Art in September

For at this year we are doing The Art Assignment. Here are some of the assignments we did in August and September.

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Vehicular Palette: After discussing the makes, models, and colors of the cars and minivans I have owned since I was 17, Cameron and Adrian both chose to draw a vehicle using all the colors. Cameron’s colored his in while Adrian just did the outline. Fritz took a more abstract view of the assignment and drew sidewalks and roads in the colors of the cars I have owned and said that as there get to be more and more cars, more roads and fewer sidewalks are needed.

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Conjure a Studio: For this assignment, they were told to create their ideal art studio in a real place, model, or drawing. Adrian drew his studio freefloating in space. Fritz drew his in the middle of a forest. Cameron decided to use clay to create a model of his studio complete with a flower in a vase on the desk.

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Measuring Histories: The assignment was to create some sort of art that could be measured in some way that spoke to them about history (their own or general). Adrian glued corks together to the length he thought his fingernails will grow in his lifetime. Fritz built a Duplo tower taller than himself (over 4 1/2 feet tall!) because he has always loved building very tall towers. Cameron dripped candle wax in lines on a piece of paper. He didn’t know exactly why, but it’s what made sense to him after watching the video.

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Never Seen, Never Will: For this assignment, they had to select something that is real, but they have never seen and probably never will in their lifetime. Adrian chose to draw another galaxy. Fritz drew a kracken (he is convinced they really do exist). Cameron drew the inner workings of a power plant.

How to trick an 8-year-old into doing his math

Adrian: I will never need to know how to do math. [Amazing how it seems every kid says this at one time or other. Most amusing to me is his older sister said the very same thing so many times and now she’s suddenly moved over to my side of the argument.]

Me: Yes, you will. What is 8×4?

Adrian: I won’t.

Ani: You will. I use math every day at work. I have to figure out how much money people owe when they buy things. I have to calculate payments. I have to figure out my hours. Adrian, I make $8 an hour and I worked 4 hours last night. How much money did I make last night?

Adrian: [He thought for a moment, started to answer, and then looked at her with the funniest expression and said the following in an astonished voice.] You tricked me!

[He quickly finished his math after this since he, apparently, understood that he would in fact need to know how to do math at some point in the future.]

Tinker and Doodle Crate

A few weeks ago we decided to give Tinker Crate for the boys and Doodle Crate for Ani a try. They gotten one crate so far and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the second this week.

The first Tinker Crate had the boys play with making 3-D images. They put together a viewer that has spots for nearly identical sets of cards facing mirrors. They look through it and see the pictures merged together in 3-D.
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It also came with a round mirror that sits on paper with a picture on it. The picture is reflected in the mirror and appears to be 3-D. The crate also included dot to dot pages and special blank pages with instructions on how to make their own reflectable images.
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A nice little booklet was included in the crate with the instructions and explanations. If this crate is any indication, we’ll be having many months of fun with our Tinker Crates!
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Ani’s first Doodle Crate directed her to make little embossed paper lanterns and then string them together to create a pretty, fun light for her room. The embossing and holepunching tools it came with were of excellent quality. The instructions were easy to understand.
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The result was beautiful (actually, she’s not quite done yet – she still can make and add a few more lanterns). She can’t wait to get started on this month’s project (a personalized desktop corkboard).
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Adrian Makes Me Laugh

I’m pretty sure Adrian was put on this earth to keep me laughing. Here’s just a few Adrianisms from the last few weeks.


(I was awakened at 12:30 one morning with a little face inches from mine.) There’s a reason I am in your bed and that reason is I threw up.


Me: Time to start school.
Adrian: Can I have a break first?


(Adrian hurt his ankle so we put ice on it.) Can’t the ice pack be warmer?


He was unable to fill in the blank in Explode the Code with the following sentence: When it sleets and snows it is ____. (winter) I had to explain sleet to him. Apparently we’ve lived in Texas long enough (since he was almost 5) that he has no memory of sleet.


I was drawing a dog, but it looks more like a genetically modified squirrel.


Adrian: Don’t you ever want to eat raw beef?
Me: Are you a werewolf?

Existence Money

Cameron has been told he will be hired at the same place Ani works some time after he turns 15 next month. I told him as soon as he gets hired he will no longer get an allowance from us. He said that makes sense since he’ll no longer need that “existence money.”

We pay our kids the number of years they are old in dollars every two weeks. So Adrian gets $8, Fritz gets $10, and Cameron gets $14. They are required to do nothing to get that money. No chores are required. They get it simply for existing. We tried connecting it to chores, but it got too complicated.

The reason they get the money with no requirements attached is two-fold. One, it lets them learn to budget a little bit from early on. They are required to pay 10% of what they get in tithing. Other than that, they can decide what to do with it. They can spend it on candy or they can save for something big or anything in between.

The other reason is by assigning a tiny amount of our budget to them, they are not allowed to beg for us to buy anything for them. If they want something, the first thing is to see if they have enough money for it. If so, they can buy it. If not, they cannot. We’re not going to buy it for them (that’s not to say we don’t ever buy them things they want if they don’t have enough for it at the time – they just know there is no point in begging since that’s the worst way to get us to just be nice and get it for them).

As soon as they start getting paid by a regular job (Cameron’s dog-sitting didn’t count since it wasn’t regular income) we stop paying them their allowance. Hopefully by then they will have had enough experience managing a little bit of money and will be able to manage a more just as well.

If Only Everything Could Be Taught With Games

Adrian learns best from playing video games. It’s actually quite amazing how he just absorbs the material and retains it, too. For example, today he played a game on Headventureland (Latin). It taught him verb endings (-o, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, -nt). Just repeating the chant or filling in worksheets doesn’t cement that sort of thing in his head, but playing a video game most definitely does. I really think this kid could learn absolutely anything quickly and easily if it was delivered to him in the form of a game.

Google is Your Friend

I like to fact check. It’s amazing the sorts of stuff posted on Facebook and elsewhere (generally memes) that is just… wrong. Pretty much if it seems over the top or shocking it probably isn’t correct. If it’s a founding father quote that sounds modern and soundbitish it is probably inaccurate. I’ve found these incorrect memes come from all sides. There are just as many fake George W. Bush and Donald Trump quotes as there are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ones. Sometimes the quotes or stories are correct (and I’ll confirm they are, too).

But you never know just by reading so I fact check. I think I annoy a lot of my friends because of it, actually. So many seem to want to cling to what they’ve read being the truth even after I’ve provided information that it is wrong. I’ve even had people say something like, “But it sounds like it could be correct!” and the truth is, it usually does. The thing is sounding like something is correct does not make it actually correct.

I’ve even had people message me to ask me to fact check things for them. I am happy to do it. Really I am doing nothing more than a few minutes of google searching. Anyone can do it. Before posting a meme or story or whatever that sounds right but you aren’t sure, put the exact words and who it was supposedly said by or where or whatever other information will give you the results you want (sometimes you have to try a few different search terms) in the google search bar. Go through the links until you can find something official confirming or denying it (for example, there’s been one going around about how in a TimeAsia interview the guy who created Pokemon said he wanted to make something evil to get back at his Christian parents, with quotes supposedly from the interview – the thing is it is not true – it was actually made because he liked bugs – and that can be found on-line in the actual TimeAsia interview transcript).

Be careful of places like The Onion or other satire news sources. Some of them don’t tell you they are not actual news and others bury the information in the fine print. If there is only one news source of whatever you are posting, odds are it is one of the satire sites. Always remember: Google is your friend!

A Little Visit

There’s this author I like, Tony James Slater, and he and his wife, Roo, are currently on a trip around the US. Of course traveling in this country is rather expensive so they are couchsurfing along their way. I offered a place to stay (a little more than a couch… they got to stay in what we call my parents’ wing – their bedroom is gigantic and their bathroom is bigger than any I’ve ever seen before and then there’s a walk-in closet, too) and so San Antonio was added to their itinerary. They arrived on Sunday evening and went home yesterday morning. It was awesome!

Soon after they got here we had dinner and then we just sat and talked until 11. Tony is as funny in real life as he is in his book. He can seriously tell a good story. Roo is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She’s just truly likable. Time just flies talking to them.

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Monday morning we went downtown. Only Adrian came with us. He loves museums and stuff like that. We went to the Alamo first. They had some living history stuff going on including a gun firing demonstration. We left there and headed down to the River Walk. I think it kind of blew Tony and Roo’s mind. We ate lunch at a really good barbecue place (bonus: they had a list of what was safe for Adrian and me). Then we went on the river boat tour. That’s the third time we’ve done it and it’s different every time. On the way home from downtown we stopped at SubZero and got ice cream made right in front of us with liquid nitrogen. Then Roo stayed at the house (she had a headache and needed to rest) while the rest of us went to our friends’ house for a Labor Day cookout.

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Last time we tested for new belts, the parking lot was pretty full when we got there so we parked in a place we don’t usually. Fritz looked across the road and saw a sign for Premier Escape Rooms. I’ve wanted to do an escape room ever since I heard Rider Strong talk about them on an episode of Literary Disco. So we decided doing one with Tony and Roo would be awesome (it was). We booked the Conspiracy Cure room. The storyline was a disease had been unleashed that was killing everyone and we were working on a cure. We walk into a lab and discover a tube of the disease open infecting us all. We had one hour to solve the puzzles, figure out which potential cure was the right one, and find the key to escape from the room. We found the escape key with 30 minutes to go, but we still needed to figure out which one was the cure. And so we spent the next 25 minutes trying and trying to figure out the final puzzle to get the answer. Once we found it, it was so obvious. I can’t believe we overlooked it all that time. But, we won with 5 minutes to spare. The last 5 or 10 minutes were pretty nerve-racking, though. We’ll definitely have to do another escape room in the future.

We stayed up until 11 again Monday night. Seriously, time flies talking to Tony and Roo. Ani and Cameron had to get up early for seminary on Tuesday. They were back in bed and the little guys were almost done with their on their own work by the time Tony and Roo were up and ready for the day so that worked out nicely. We had breakfast and chatted a bit more and then it was time for them to leave. Roo had fallen in love with our Little Ladies (aka our sugar gliders) and spent a lot of time just watching them play in their cage when the ladies got up for the night. It’s illegal to keep gliders as pets in Australia. So I asked her if she wanted to hold one. I pulled Filli out of the pouch and handed her to Roo (and gave Filli a yogurt drop which she loves – I picked Filli because she’s so much calmer than Kree and when you add in a yogurt drop, Filli’s not going to go anywhere). I think Roo was in heaven.

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I made sure to get Tony’s autograph before they left. I read almost exclusively on the Kindle and that’s how I read his books so it made sense to have him sign the back of it. I have a pretty old Kindle Keyboard and it’s in pretty rough shape (but it works and I love it so I haven’t felt the need to upgrade yet) so I know it’ll die before too long. I guess when it does, I’ll just have to pry the back off and keep it.

If you haven’t ever read any of Tony’s books, I highly suggest you do. As I read them, I’d laugh so hard and my family would say, “Tony again?” I’m so glad I gave that freebie (Kamikaze Kangaroos!) a chance last year. It’s not too often reading a freebie leads to buying a bunch of other books to read… and it’s never led to having the author come visit before. Here’s my reviews of his books (which include links to buy them on Amazon): That Bear Ate My Pants!, Don’t Need the Whole Dog!, Kamikaze Kangaroos!, Can I Kiss Her Yet?, and Shave My Spider!.