...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Friday, January 29, 2016

A tiny dose of force fed culture

Ok, I love art.  That should be said from the very beginning.  I have loved art for as long as I can remember.  I love all the different forms, but painting is maybe my favorite genre.  (Just as an FYI, Monet...aaaah...my very favorite of all time.)

When I went to Europe I eventually got tired of castle after castle and even (to a lesser degree) cathedral after cathedral, but I never tired of the museums.  Seeing the GOBS of thick paint on a canvas crafted by Van Gogh was ethereal to me.  Having only one day to tour the Louvre was disheartening to say the least (but the Mona Lisa...not so much impressive to me if I am honest).

Anyway, so when I heard that the art of Norman Rockwell -- another of my favorites -- was being displayed at the BYU Museum of Art, I knew I wanted to take the fam.  

After all, his works are a little more kid oriented than many other artist (seriously, those Saturday Evening Post covers are engaging and hilarious and heart string pulling if you give them a chance).

So I reserved tickets online (they are free, but you do have to reserve tickets), invited my parents to tag along, and off we went.

We got the added bonus that my parents also asked my brother, Joel, and his wife to come (Joel needed to see the exhibit for a class anyway) and they also brought two of my cutie pie nephews.  Bring on the fine arts fun!

My kids were impressed with the cool, wire rainbow in the entry of the building, but that was only an itty bitty taste of what they would experience.

Ok, I was totally enthralled by the exhibit.  I learned a TON about Rockwell in general, who was much more a historian than just a mere artist. 
 Image result for norman rockwell art     Image result for norman rockwell civil rights

I couldn't believe the notes he took on temperatures and times of sunset and what insects were in the area and the weight of people he painted so that every fragment of the image would be just right.  I loved that as he became more experience he moved from using professional models to pose for his pieces to instead using everyday people.  

I loved the texture of his works (tomatoes with three dimensional "seeds" and deep, heady brush strokes). 
 Image result for norman rockwell art  

This exhibit was incredible to me.  I love watching art jump off the pages of a book and come to life.

Image result for norman rockwell art
Probably my favorite of his works.

And my kids survived.  Some liked it more than others, most enjoyed pieces of the evening.  Many laughed and searched for one more silly picture with me in the hundreds upon hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers.

It was a great experience for all of us...some of us just may not realize how great for a few years more.

We finished the evening on the food court (dinner out always impresses the peeps) and slapped a stamp of approval on the whole adventure.

Go Cougars!

And if you are interested in experiencing this exhibit for yourself, it runs until mid February, and I think you would really enjoy it.  Click here to reserve tickets.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How water/surface tension won the science fair

This is Parker.

He is in sixth grade this year and sixth grade mean science fair.
(for real, that's not even me being sarcastic)

I love the science fair.  I love watching my kids explore the wonders of nature and scientific stuff.  It is wonderful to watch them learn.

Parker decided early on that he wanted to do a project involving the surface tension of water.

And so we did.
Now, while I often work WITH my children on their projects I am a HUGE believer in making them do pretty much EVERYTHING.  I am happy to guide and encourage them, but I think they should be the one to choose the topic, do the work, type up the information, create the board, etc.  After all, it would be weird for a 38 year old to enter the sixth grade science fair.

Here's how it went:

1. We got three identical containers and filled each with 1/2 cup of water.  To one container we added two tablespoons of salt and stirred for two minutes to let it dissolve into the water.  To another container we added two tablespoons of dish soap and stirred that for two minutes.  We left the third container alone as our control group (plain, tap water). 

2. Next, we got a syringe and a quarter.  Our plan was to push one drop of water at a time onto the quarter and see how many drops we could add to the ensuing "water bubble" before the surface tension could no longer hold the water and the bubble burst.  We would do this three times for each of the water types we created (control, salt water, soapy water).

3. We set to work dripping water drops onto the quarter.  The surface tension of the ensuing bubble actually held a lot more water than we had expected.  We kept a chart with tick marks for each drop that landed on the quarter.  It was pretty cool to watch.

Wow, look at that fabulous surface tension!

4. We noted each time that the "water bubble" burst and counted the number of water drops it took for that bubble to erupt.

5. We then put together our information and sorted it into sections including:

*Introduction (what is surface tension, etc)
*Hypothesis (what did we think would happen, which water type would perform best, guess at how many drops would break the surface tension)
*Procedure (a step by step log of what we did)
*Results (a chart and paragraph about what happened and what we learned)
*Conclusion (how did our hypothesis play out)
*Picture (super important, we took LOOOOTS of pictures)

6. Finally, Parker shared his findings in a fancy science fair board and I think he did a great job...

...and the judges thought he did a great job too, because he managed to come away the winner of the school science fair.

Not too shabby for a few afternoons of science fun.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Troubles of readers

That frustrating moment when you can't find a piece of paper, so you get creative with your bookmark.

Sometimes it's hard to be an avid reader.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Last day in the lunchroom

Today was my last full day working at our elementary school and it was a fabulous/difficult day.

I have had the opportunity to spend the last six months working with this incredible crew of ladies and I am very grateful for the chance I've had to get to know them.  They are wonderful women who care deeply about the children in the school.  

As a team, we have worked in classrooms and also with individual students on reading interventions and the work we have done (lead by Jan Hurley, who is superb) has really made a difference.  

I don't mean to brag (well, maybe I do a little bit) but these interventions have pushed dozens of students from needing assistance up to achieving benchmark for their grade.  That is no small thing, and we honestly work hard at it.

But it is incredibly rewarding work, and I will really miss those kids.  

Because not only did I work with a full class of second graders and a handful of reading students (9 total of which 7 reached benchmark), but I also worked as the lunchroom aide (that's right, I was officially a lunch lady) so I spent every afternoon with the whole student body as they came through to eat. 

And I really loved it.

I accidentally fell in love with 650 little people age 5-12 (as well as the wonderful kitchen staff who are thoughtful and hard working and who really work to benefit the children).

And although I am very excited about my new employment opportunity with CoughDrop, it is really hard to leave these kids.  They are fabulous.  They are kind and entertaining and obedient (mostly) and supportive and I just can't say enough good about them.  

And so, because today was my last day in the lunch room and the kids knew that, I got pelted with hug after hug (some more gooey than others) and there may have been some tears shed (mostly by me).  

I know these sweethearts will have dozens of lunchroom aids through their years of schooling, but I'm not sure they will ever have another one who loves them as much as I do.

I was very lucky to have been blessed with a job that I loved doing every day with a school full of students who made every day unique and memorable (my husband will absolutely miss the wild/funny/gross tales from the lunchroom).

I hope they all grow up to be successful and that they remember that they matter and that they can do anything if they put their mind to it.  But mostly I hope they remember that they are loved, because they really really are.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Aubs cuts a rug

It's almost the end of the semester around here, and that means all the final projects and tests and assignments are coming due.

It also means performances for semester classes like social dance.

And Aubrey happens to have a social dance class.

So I happen to have had the chance to frequent the junior high for said performance.

It was fun to watch all of the groups show off, but I was particularly enamored with my little girl.  She and her friend, Megan, paired up to perform this piece and I thought they did a great job.  Way to go Matheson social dance class (and thanks to a great teacher who has really helped Aubrey grow this semester).



Monday, January 4, 2016

Trying something new

I mentioned a few days ago that in a lot of ways last year was tough.

But, there were a lot of bright parts to the year, too (like this one, or this one, or this one, and even this one).

Life is like that, in one way or another things tend to balance out.

One major blessing that has recently come into our lives is that in December I was offered (and then I accepted) a position at a new company.

It's called CoughDrop (learn a bit about us at this link or find us on Facebook or Twitter if you'd rather).

Not only am I excited about a new job opportunity which is a better fit for my family (I can work from home and set my own hours), but I am also incredibly passionate about CoughDrop itself.  This is something I really believe in and a product want to see grow.

CoughDrop is an AAC app which allows people who struggle to speak due to autism, stroke, ALS, traumatic brain injury, etc to communicate using technology.

What?  You've never really heard of AAC?

Well, I hadn't either (not in big fancy terms at least).

AAC is technically "augmentative and alternate communication" which can include anything from facial expressions to sign language -- any communication that isn't speech.  However, when most people refer to AAC they actually mean a device that a person can manipulate in order to have it speak for him.

Here's a sweet, little sample of what I'm talking about.

(WARNING: Synopsis of wonderful new company to follow.)

Anyway, CoughDrop isn't just any AAC system.  This program has been built around two core ideas.

1. CoughDrop is cloud based: This matters because a communicator's saved information and settings are available to them when they log in on any tablet, computer, or phone anywhere.  This is unique because most AAC comes on ONE piece of equipment meaning that if the device breaks or if you leave it at grandma's house or if the teacher or speech therapist needs to keep it overnight to update things then the communicator is left without a voice.  Not ok.  

2. CoughDrop is usability focused:  Instead of writing code for an immediate need of an individual and then allowing others to use that personalized system and try to fit within its framework, CoughDrop is designed to be user oriented, easily maneuvered and functional for all.

(Ok, it's safe to look again.)

Mostly, we feel like this is a great opportunity for me and for our family and I'm excited to take on this new challenge.  I have a lot to learn, and I'm working hard on that.  I want to be an asset and to really do my best (and maybe even a smidge better than that).  

Should be an exciting new adventure -- an adventure I am incredibly grateful for.

More than anything else, I am thankful that Heavenly Father was very aware of the needs of our little family and He opened a way for things to work better for our entire crew.  This opportunity will relieve some of the financial pressure we have felt and will allow Josh to cut back at his second job considerably (which means we will get to see him a lot more...HOORAY!!!).  

This answer did not come when I wanted it (which was, like, as soon as things were hard because hard is rarely comfortable or fun) but it came in the Lord's time and waiting on His plan and trusting His way has given me strength that I know I needed (even if I didn't really want it).

So, here's to the new year and to new opportunities and new growth.  I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Our 2015 send off

The end of 2015 was a little bit chilly around here.

So, we took advantage of the chilliness and spent some time in the snow.

And it was lots of fun.

On tubes, sleds, and boards, we enjoyed the slippery white face of winter and finished the year with a chilly bang! 

We did do a bit of indoor celebrating as well.  We are equal opportunity celebrationists.
(Well, some of us went to bed at 9:30 because we were tired, but the rest of us stayed up to celebrate.)

And that's the fun of it!

Happy New Year, all!

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