A couple of weeks ago, my friend asked if I would mind going to Arkansas to take a few pictures of her+fiancé. They had decided to get married at the courthouse and wanted me to help the document the occasion. I was thrilled, as this friend is particularly special. She was my student teacher, and we had an amazing bond. She is super creative and fun and she is just the best.
When we arrived at the Tanyard Creek Trail parking area, Shaina hopped out of the car in a white dress. I quickly realized that THIS was the wedding.
More people arrived, dressed up and looking fancy. I had worn galoshes and my hair in a pony tail, fearing rain. I was certainly not dressed for a wedding. But luckily, I was the photographer so nobody cared what I was wearing.
We hiked up to a waterfall and the happy couple said their vows. They exchanged rings and had a kiss and that was it. Their 'real' wedding will be later this year, in Scotland, but they decided to make it official now, to make the paperwork easier and so that Andy can adopt her daughter before they go. I managed to catch Keyanna in the act of sticking out her tongue at Poppy during the nuptials. Isn't she a doll!?
Took photos of them around the trail, and then we hiked back down and they signed the marriage license, making it official. For lunch, we all went to Tokyo House. We had sushi and Chinese buffet food. It was delicious and we were all starving after the hike.
It was a beautiful day and I was happy to capture the photos for my friend.
I love camping. I love waking up in the woods to the sound of birds and the smell of a campfire. We made breakfast burritos and everyone got dressed.
We bought a trolley ticket and hopped on in front of our campground. We rode the trolley all around Eureka springs. We did the touristy shopping, got fudge, and went up to the spooky Crescent Hotel. We had lunch at the Local Flavor. We sat outside on the deck, thankful that we did not have to find parking on the crowded street below. I had a salad, and it was delicious. They also have an amazing Rueben sandwich, FYI.
For supper, we found a little catfish place and had the yummiest fried catfish and fixins' we have ever had.
We decided to head back to the campground and build a fire. The day had been lovely and we were all tired. I wanted to lay in the hammock and rest my feet for a little bit.
Looking at the forecast, we realized that it was probably going to rain either really late that night, or early the next morning. I suggested that we pack everything up before bed, so that if it did rain, less stuff would get wet and we would not be scrambling around in the dark trying to find everything or keep it dry.
The rain held off for most of the night. Around 4:45, I started to hear thunder rumbling. I wasn't too worried, the teepee had a tarp which was sort of wrapped around hole in the top. Surely, it wouldn't actually rain in on us, right?
Around 5:15, I started to feel sprinkles trickling down on my face. By 5:40, I was soaked.
I had made a poor decision to put my bed right in the center of the teepee, I now realize. What started out as a few sprinkles quickly turned into a puddle of wet sheets and pillow. I checked the radar. This wasn't a little quick storm that would blow over in a few minutes. This was the start of an HOURS long downpour that would last most of the day.
Within a few minutes, everyone was awake and we were deflating our mattresses, stuffing our bedding into the back of the car.
I wasn't too perturbed as this is when I normally wake up, but everyone else was grouchy and tired.
Once we had loaded up, we rolled out of town in the pitch black rain. We stopped for gas just outside of town and made a plan to head to Cassville for breakfast at a diner.
Seriously, everyone was grouchy, but I was thrilled. Eggs, hashbrowns, hot coffee, toast. I love breakfast food, even if no one else was happy about being up so early, I was excited to be up and out that early in the day. My giddiness seemed to annoy everyone else, so I kept it to myself.
I don't know if we will stay in the teepee again, but it was a very fun and memorable camping trip, to say the least!
Last August, we had a free weekend just before school started. The weather forecast was supposed to be incredible. 70s and low 80s with a slight chance for rain Saturday night. We decided that a camping trip would be perfect so I started calling campgrounds on Thursday afternoon to find us a spot. We really wanted something by a lake, but every place I called or looked into online required a 48 hour notice and we wanted to set up the next day so I couldn't officially book anything because it wasn't far enough in advance. Dumb.
Finally, I started calling places that were not by a lake. I found the Kettle Campground in Eureka Springs. Hmmm...camping AND Eureka Springs in one weekend. It sounded like a no brainer.
I called the campground and talked to Andrew. Andrew was so sweet and helpful, he reminded me of Kenneth Parcell, the page from 30 Rock with his accent and southern hospitality.
I told Andrew that we were interested in a campsite for two tents and proceeded to ask him about parking, restrooms, firewood, and all the necessary camping questions. Suddenly, he asked if we were interested in staying in the teepee. "We have a large teepee that is available this weekend if ya'll are interested."
A friggin teepee. Um, yes please. I told Andrew that I would check with my people and give him a call back.
"Guys!! They have a teepee and they want to know if we want to stay in it!!! We could still take our tents, but maybe we would not have to set them up, we could just sleep in the teepee and it would be like 1/2 the work of camping." Everyone agreed that we could take our tents and if the teepee was too small or scary, we had the tents.
I was thrilled to stay in the teepee. Over the summer we had stayed on a schooner sailboat on Lake Michigan, the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, and the teepee just seemed like the right amount of adventure for a simple, quickly planned weekend away.
We loaded up the trailer with all of our camping gear and hit the road around 3:30 on Friday afternoon. As we rolled of out town, we looked back at the trailer and noticed that the lid had blown off of one of our totes. We decided to stop at a gas station and tether/duct tape all of the lids on a little better.
The rest of the trip down the winding roads to Eureka Springs was uneventful. We made it the the campsite and had a little photo shoot as the sun went down. We built a fire and cooked hamburgers on an iron skillet.
The teepee was pretty much what I expected. It had wood posts that went from the outer edge to the center top. The interior had green indoor/outdoor carpeting on the ground, so it wasn't a dirt floor which was nice.
We started setting up our beds.
My husband and I like to sleep really well while camping, so if we can avoid sleeping on the hard ground, we try to bring an air mattress.
Call it glamping. I don't care, we like to be comfortable.
Our two friends had brought their air mattress, which is a tall queen bed. We used to have one like that, but over the years, we have learned that it is quicker and just as comfortable to blow up two twin air mattresses. If one starts to lose air, we can buy a new one at Wal-mart for $7 and we aren't sandwiched into the middle on a deflating balloon.
With all three airbeds, the little floor of the teepee was crowded. I decided to put my single mattress in the middle of the teepee, just in case it rained, I didn't want to get wet from the canvas on the sides, which I have had happen on a regular tent before.
Friday night, we slept great and got up the next morning to explore Eureka Springs!
A photo from our 'photo shoot'. The campground was lovely with tall trees all around. We were on top of a hill so there was a little bit of a view at the edge of the campground.
Oh the things that middle schoolers say.
Earlier this week, I overheard a 5th grade girl say: "I named him dark shadow in my mind."
I had to write it down. It was so funny and precious. She was talking about going to the pet store with her family and seeing a little black kitten.
I have told my students that I have VERY good hearing, since we are in a small room, I can almost always hear their conversations. Usually I try to tune out most of what they are saying since it doesn't involve me, but often I can hear them say stuff that isn't so nice and I have to decide whether or not to intervene.
At the beginning of the semester, I asked students to share some quotes with me....one unlikely boy raised his hand and said "I used to be sad that I had no shoes, until I saw a guy with no feet."
I definitely wrote that one down and I teared up in front of the class....because it really put things into perspective for me. It was particularly touching hearing it come from the boy that shared such a sweet quote with the class.
Last week, a table of mostly boys was arguing about cars. The girl at the table was annoyed with them and she said to me, "I will teach my nephews not to do that. I will turn them into drag queens." I'm not really sure if she knows what that really means, but she was furious with the boys.
Another girl, last semester was telling me about her Grandma Gloria. "Grandma Gloria's husband died, so now she needs some lovins."
I wish I would remember to write more stuff down, as these kids make me laugh so much!!
That is what I found when I opened the kiln last week.
I immediately closed the kiln.
Turned off the vent.
Turned off the light.
Shut the door and left the room.
I got in my car and drove away.
I tried not to think about it for the rest of the night.
The devastation inside the kiln was so bad, shards of bisque clay had sprayed out from one pile to the next in such a massive burst of annihilation, I could not tell how many or if EVERY project on the top shelf had been destroyed.
It was proof that the shelves below would share the same fate.
The only way effectively clean out the kiln when it is full of that much debris is the pull out the shop vac and suck it all up.
That night, I had a dream that Jesse Degonia and Tim Gun had flooded the kiln room. The room was full of water and I was wandering around outside searching for the kiln, because it was full of hundreds of clay projects and my students were missing them. I could not find the kiln anywhere because Jesse and Tim had hidden it from me.
The next day, I went back into the kiln room.
I unloaded the kiln, shelf by shelf, dumping the spare parts, fragments and residue into the boxes.
Thankfully, not every piece was destroyed, but several from the two classes that were in the kiln at the time were pulverized.
During class, I told the kids that the clay wasn't ready, it needed a few extra days to dry so I was trying to play it safe and not rush it....putting clay in the kiln before it is bone dry is most likely what caused the explosions in the first place.
When it is cold in the kiln room, the clay takes longer to dry out.....which equals WEEKS before students can glaze and take home their projects, an eternity in the life of a 5th grader.
I told one 5th grade day class about the kiln mishap.....I giggled nervously about the explosions.
I was so freaked out that I was either going to laugh or cry and I just had to make myself laugh because it was too late to change anything. I told them that I had to laugh because otherwise I would cry.
Yesterday, I had to inform the classes of the busted artwork that SOME kids might not be able to find their heads or their bodies because we had a 'few' explosions in the kiln.
I told them that some of the clay was so utterly pulverized that I could not even read the names....but those 'lucky' kids would get to remake their head/body today and commence to glaze it after spring break.
All total, there were about 5-6 in each class that need to remake the head.
A few were happy because the new one was better than the old one.
No body cried.
I've had kids cry because they could not draw a circle before.
I was elated that they were so nice about it!!!
In the end, everything turned out okay, even though I did lose a little sleep over it.
p.s. In case you are curious, we are making clay bobble head sculptures. Students could choose a cat or dog (some turned theirs into a pig/wolf/bird etc.) For each sculpture, they had to build the base one day, using a cardboard tube as the under structure.
The 2nd day, they had to make a pinch pot and attach the details for eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. While they worked on the head, I went to each person's body and removed the cardboard tube, checking to make sure the cone on the top wasn't too thick--which can cause air to be trapped inside the clay which can make it blow up in the kiln.
Both pieces had to dry for at least a week before I could fire them.
I can only fit about 2.5 classes in the kiln at a time since each sculpture is essentially TWO pieces.
I have about 325 students, so it is close to 700 separate pieces of clay that have to be transported into the kiln room, set to dry, placed in the kiln, fired, removed from the kiln, and transported back to the art room.
Then, students will spend two class periods glazing, then they have to be re-transported to the kiln room, re-loaded into the kiln, fired, unloaded and transported back to the art room.
Then they have to be wrapped up and taken home.
All total, I have to handle EACh piece 3-4 times, so I am really thankful this is the only major issue so far. All that transporting back and forth means the fragile pieces could break just by one drop of the box on the floor.
The BEST time to open the kiln, is after the clay has been glazed and it is all glassy and shiny. I hope to post a picture of that soon. In the mean time, I will be trying to get all 700 pieces bisque fired!
Here is a little time lapse I made Friday morning of myself unloading and loading the kiln, in case you are curious.
You might think that since I am an art teacher all I do is have the kids paint all day long. The truth is, painting is only done a couple of times a semester and not every day. (Along with glitter and clay, these are materials that we can only do for a couple of sessions before I need something clean with a simpler clean up)
It never fails, painting day starts out so promising. The kids are quiet the first moment that their brushes are dipped in the liquid goodness. They mix colors with enthusiasm and spread the paint around, enamored with the process of filling a white paper with lots of color.
The last 7 minutes of painting day are literally the worst.
No matter how many times I model the clean up procedure and go over the expectations, there is always a bit of frantic chaos.
Every paper needs to go into the drying rack, and every table needs to get wiped down.
Whether it is kindergarten or 5th grade (or any age in between), the excitement of walking around the room with a big, dripping wet painting and then clustering in groups at the sink changes the dynamic of the classroom from calm and structured to recess.
Students think that because I am distracted helping kids put papers in the drying rack, it frees them up to start a game of messy hand tag, or shoot paper towel wads into the trash can or just otherwise wander the room, instead of helping clean the tables.
A faithful few are on top of wiping everything down and refilling water buckets, but the majority of the kids are excited that they have a little unstructured few minutes to pass on a message to a crush or an enemy, leaving the rest of us to clean up the collateral damage.
Let's be honest, it is hard to watch 25 kids zoom around the room carrying buckets and trays of messy stuff and not cringe with fear. Also, let's be honest most of my classes are at least 26-33, so having a few extra kids only makes it more chaotic, not easier to supervise the whole thing all by myself. And I should mention, that I have this same nightmare on repeat 6 times each day.
This week, we started Lisa Frank inspired animal paintings. They are only 'loosely' Lisa Frank. I told the students that Lisa Frank is my favorite artist and always has been. I specifically told the boys that I knew this wasn't a very 'boy friendly' project but that I don't care because I have suffered through MANY football/sports team/boy friendly projects over the years and most likely if I told them they could NOT paint using bright colors and add rainbows, most of them would do it anyway just to spite me so here we are. Also, I have a VERY boy friendly project planned for the end of the year.
The first day of painting, I encouraged them to paint the outline of the drawing, which we projected from a small sketch using an overhead projector on 18X24 paper. These paintings are massive, so only 3 kids can sit at any given table. I've had to be creative, clipping pictures up to the wall, letting kids sit on the floor, just so we have room to work.
We found out the hard way that if they did NOT follow directions, by starting with the outline and painting at least some of the background, the paper was too lite to stay in the drying rack.
Scores of 18X24 pictures would just flutter right out of the wire shelves, because they weren't weighed down enough to stay in place. Paintings falling out of the only place I have for them to go, while I am supervising wet paint tag and lackluster enthusiasm for gleamingly clean tabletops made for a very stressful 3 classes this week.
I am very ready for spring break!!
Making it to a subway station and figuring out how to buy a ticket, and navigate our way to the south end of Michigan Ave. was completely out of the question. We were in a part of the city that was safe but we didn't know a soul and it felt very residential.
Our best/quickest/most comfortable option was to get an Uber back to Michigan Avenue.
The problem with Uber is that during a 'peak' time or event, the price can surge to 5X what a normal fare would cost. So when I accepted the ride and we paddled across the street, our shoes getting soaked, I knew we would be paying at least $20+ to go 2-3 miles (normally a $5 trip).
The driver played Sirius XM Chill, a channel that I sometimes enjoy myself. A cool beat matched the splatter of the rain on the car.
We caught our last glimpses of Lake Michigan on the shorefront as soaked bikers peddled towards safety beside the traffic we were stuck in.
It seemed as if everyone had either fled to the safety of a car or underground. The roadways were even more packed but the sidewalks were empty. Before we had reached the parking garage, I realized our Uber was part of a 'ride share' and we were on our way to pick up the next customer as there was a high demand for cars at that moment.
I suggested that we jump out, as the hardest part of the storm wasn't directly on top of us.
We pulled up our hoods and walked down the partially covered sidewalks of Michigan avenue, which were now mostly deserted.
Our last few moments consisted of drinking in the wet glow of headlights on pavement, the roasty smell of coffee at the starbucks where we stopped for a final souvenir, and the wonderful excitement of exploring a new place and making the most of a stormy afternoon.
I could dwell on all the things we didn't get to do because of the rain: Navy Pier, Millennium park, etc. But I think the trip was so special because it was unique and memorable, thanks to the summer storm that landed on top of the city while we were exploring.
As we made our way on foot out of Wrigleyville, we realized that we needed to seek shelter. We had walked past numerous tea and coffee shops in the more touristy part of the city and we were thirsty and tired of pounding the pavement. Lightening illuminated the blue head of the storm, angry exclamation points in the darkening sky. Thunder mixed with the sounds of traffic and car horns.
It was about 5:00 so we really only had a little daylight left, the thunder clouds forming above the skyline and our car miles away in a parking garage on the south end of Michigan avenue.
We found an Argo tea place and ordered a fresh, sweet iced tea and three macaroons. We sat down near the window as the real monsoon hit the city. It was the kind of storm in which umbrellas are useless and rain poured up and down in sheets from the ground and the sky, soaking everything it could touch.
The pedestrians that passed us were drenched from head to toe, caught in the squall on their way home from work or on their way to the gym. Some didn't even try to cover their heads, knowing it was useless, the rain dripped from their eyebrows and hair like they were fresh from a shower.
We watched the storm on the radar and knew that we would need to venture out eventually, we couldn't sit in the tea shop forever. We still needed to drive the three hours back to Indianapolis to get our stuff and the next morning we were headed home to Missouri.
On the last day of our trip, we were trying to decide what to do. We looked at the map and realized we were only 3 hours from Chicago. We could be there by lunchtime if we got up and hit the road.
The drive to Chicago was lovely, giant white windmills lined the highway and pretty soon we were coasting onto the toll roads near Gary that led into the city. Seeing the skyline of a big city for the first time is always so exciting. Even though you are still miles away, you just want to hurry up and get there.
I haven't driven in very many BIG cities so I was nervous about parking and one way streets. We found a parking garage near Michigan avenue. I was so excited to get out on the sidewalk, that I almost left the car headlights on. Luckily we noticed that they were on and we double checked that the doors were locked.
We grabbed our jackets (a storm was brewing) and headed out into the big city. The atmosphere on Michigan avenue in the middle of a work day is so fun, it was crowded with young professionals wearing business suits on their lunch breaks mixed with tourists and young mothers pushing strollers. We wandered past cafes with patio seating, lined with window boxes brimming with colorful summer blooms. The city traffic, crowded crosswalks, and big name shopping stores lured us on foot to explore as far as we could.
The first stop was the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we took in the colorful world of the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The virtual digital garden of his artwork was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle from which we had just emerged.
Finally, hunger drove us across the river to Lou Malnati's deep dish pizzeria. We were sat at two comfy chairs near a big picture window. We watched as the wind picked up and sent construction workers diving for safety from the rain. People hurried by with newspapers over their heads, peering at the sky, seeing patches of sunlight nearby as the rain pelted their t-shirts, soaking their shoes. The storm was on its way and patchy on the radar. The first taste of was to come.....
The pizza was comforting and cheesy. The salad was crisp and flavorful. We wanted to explore more of the city.
We took an Uber north to Wrigleyville to see the home of the Cubs. Miss Bever is a huge STL Cardinals fan and she was wearing some Cardinal gear and wanted to check out Wrigley Stadium. We wandered around the nearly empty streets, most people were smart enough to seek shelter or at least go under ground before the real storm hit.
Last summer, Miss Bever and I decided to take a road trip to visit Miss Collins who had just moved to Indianapolis. Neither of us had been there before and Katy offered to let us crash at her place and explore the city. We drove the 9 hours, stopping at the halfway point for lunch in St. Louis for Fitz's soda and burgers on the Delmar Loop.
The drive was easy and the conversation was fun. Katy welcomed us to town by showing us around. It was rainy and stormy while we were there, but it was a safe city to explore and we kept ourselves entertained.
We explored the riverwalk, and found one of the infamous 'INDY' signs for tourists. We visited a beautiful cemetery on the north end of town that overlooked the skyline from afar. We tried a tea shop and a German Restaurant. Pork fritter sandwiches are the big thing in those parts, so I had to have one.
One afternoon, we trekked across town to the Kurt Vonnegut museum. If you didn't know, he is an author (Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens of Titan, etc.) and the little museum has memorabilia of his life and lots of his books for sale. I bought a sweatshirt with a typewriter on it. And so it goes.
Indianapolis was fun, but my favorite part of the trip was our very last day. We decided to explore a much larger city, just a few hours away as Katy had to work and there were no baseball games anywhere nearby.
Please check back tomorrow to hear all about my favorite part of our trip!
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine
Other Slice Blogs:
62 Days of Cats
Life is a Slice
Wilcox's Slice of Life 2017
Beth's Music Room Blog
WCHS ELL Slice of Life
The Cardinal Way
Mr. B's Slice of Life Blog
Swaim's Slice of Life
Dr. Zornes' Slice of Life
Smith's Slice of Life
Two Writing Teachers
Favorite Everyday Writer: