Monday, March 28, 2016

Gettin' My (Teacher) Craft On

It is a truth universally acknowledged that upper grade teachers
 have a lot of correcting to do, 
and lower grade teachers have a lot of fiddly prep work to do.

Which is great, 
because I loooove fiddly prep work!

A recent lesson began, as many do,
 with a find in Bullseye's Playground (formerly the Dollar Spot) at Target.

Hmmm... what could I do with these cute but cheap li'l clothespins?

Well, I could do a matching idea on a piece of paper...

but is there something even more engaging I could do?

Claudina Thinking


I printed out six hedgehog drawings found on the internets, 
laminated them, and wrote uppercase letters on the hedgehog with a Sharpie.
 On the clips, I wrote the corresponding lowercase letters,
 so kids could practice matching them.

Is this as adorable as all get out, or what?

But, I can hear you say,
 "Dang It Minnie, isn't that a lot of work for one fifteen minute lesson?"

Yes, it is.  But fortunately, a sister teacher taught me a neat MacGyver trick.

To remove Sharpie marker from a slick surface,
 just write over it with a dry erase marker...

... and it will wipe right off.

Now I can use these hedgehogs for number matching, word completion, etc. 

Who knows? 
 Maybe if I get transferred to middle school,
 I can even use them for Periodic Table practice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Remembering Sierra

I wrote a couple months ago about my dear niece Sierra,
whom we lost this summer.

I wanted to make some special gifts for Christmas this year
to remember her by.

I saw some luminaries
on the ThatsWhatCheSaid blog...

... and went to work making some of my own,
with pictures of Sierra. 

I also had some of Sierra's t-shirts,
which I planned to use to make a quilt.
However, there were several shirts left over,
so I decided to use them in another project:

I searched Pinterest and found instructions;
here's what I did, with my modifications.

carefully cut the front of the t-shirt from the back.
Iron a generous piece of interfacing to the area you are planning to use.

I just used, I dunno, whatever interfacing they had on sale at Joann's.

I decided ahead of time what size pillow I wanted to make,
and trimmed the piece to that size.

Important!  If you have a 12" square pillow form,
you don't need to add seam allowance.
So your finished t-shirt piece will be 12" square.

As you can see from my photo,
I ended up adding borders to make the front the right size.
Go nuts with this!
Maybe you just need borders down one side.  That works!

If you're doing several (and get distracted by the Great British Bake-Off, like I did)
you might want to do all your math-ing and label your pieces with Post-Its.

Now, for the back.
I will do the math for you!

Whatever size your pillow form is,
you will cut TWO pieces:
the size of the form for one side,
and  the size of the form,
divided by 2,
plus 2 1/2 " for the other side.


Well, for a 12" pillow,
you will cut two pieces, 
each 12" along one side,
and 12" divided by 2 (which is 6")
plus 2 1/2" (which is 8 1/2") for the other.


You will end up with the front,
which is 12" by 12"
and two back pieces,
which are 12" by 8 1/2".

Along one side that is the pillow length,
(the 12" side, in this example)
turn under 1/4" once, then again, and iron it.
Sew along the ironed part.

Now, you're going to add the back to the front.
Pin one of the pillow length pieces to one side of the front...

... then do the other side.

Now you can just sew all around the outside edge with a 1/4" seam.

After you sew,
turn the pillow right side out, 

and you'll be ready to stuff your pillow form in!

As you can see,
the two back pieces make a nice pocket,
so you can remove the pillow cover to wash it, etc.

And how did my sister like the pillows?

She liked them quite a bit.

Monday, December 21, 2015

AUGH! Christmas Is Almost Here!

I always make an ornament for my kids
and an old high school friend.

What should I do this year?!

Welp, while checking out Autostraddle to see if they've got another
Orange is the New Black recap, I saw this article on making ornaments.

These ornaments caught my fancy...

A great way to upcycle your old flannel shirts into holiday decorations.

...but I couldn't find the required plastic candy canes.

I found cardstock gift tags at Target!

I tore strips of pink-striped fabric,
 glued a little bit at the tricky end curved parts......

... secured the end with hot glue,
 wrapped the strips tightly around the cardstock...

... hot-glued the end, 
and poked the sparkly thread through the hole to make a hanger.

It was speedy-quick,
and I love the end results! 

Wouldn't these look great in a variety of bright candy colors,
scattered all over a tree?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What Do We Have Here?

I was checkin' out my Little Free Library, when...


There's a Little Free Library label on this book,
but it's not my address!

I know there are other Little Free Libraries in my city,
but this address was not familiar.

So I headed over, and look what I found!

Isn't it cool?

Of course, I dropped off a book,
(and my card)...

... and picked up a book to take home.


A hardback copy of Stink!

If you're in the neighborhood,
check it out!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Taking A Leap

I am not a person in love with change.
Or risk.
Or leaps of faith.

However, although I don't love those moments in my own life,
I'm crazy about them in pop culture.

Ariel trading her tail for legs...

...Jim kissing Pam...

... Harry leaving with Hagrid after hearing,
"Yer a wizard, Harry."

I love that first meeting between Harry and Hagrid SO MUCH.

So when no classroom job turned up
 where I could put my spankin' new credential to use, 
I went ahead and took the PE job I was offered.

Take a chance, I thought.
Make a leap.

What's the worse that could happen?


This little angry piggie is the closest image to how I felt.

I was exhausted, chronically dehydrated, and only working two days a week.

Plus!  I only got to see the kids ten minutes or so at a time,
since I team-taught.

Stop, kids!  I want to talk about what you did this past summer!

A big reason I got into teaching was because I like hanging around kids!
I wanted more that the few minutes I got, for example, to discuss with one little girl
why she thought her sister was a squib.

Poor Filch.  And poor sister.

I thought I was stuck with my job,
but I got a call to interview for a part-time teaching job,
and realized that available jobs were appearing again on the websites.

I applied to several, interviewed, and yay!
was hired as a part-time "push-in" teacher in a kindergarten class.

Zoidberg shares my glee.

What exactly the new job entails, I'm not sure.
But I know I need to take a leap, 
if I'm going to move on to the next stage of my life.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Twenty-five years ago, I became an aunty for the first time,
when my niece Sierra Rae De Paul was born.

A rare pensive moment.

She was a happy baby and toddler,
and was loved and cuddled and cherished, 
as all children should be.

The trusting look of a well-loved child.

However, Sierra began to have seizures,
which meant medicine and doctor visits and worries.

With her uncle Gregg.

But Sierra was still a smiling, happy girl,
and although her verbal language didn't progress,
she seemed to have little trouble understanding those around her.

With her mother, my sister Vicki.

She could be mischievous, but never mean.
She liked to tease her parents by shaking her head "No" when they asked,
"Do you love Mommy?  Daddy? Mat?"
but they always knew her true feelings.

With her cousins and sister.

The seizures and more health problems continued,
but you wouldn't know it by her attitude.

This picture couldn't be more accurate.

Although her parents divorced when she was young,
her father was always involved,
and she was blessed to gain a stepfather who could not have loved her more.

At my sister's wedding to her second husband.

Looking at the photos now,
it's easy to see how Sierra became more and more frail as she got older.
Her cheerful nature remained a constant, though,
and it was a rare photo that didn't capture her smile.

With her sister and cousins, again.

In time, her bones became so fragile that she was given a wheelchair to get around in,
a development that she embraced, 
as it meant it was easier for her to get to where she needed.

Her twenty-first birthday. She loved having her whole family around.

When she was young, she loved Barney, balloons, and puzzles,
and she never outgrew that love.
It was gratifying to give Sierra a gift,
since she greeted a new balloon or puzzle with a squealing delight
that made everyone around her laugh and smile.

Her Halloween costume.

 But... late this summer, she didn't feel well.
Just as her parents had done countless times before,
she was taken to the doctor.
However, this time, as the doctor sent them on to the emergency room,
she stopped breathing.

The medical team got her breathing again,
but it was too late.  The damage had been done.

We spent a week in the ICU waiting room,
and the nurses told us they rarely saw the room so full.
"Sierra always brought us together," said her heartbroken stepfather.

When the doctor told us there was no chance of recovery,
my sister stood by Sierra's bed and told her,
"No more boots, Sierra.  Just Barney and balloons."

Barney was happy Sierra would never have to
 wear an uncomfortable "boot" cast again.

We said our goodbyes, and she slipped away,
surrounded by her closest family.

When it came time to plan her service, my sister was adamant that it would be a 
"Celebration of Life," not some sad, dark affair.
We dressed in purple or green, in honor of the singing dinosaur she loved,
and the room was filled with balloons and pictures of Sierra.

Just some of the family that was there.

I nervously read a one-page remembrance, and hurried back to my chair,
but my sister tenderly, steadily shared memory after memory of Sierra
and how she had changed those around her for the better.

At the end of the time, we took the balloons outside, and set them free.
We watched them float away, purple and green and buoyant,
and thought of how much Sierra would have loved to watch them fly.

 A person's life is like a stone dropped into water,
the ripples moving out farther and farther,
touching shores and the ripples from other stones.

Like others who knew Sierra, I feel changed by knowing her.

My sister and I, for example, had a ritual when we said goodbye:
instead of hugging,
we would stiffly put out a single arm and tap each other on the shoulder.

It was a little joke about how we weren't a huggy pair growing up,
but when I saw Vicki in the hospital after Sierra entered it
we put our arms around each other for the first time since we were small.

And without saying anything,
we knew that going forward that is how we would say goodbye.

Because life is too short to keep those we love at arm's distance.

***   ***  ***   ***   ***

 Goodbye, Sierra.
You will be missed by all who knew you.