Thursday, August 13, 2015

Addition and Subtraction Process Cards

I worked with a sweet little girl this summer, for the second year in a row, on maintaining her math skills during the break from school.

(She also happens to live across the street from me, so it makes it extra easy and fun.)

She's going into 3rd grade this year, so we did a lot of practicing basic skills that will come up over and over again, grade after grade.

Three of the most important skills we worked on solidifying were addition with carrying (when to do it and when not), subtracting with borrowing (same!) and becoming fluent with place value names.

As a 6th grade learning support teacher, I can safely say that those continue to be three major areas that students can continue to struggle in throughout the years.  I know that I weave all three of those concepts into my curriculum lessons as much as I can.

It's especially important to keep referencing numbers by their place value name.  As a teacher and a student, to keep saying, "The number in the ______ place is ______" or "The number in the ones place has to borrow from the tens place" instead of "This number borrows from this number."

Anyway, I decided to make process cards for her to keep remembering the when and WHY of these types of problems as she begins the school year (in a couple of weeks.....eeeek!!!)

Process cards are great for teaching and practicing any math skill, in any chapter, on any concept, in any grade.  They provide a visual with CONCISE reminders/steps for completing a certain type of problem.

They are especially helpful for students that have trouble processing or remembering multi-step directions.

I've provided an example of the type of process cards I made for this particular student in case anyone would like to try using them in his or her classroom.

My suggestion for making them classroom friendly is to print it out in color, get it laminated, cut them into cards, punch a hole in the top left corner, and keep them on a ring like these, found on Amazon....

Loose Leaf Rings

I had NO idea what to call these things when I searched on Amazon, but here they are!  I bought a box of 100 last school year and I use them for SO many things.  If you use them for student process cards, you can have students add to their rings as the year goes along.  I have my students clip them into their binder rings so they always have them.

Click here to open PDF of process cards

Anyway, I hope someone out there in Teacher Land finds them useful, and Happy Beginning of a New School Year to all!!!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ancient Egyptian Bling

Last year was my first school year teaching 6th grade learning support.  With that came a brand-new social studies curriculum for me to learn.  I am a total history nerd and I feel like I know more about American and some European history than the average citizen.

6th grade social studies, though?  Ancient. Civilizations.

Mesopotamia.  Ancient Egypt.  Ancient India.  Ancient China.

I'm not going to lie....I had to Google where Mesopotamia was back in September.  Ah yes, the Fertile Crescent!

I spent the year reading ahead of what the kids were learning.  I made flash cards, posters, and performed puppet shows (not really) to immerse myself in learning.

I also started getting a TON of Jeopardy questions correct.  Like....a lot, okay?

Mid-year we began our study of Ancient Egypt, which would ultimately culminate in a huge celebration run by the amazing and dynamic 6th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Jodi Nack.

For years, Jodi has had the entire 6th grade pull together "Egypt Day", which showcases a live wax museum style set-up done by the kids, complete with a costumed presentation of a person, god/goddess or artifact from Ancient Egypt that they learned about, choreographed dances and cartouches painted with care displaying important personal information as well as Egyptian symbols.

As a learning support teacher, I'm always looking for ways to get involved across the subjects. Since I'm a sucker for any DIY project, I decided to set up an "Egyptian Jewelry" making table in my classroom and invite the kids to come in during indoor recess (we're talking back in bitter-cold January, here!) to make necklaces and bracelets based on pictures of actual Egyptian jewelry.  Here's the flyer I put up to "advertise" as well as the "inspiration board" I printed out to help the kids get started:

Egyptian Jewelry Flyer

So, supplies.... From the pictures, I was obviously going for a look that involved beading safety pins and then stringing them together. For that, I bought:

- a few hundred safety pins both in silver and gold from Amazon

- I hit up Michael's craft store and bought this gigantic bucket of assorted, tiny beads, little scoopers for picking up the beads, and cording.  It was entirely too much.  I can't find it on Michael's website now, but if I were to do it again, I'd scale down and get this one: Colored Bead Assortment

- a pack of assorted elastic cording like this one: cording

- plastic, Ziploc sandwich bags for the kids to keep their supplies in

- paper bowls and plastic spoons for working with beads without them going EVERYWHERE

That's basically it!  If you really want to get into the Egyptian symbols, there are plenty of beads for sale on Amazon such as the Eye of Horus, lotus flower, and scarab beetle.  Just search by those key words.

The flyer was e-mailed home to parents and I asked for $5 per student.  That $5 entitled them to make as much jewelry as they wanted to in school, and it ended up covering the cost of supplies that I bought.

I'd say that probably 20 kids out of the 70 or so kids in 6th grade ended up making at least one piece of jewelry to go with their Egypt Day costumes.

It ended up being a fun, indoor activity that not only created conversation and laughter, but left the kids with a cool, handmade item to wear with their costumes!  Here are a couple of up-close pictures of pieces that the kids made.....

Saturday, March 28, 2015

DIY In About 45 Seconds Burlap Initial Pillow

Burlap. I love it.

In fact, I just bought my third set of burlap drapes for my house without really realizing that they were my third.

Burlap is the new neutral.  Rustic chic, yadda yadda.  And I've really been loving the sweet burlap accent pillows I've seen either in Ballard's catalog .. Aww...for $60 each....wowww

Or on Pottery Barn's website....Cute.....for $35.50 for JUST the cover....yikes!

Or on various artists' stores on Etsy.  I've found a ton there, but again...a lot that were around $30 for just the cover.  


Well, guess what....once I get something in my mind that I want, I obsess over it until I get it.  This whole process usually involves spending $35.50 on a stupid pillow cover and $40 on the stupid insert for the stupid pillow cover.......BUT NOT THIS TIME!!!!!

I wanted to make a "J" initial pillow for my toddler's new "big boy" room that (SURPRISE!) has burlap curtains, a burlap train pillow (bought on Etsy) and a sweet vintage train theme.  So, on a recent trip to IKEA, I had a little creative inspiration based on a furniture painting project I'd done recently with a computer-made initial stencil. 

And the whole thing cost me like, $12.  Oh, and I also finished the entire project in about 30 minutes....with about 28 of those minutes spent on cutting out the "J".  So, if you also like the look of these pillows, but can't bring yourself to spend $80 on a puff of cotton, try this!

1. Purchase IKEA pillow cover "Vigdis" and pillow insert "Inner".  The Vigdis cover is not burlap, but it looks pretty darn close to it.  The website pic makes it look solid, but the actual fabric has a bit of natural texture to it, sort of like muslin.  Insert and cover are both 20" x 20" so it's a pretty decent size, too. ($10 total, plus tax probably unless you live in Delaware.  WHAT'S UP DELAWARE!)

2.  Go on your computer.  Sit down.  Open up an MS Word file (*this is starting to get high tech.  I know.  breathe.  we can do this)  Type the initial you want on the pillow.  Such as J.  If you want a J...type, "J" Follow me?  Ampersands are also very popular these days! Go ahead and ampersand that ish if you want! & & & & &!!!!!!!   Now, highlight your initial or ampersand and blow it up to the size of the page....try 400-600 point font.  Next, change your font to find the style you like for your pillow.  Keep in mind that it will be a stencil, so try not to pick a super thin font.  You can always bold it to see if you can "thicken" the font.  I *think* the font I used was  just plain old "Times New Roman", but I totally didn't write it down.  

3. Print your initial on cardstock.  I totally wouldn't use computer paper b/c it would be flimsy.  Buying a ream of cardstock (Staples? Michael's?) is totally worth it because it can be used for a lot of projects.  My only choice of size at Staples was 250 sheets the last time I bought it, so I just keep it in a drawer in my craft room and I'll probably end up printing my nursing home applications on it someday.  

4.  Carefully cut out the inner part of the initial, leaving the outer part as the stencil.  Use a little bit of tape to tape back together where you cut with scissors.

i just noticed my foot is in this picture.  sorry. 

5. As shown above, lay your stencil where you want it on the pillow.

6.  Now you need some paint.  Because I am an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint addict, I have about 8 half-full cans on hand for things like this. And YES, Chalk Paint can be used on fabric!!! Win!  I chose the bright red color "Emperor's Silk" because I thought it would make a good color accent in my son's room.  If you don't happen to have Chalk Paint on hand, either go get some or I guess any paint will do.  Fabric paint? House paint?  Who knows.  I tend to not put much "planning" and "thought" into things so I usually use what I have on hand, but ..... figure it out.

7.  Using a sponge brush (or...whatever brush you have on hand! But I like sponges.)  dab your paint in the stencil.  If it bleeds through a little bit, it's no big deal.  The whole point of the "rustic chic" is imperfect beauty, right???

8.  I didn't take a picture of this part, but after I did the red, I decided to hit it with a quick spritz of gold spray paint.  I don't know why.  I just thought it would look cool. Hence, the shimmer in this pic.  Next time I'd probably leave the lid on the spray paint.  oh well.

9.  Remove stencil, let dry, insert pillow insert thing and VOILA!  You're done!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Clean Eating (flippin'amazing) Shamrock Shaaaaaaake!!!!!!

Like......I can't.

LOOOK!!!! Look at it!!!

Smooth and creamy and minty and delicious!!!! The 16 year old me remembers slurping one of these down with a cheeseburger.

The 33 year old actual me looks at this and gains 5 pounds. Happily.

Look again...

Mmm.....I can even SEE the swirls of artificial mint flavor.

This.  Is the Shamrock Shake.

I love all things mint, and especially mint ice cream.  And's the mythological, spine-tingling treat that comes out but once a year to shine its green, minty sun on the earth.

Okay...."once a year" is equal to roughly February 26th-March 20th......a.k.a. "St. Patrick's Lead Up Weeks."

So, back to the 33 year old me with the size 6 dress I need to fit in for two weddings in the next couple of months.  I also have not darkened "Mickey D's" doorstep in many years.

:::Homer Simpson voice:::: Stupid health and stupid aging with its stupid stipulations like not eating milkshakes.  

So.......early March had me craving Shamrock Shakes as usual, but caught in a Catch-22 of artificial flavors and green dye. And every "imitation" recipe you find on Pinterest calls for "A cup of whole milk! A huge scoop of vanilla ice cream! Your soul!" 

Okay, if I was going to make one with WHOLE MILK and ICE CREAM I might as well haul my Chevy Equinox (jealous?) down to the McDonald's drive-through!!!!

I needed an "imitation" that did not include 487.6 grams of fat. So.....

In a frenzy of creativity and sheer desperation.....I did it.  I freaking did it.

I made......a 99% natural (you'll see where I needed that 1%), protein-packed, satisfying, "could-fool-a-leprechaun"...... Shamrock Friggin' Shake.

And I've had one every single morning since I stirred up the magic recipe.  And I can't hold this secret in my heart.  I must share it with the world.  Or at least, with the portion of the world that cares about health AND has their heart aching for a Shamrock Shake (roughly 98% of the world....probably).

So here it is........whip one up....take a sip....and jig yourself over here for a hug.

Clean Eating Shamrock Shake

In a blender cup (or, I guess blender....but I broke mine a long time ago trying to blend frozen bananas) blend:

- 1.5 cup almond milk (unsweetened, vanilla or sweetened) 
- 1- 1.5 frozen bananas......pre cut and frozen
- handful of fresh or frozen kale or collard greens (just do can't taste it.  Just put it in your freezer so you have it and DO IT.)
- 1/4 cup quick oats
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder  (I use "Gold Standard"'s  Whey Vanilla Ice Cream flavor)
- 1teaspoon mint extract  (do NOT use more b/c you think it will be won't be.)
- 3-4 drops of green food coloring (this is the 1% unnatural aspect.  and my mind needed to see it.)

Blend it up.....take a sip....and cry.  Cry minty, green tears.

(whispers)  I love you........

Monday, February 23, 2015

cheers to you, Graham.

There have been many times in my life where I felt (long pause at keyboard).....weird.  Yeah, weird I guess.  Different.

By who's perception?  I guess my own.  From being a kid that rollerskated in her basement, lip synching to the Annie soundtrack, all while pretending the poles that held up the floor were my watching admirers.

To high school where I saw what popular looked and acted like, but I just could not bring myself to DO it.   I dipped my toe in and just couldn't do it.  Don't get me wrong....I had friends, but I chose to leave high school with two SOLID friendships and that was it.  And it was plenty.  And it has been plenty still.

To my adulthood where I feel like I need to carry around a water-proof roll of duct tape to stick over my lips when I feel the word vomit coming up.  I once told "someone" that my brain is like a non-stop peanut gallery of muppet characters.  Not in the "I hear voices" kind of way, but in the white-noise way.

A sound bite from my inner dialogue at any given moment would sound a little like,

"What'd he say? No, that's wrong! Don't say it! What would he/she think of me if I did?  I should keep my mouth shut.  What's that? Oh, it would be really funny if XYZ happened! What if it did? What would I do? AGGGHHHH! My head's going to explode! Why am I the only person bothered by this??!?!? Am I wrong?? Maybe......NO!"

Some days I get completely wrapped up in wanting to save the world.  Or at least try.

I teach 6th grade, so...11 and 12 year olds.  On the brink of middle school.  A.K.A. THE BRINK OF DISASTER/WORST PHASE OF LIFE EVERRRRRRR!!!!  Okay, dramatic, but I find myself getting caught up in thinking and/or saying things like, "Ohmygosh these next few years are going to be a WILD ride, but HANG ON 'cause you're gonna make it!!!"  It's like I see them as calves going down the conveyer belt, but I know they're going to jump off at the last second and be okay.  Whaaaat?  What the heck kind of analogy is that.  That is weird.

I know I can't save 'em all.  As much as I want to be the one that puts an end to bullying once and for all with THE PERFECT words of wisdom......I alone can't stop the you-know-what storm that happens in EVERYONE'S life between the ages of 11 and...........well, I'm 33 and still wearing my raincoat and wellies.

But what I can do (I think? I KNOW!) is I can be one person in a child's life that believes they WILL be okay, and they'll be okay by being themselves.

You do NOT need Uggs.
You do NOT need to do duck face. (in fact....don't.)
You do NOT have to silence yourself.
You do NOT have to pretend to be someone you are not.

I think it was William Penn that said, "Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone."  No, I think it was Walt Whitman.......I forget.

Babble babble babble.  I love blogs, because I can babble, but I'm doing it for me.  (read my first post....this is Kestutis.  This is my coping)  :::::pumps fist in air:::::: (that's weird?)

Anyway.... all of that saving lives on the brink of disaster plus oh, having a career and plus being a wife and plus being a mom and plus maintaining who I am has left me a bit.......(long pause at keyboard again).....emotionless?  It's like, I get so overwhelmed with "stuff" that I just go into auto-pilot mode.  Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop.

And maybe that's why I don't speak up enough? Because, "don't rock the boat", right? Don't cause waves?  Well....I'm seeing some very wrong, wrong things and I don't think I can keep it in anymore.

I plaster my walls with quotes such as, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi!) and
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about  things that matter." (MLK!!!) but I feel like a hypocrite because I haven't been doing enough of that.  I feel my passions being stirred but I'm afraid to act.  Afraid to be different.  Afraid to deviate from the norm.  But what if the norm is not acceptable?  What then?

I've been home for the past 5 weeks, taking a family medical leave from work/school to take care of my 2.5 year old, who broke his leg and is in a chest to toes (yep, plural....toeS) spica I've had some "think" time.  Some time off of the go go go go merry-go-round to reflect on who I am and what I really stand for.

This morning, I groggily brought him downstairs, let his happy fingers start the coffee machine for me (mommy's barista!!!) and laid with him on his beanbag chair.  I popped on the TV and pulled up my DVR menu to eagerly watch the last 45 minutes of the Oscar's from last night that I just could not stay up and finish live.

Oprah walks up on stage to present Best Adapted Screenwriter.  ("She's pretty", my little man says.  Mommy's heart melts into goo.)  She announces the winner, Graham Moore for his screenplay written for "The Imitation Game."  Never heard of the guy, but he looks pretty pumped that he won, so I listen to his speech.

He finishes by saying that at age 16, he tried to commit suicide.  Then comes this......

Laying on my back next to my little dude, I felt heavy tears stream down my face.  Wow.

I'd like to say thank you to him.  Thank you for speaking up and speaking to the other "weird" people out there. Thank you for using your time to be brave, for the chance that it may help someone else.  Thank you for renewing my own sense of purpose in the work that I do.  Thank you for making me cry.

So, I hope to spend these last few weeks that I have nursing my love back to health, thinking about where to go from here.  To continue to try to be a voice that matters.  That sticks.  That says, "Don't listen to them.  Be who you are.  You are perfect." And maybe say that to myself every now and then.

I encourage you, reader, to watch this yourself if you need a high-five or a hug.  We're all weird.  We're all different.  That's the point of life.  Click here to view his speech... Graham's Speech
Congratulations, Graham. XoXo.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

You were wild once, don't let them tame you.

Last summer I got to know a family that lives diagonally across the street from me at a neighborhood party.  They have 3 beautiful little girls, now ages 10, 8 and 6.  I began tutoring two of them last summer, "L" and "E" (helloooooo internet paranoia!) and was immediately impressed with not only their individual personalities and interests, but how both of them seemed "wise beyond their years."

E would frequently relate vocabulary/phonics words we were studying back to her knowledge of the Titanic or other historic events.  L (who had just finished 1st grade), showed me her Picasso-esque artwork that she loved to produce.  L has a form of dyslexia and I feel like jumping into her brain for a day would be extraordinary.

Anyway, one day E saw an old picture frame that I had experimented with some chalk painting techniques on and she casually said, "Oh, is that distressed?  My mom said people distress furniture to make them look like antiques."


Every week, I looked forward to working with L and E, and keeping my teaching skills sharp over the summer break.  Even more than that, I enjoyed the conversations I had with these two soulful girls.

Flash forward to a cold, winter morning last month when I was hurrying my toddler into the car, late for daycare drop off and school as usual.  E & L's mom walked by and we stopped for a chat.  She told me that E had recently decided to re-vamp her bedroom and she was letting her have full reign in the design process.  She also said that E had a nightstand and a dresser that she'd love for me to chalk paint to my heart's desire.  I told her I'd absolutely love to, but life was running 400 m.p.h. recently and I wasn't sure when I'd have time.

Then came January 29th.  Loooooong story toddler broke his leg doing a little jig to the Thomas the Tank Engine song and ended up in a practically full body cast...."spica cast" as they call it.  Well.....with a family medical leave suddenly upon me, turns out I had some spare time for a project while my baby napped !

I stopped over to see E's new comforter, which would turn out to be the color palate for her re-design.  She chose this beautiful "dip dyed" comforter from Pottery Barn Teen seen here:

So cool!  Seeing the colors and hearing her thoughts, I immediately thought of the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint colors Provence and Henrietta......
She had a large, 5 drawer dresser and a small night stand for me to work on.  We sat together with iPad in hand, browsing Pinterest for inspiration and found this picture that made her go, "Ooohhhh!"...

Oooooh! Now, this color shown is Emile, which is a darker purple than the pinkish-purple Henrietta, but we both agreed this would look awesome in her room.

Then, Miss Amazing Vocabulary said, "Can you distress the drawers??"  Uhh....yeah!! So, I suggested doing the turquoise-y Provence underneath Henrietta so that I could distress it and let the pretty turquoise peak out underneath.


But, this being my first pre-teen piece of furniture, I couldn't stop there!

"How about an initial or a monogram on the side?"   "YES!"
"How about a quote about dance somewhere?" "YES!"  "In gold!"  "YESSS!!!"

WEEEEEE!!!!!  Seriously......there is nothing like a creative project to pull me out of the Winter funk....especially having to stay indoors while my wee little one's leg was healing.  The next day, I hopped up to my favorite Annie Sloan retailer, Pippi & Peanuts Eclectic Boutique in Quakertown, PA and my husband helped E's dad haul her furniture over to our house and into my workshop ( basement)

Bad news for me, but I took absolutely NO "before" pictures and NO "step-by-step" pictures.  I hit this project with reckless abandon and finished in a week and a half.  A new record.

All I can say is.....use your imagination for the "before."  It was green.  Okay, light green?

And now.....the afters!
*Note:  This is the very very very very last time that I am apologizing for the low/horrible quality of my pictures.  I can no longer take pictures on my LG Something-Something phone and try to show off pictures that actually do my work justice.  Next purchase....a real camera!!!!!! Oh....SORRY!!!*

Finished piece:  body of dresser- three coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White, finished with clear wax
                          drawers- two coats of ASCP in Provence, one coat of Henrietta, distress lightly with medium grain sanding block., faux distressing of Provence and Henrietta along edges and clear wax finish

I did the "E" initial before I applied the wax.  Instead of buying a large letter stencil, I simply went on MS Word, found a font I liked, typed a giant E (about.....400 pt.?  Took up whole page) and printed it on dense cardstock.  Then, I cut out the printed portion of the E verrrrry carefully, taped it back together carefully and used it as a stencil!

Close-up of drawers......again....sorry for quality.  Wahh.
"Faux distressing" is what I call it when I dip a small paintbrush in the color I want to peak through and lightly brush it again on edges.  This helps when I've distressed too hard and the wood or previous color is showing through.  After I brush the "peaking" color (here, Provence), I brush over it again with the top color (here, Henrietta) until I achieve the look I want.

In this picture, the distressing on the flat part of the drawer front is "true" distressing with a sand block, and what you see on the edges is "faux." 

 Lastly, I added a couple of details in gold paint pen, like this Isadora Duncan quote on the side of the nightstand....."You were wild once, don't let them tame you."   If ya don't know, Isadora Duncan is known as the creator of modern dance.  She wowed audiences in both Europe and the U.S. with her new-fangled free-form dance style.  Teddy Roosevelt was a big fan.  Don't ask me how she was killed.  I'm not saying not to Google it.....but I'm not gonna tell you what happened!!!! Eeeks!!!!

 The dresser, I put a quote from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." 

"There was a star danced, and under that I was born."

Can you tell she has a passion for dance?

And a little scrawl of "dream" on the nightstand's side that is closest to E's bed.  And, my signature gold heart. 

 E and her sweet sisters trudged through the snow to come see her furniture yesterday and her reaction was exactly what I was hoping for.  Jaw dropped and exclaimed, "This is so cool! No one else will have anything like this!!"

Just a small piece in the world of a unique girl!