is manually tweaking the brightness, contrast, saturation, etc., of your photos in an art program afterwards, until you get results that you feel accurately reflect how your work looks in person.

I can recall cutting out and gluing on "fixed" sections, over screw-ups, like you described with the fence in your storybook illustration, so, you're not alone in that technique either.

[Art Class] I think that your anonymous ballot method was a good approach for the art contest. I can remember that we had a similar voting system in place for a castle contest when I was in elementary school (I came in 3rd place). My teacher had the students from the class next door come in and judge our drawings, but they just did it verbally, not with ballots.

And congratulations to your two eldest girls for both snagging first! They're chips off the ol' artistic block.

Sorry to hear that you decided to give up teaching art classes, but, like you said, you've got a lot of other responsibilities/things going on in your life. Well, as you indicated, perhaps you can find some other way to supplement your income from home.

[Mold] Yep, mold is icky. I had some mold in my bedroom window last spring, after the snow melted, but, thankfully, not this year. I didn't replace the window though; I just scrubbed the wood and glass real good with Lysol and that solved the problem. What's really weird is that, one time, I had some grass growing in my bedroom window for months [and I mean grass as in the lawn variety, NOT marijuana (the cats like to munch on it)] and, out of the blue, it sprouted mushrooms! My bedroom is on the second floor, so, all I can figure is that (1) fungus spores must have blown in through the window screen and taken root, or (2) the soil had fungus spores in it to begin with, but, as it was brand new potting soil from the store, I'm inclined to doubt that.

[Goodies] Nice new Zelfs. I'm partial to Kitsune (which is pronounced "Kee-tsoo-neh", if you didn't already know), but that's mostly because I'm so fond of Japanese culture in general. I love your Zelf rainbow color wheel group photo! The Funko vinyl ponies look great as well. American Girls aren't my cup of tea, but I still think that it's cool that they're getting a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion (I'll probably eventually end up acquiring some of them regardless, as the bags of toys that I frequently buy at our local thrift stores almost always contain several fast food items).

Anonymous said...

When are Tess and Maggie going to post?

beastsbelle said...

Lol, Mark, thanks for your "book". :) It's always fun getting detailed comments.

[Illustrations] Thanks so much for the tips on the illustrations. While the pictures turned out okay, I would like to find a way to make them look like the actual artwork alone, not me holding up a piece of paper, if that makes sense. ;) I also struggle with my lighting. I'll definitely take what you said into consideration. :)

Lol, I'm glad I'm not the only one that's had to incorporate the "Cut and paste" method. ;)

[Art Class] I was really pleased with the voting system, too. It seemed to work really well and gave everyone a fair chance (rather than making it a popularity contest).

I'll pass on your congratulations to the girls. I was so proud of them! All three of my girls love to draw. It's fun that we share that hobby. :)

It was a really difficult decision to quit the art classes, but I feel it was the right one. At this stage in my life, I just need to simplify and focus on Hubby and the girls...and hopefully my book, too. ;)

[Mold] My mom came over yesterday and helped me give the window a good scrubbing. When we moved the furniture from the walls, we found black mold on the walls as well. :{ Everything is clean now, and hopefully will remain so, but we know it's a problem, we'll definitely keep an eye on it.

You're not the only one who's had mushrooms. In our previous home, we ended up with huge mushrooms in our office closet! :( It was really gross. I had some really bad health problems that year, and can only assume it was at least partially from the mold, mildew and mushrooms. :( Nasty stuff!!

[Goodies] I love my new Zelfs too. I wasn't aware of how to pronounce Kitsune, so thanks! :)

Lol, I couldn't have done that Zelf color wheel before doing my art class. You're never too old to learn something new. ;)

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous, I'm so sorry that it's taken so long for them to post. My goal is to have a post up for them by the end of this week. Thanks for your patience. :}