Thursday, January 26, 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Jake's science class has been studying inventions.  The goal for the end of the unit was to walk around your house and come up with some new inventions that would solve a problem.  Jake realized he needed something to remind him to feed the dog her water.  He thought he could invent a machine that just had water in it.

I told him it already existed.

I suggested a problem area in my studio: something my students can rest their heel on if they are too short to play the piano pedal.

He wrote it down, but only to appease me and my 15th request.

Ha!  Persistence pays off!!  I think he had about three other invention ideas down, but after consistent and probably irritating hints, he started to realize my problem actually was solvable.

He and Mike got to work on Wednesday night and tomorrow he will be turning in this:

I had explained to Jake what I needed: something big enough for heels to sit on, but high enough that students could be a little shorter and still play the pedal.  I also wanted it to be adjustable for different sized students and I absolutely didn't want it to move once it was on the floor, but I didn't want it to scratch our floor either.  I also wanted it to look professional.  

After all - my students had been used to only the best in materials from me:

Yes, that old musical dictionary was my heel raiser for years and years. It has probably lost a 1/4 inch in height with pages ripping off each month.  It slid around after every lesson and was especially gratifying to pull out from under the piano with four-foot dust bunnies attached to it.

Jake drew up a plan (per class requirement).  He and Mike visited Lowe's for the supplies.  Jake was excited because he got to use the saw.  HE got to use the saw - not just watch Mike (As he explained: not the flat one with the wheel coming through it, but the one that you pull down...").

It is completely adjustable from about 1/2 inch to 3 inches thanks to industrial Velcro between each layer.  And let me just say - these layers are not sliding around; I could barely pull them apart!

It also isn't moving anywhere on the floor...they made sure of that! works!

Honestly, I'll probably be removing at least one or two layers for most of my students.  But I can!  And no more dust bunnies trailing out from under the piano!

I gave Jake a big hug when he showed it to me tonight.  I'm so excited about this!  I wonder what else I can get him to fix around here!

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's ALIVE!!!

Well...we finally got some snow accumulation.  You can only guess what that means!!!

We had a chance to rev up the engine and make sure everything worked!

(No....I did not practically lay on the garage floor to get this shot.  Never.)

I think we might have had...2 inches?  Sure...we could have shoveled.  However, regardless if there is a half-inch or 15 inches of new snow, you can rest assured that the snowplows will be coming down our street at 5:50am.  Then return at least three more times throughout the day.

This left us with at least 4 inches of snow at the base of our driveway.  We figured SURELY this called for motorized snow throwing.

Mike gave me a complete lesson in how all the levers work and how to turn this contraption on.  I was leery of the electric start, but it required far less steps than I imagined and I will be a happy girl on those especially cold days when I don't have to pull-start it.

I was only slightly disappointed when it didn't clear away all the snow.  I like a clean driveway when I'm through.  I guess it's something I'll have to get used to.  It worked out for the best today at least.  Under this snow there is a sheet of ice and the snow-padding provided a little traction for everyone walking into our house today.

Mike was slightly disappointed too, but for a different reason.  When he finished he looked at me and shrugged, "This would have been way more fun if we'd had two feet of snow."

Better luck next time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

He's a Talker

I've read a few parenting articles in the past that suggest the best time to talk with your kids is while you are in the car driving them places.  It's quiet, there's hardly any interruptions and basically, they are trapped.  Each time I've read this, I've thought it doesn't seem very personal.  I can't even look at them while talking to them.  It's a moot point anyway...when it's just me and Jake I can't get a word in edge-wise.

That boy can talk.

Take tonight.  We drove to the high school to pick up Maddie from volleyball at 8:50pm.  Right out of the gate he's expounding upon the benefits of the current pajama pants he's wearing followed by his three favorite pajama pants and why.  And I don't mean he lightly touches on the subject.  Full out detail.  The kind of detail his teacher begs for in writing, but apparently he can only go into verbally.

Pajamas segued into math.
Long division arrived at hockey.
Hockey was followed by basketball and kickball.
Kickball (and it's complete 12- month Phy Ed history) transitioned to running.
His passion of running brought us to the "rowboat" machine at the Y and his current regimen of elliptical/rowboat workouts.
The rowboat will allow him to work up his push-ups to 10...then 15...then 20 even!

I heard about his magnificent shoes and how they dig into the ground to run faster, then how they attach to the rowboat to help build his leg muscles.  This involved him swinging his leg up on the middle console in the car to show me what he was referring to.

Me:  "Wow."

Silence was over and he went on again. Then Maddie arrived and he took a breath.

And then he started in again all the way home.  A block from home he said, "I am just NOT tired.  This is bad. But I'm seriously not tired."

It's almost hard to believe.  Between the energy expelled to keep up that one-sided banter and the amount of oxygen he was deprived from never inhaling, I'm surprised he hasn't passed out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picture of the Day - A Recap

Last year I took on the challenge of the 365-Day-Project as it is known around many parts.  Some call it Picture-of-the-Day or POTD.  I'm not gonna lie...I occasionally thought of it as PITA.  (That's as much as I'll explain on this family blog.)

Basically I was supposed to take one picture per day.  I think I got to day #10 before I had to find a filler.  I had no idea that taking one picture per day could be so difficult.  Rephrase: I had no idea I could make taking one picture a day so difficult.  My general goal for the year was to learn to use my new camera better.  Check. I think I did that.  I believe the problem was I also used the term "general goal".  I had a few of them and I think it would have been easier with one clear-cut purpose: pictures of daily life or "arty" pictures.  I ran the gamut on what I took with a few "Crap! It's 11:48pm and I have no picture!" moments.

I started by posting them to the website.  People can "follow" you and leave comments.  This was very helpful when I was looking for criticism and I followed some great photographers who gave lots of inspiration.  But I really started trying to make every shot something special when I just wasn't taking the time to pull that off.  And it was the uploading every. single. day. and trying to comment to these nice people who were finding time in their day to comment on my pics.  Ugh.  Too much stress so I deleted that part.  By mid-summer I was just taking the pictures and filing them in my computer.

Here's a favorite from each month:

January:  Really not my "favorite" for the month, but it's what kicked off the year...

(That New Year's Resolution lasted about as long as my original picture-every-day-intention.)

February:  This is one of the shots I was happiest with up to that point.  It was an "Intentional" shot.  I really did want this outcome and I was so proud of myself that I got it.

March:  I don't know why, but this picture was one of the most viewed in my collection on

April:  I rarely like the use of selective coloring, but I wanted to try my hand at it.  I was really happy with this one and Maddie liked it too.  Bonus!

May:  This was a crazy shot.  I read on my friend, Sheri's, picture posts about trying to "make" a macro lens from what you have.  You simply remove the lens and hold it against your camera backward.  Other than the  fact that I shake way too much doing that, it was kind of cool - but blurry.  So, then I played with a lot of textures and ended up with something way out of my "box" but one I still really liked for some reason.

June:  There was really no special story behind it.  We were visiting Kay and I was walking around her house taking pictures.  Jake had set up every single army man she had on one little tray table and I was practicing a blurry background.  I love that you can just barely make her out sitting in "her spot".

July:  Out on my parent's pontoon for July 4th I was able to capture this sunset.  This is only slightly (and I mean slightly enhanced).  All while on a boat even!

August:  I think this was taken at the Arboretum on a bit of an afternoon walk-about.  Flowers were one of my favorite things to shoot: they stand still.

September:  I tried a couple different "self-portrait" shots throughout the year.  This was one of those "I need a picture!" days and was taken with the "Instagram" app on my iPod Touch.  Thank goodness I got the newer model because that little camera saved my patootie on many days!

October:  This is about the month where I thought this project was never going to end and my picture collection through December shows it.  I believe I was laying on the ground at a park to get this shot while a girl and her boyfriend wondered what the heck I was doing.

November:  This shot was actually intentional and as I was dashing out the door.  Jake's science class was asked to bring in items that helped show the change in our seasons.  We had parked our car outdoors the previous night and when I went to leave I noticed this and realized it showed the changing season.  Since I couldn't save the actual frost for him, I ran back in for my camera.  This only took about 10 shots to get what I wanted and my fingers weren't too frozen in the end.

December:  This was the month I was going to DO IT...get through the month with a picture EVERY DAY. Or not.  On December 31st I looked through my files and realized I was missing seven days worth of pictures.  One of my better months, actually.  However, I wanted my last picture to represent the project so I enlisted my family's help.

Would I do this challenge again?  Probably not.  I'll enjoy the pictures I have from "that one year" but that's it.

However, I am going to try for a 52 week project.  This is only one picture per week.  I have a clear-cut goal in mind: to take "intentional pictures".  I don't want to run around in the last 10 minutes and grab whatever photo I can.  I plan to think about what I want to take a picture of and try to execute that idea.  I'm not above copying someone else's overall picture idea if it helps me learn how to take better pictures.  I'm not out to sell anything, just learn and enjoy.

I have my first picture done for 2012.  Only 51 more to go.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Special Gift

Earlier this fall my mom enlisted my help to get a book that she had written printed.  She has been working on it for awhile and wanted to give it to Maddie for Christmas since Maddie likes to read so much.  My mom's book centered around her playhouse when she was growing up and included tons of stories from her younger years with her brothers.

I loved reading about so many fun stories from when she grew up.  These types of stories were what I looked most forward to when we got together with my grandparents, uncles and their families.  My mom and her brothers did some crazy things that my parents would NEVER have let us get away with.

Anyway - I told my mom that I really wanted a copy.  I really tried to drive the point home that I was one of her children - I feel I'm constantly having to remind my parents of our place in the hierarchy since grandchildren came on the scene - and that I would like to have something that represented that history.  Mom was pretty certain my siblings wouldn't be interested.

Tracy happened to be at my mom's on the same day I was there to help her find a website she could go through to print this book.  When asked if Tracy would like a book, she said she would.  (I, consequently, was absolutely no help at all in finding a website or helping my mom get it sent in.)

Christmas morning there was a box for each family and we were given this:

Pretty cool to see everything in print!

What a fun book to have in our collection!  I've already put in a request that we get a new volume each year!  Maybe dad could start writing too (hint, hint!)

Thanks, mom!