Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bittersweet Endings...

Today was my last day of preschool for the year.  {{sigh}}

It's a bittersweet day.  On one side, I get my "free" schedule back.  (... ha ha ha... my schedule is never free...)  At least I get to focus on other things (aka... end of school parties/ events, upcoming 12-year-old birthday, Father's Day and VBS... oh yes, and this BLOG), ...and once the public school is out, I won't have to get up early in the morning!

On the other side, this is sometimes truly good-bye.  This is only my third year of teaching four year olds.  I often joke that I probably know half of the four-year-olds in our corner of the county.  Between teaching 4's in Sunday School, directing preschoolers at VBS, and teaching a preschool class during the school year, that's a lot of preschoolers!

However, it always shocks me when I no longer "run into" my old buddies.  

Last year I knew most of the parents well.  I taught a few of my preschool students on Sundays at church.  I was even Facebook friends with many of the moms.  So, when graduation came and went, and the last day of school came and went, I thought... "That's okay.  They're moving on, but I'll see them around a lot... maybe even at church."  That seemed to be the case for the summer;  even ran into a few of my old students two hours away at an amusement park!  

However, looking back now... I probably haven't seen 10 out of the 15 students last year since that last day of school.  Oh, I drive past their homes, see their photos on Facebook, and I hear about their lives from their moms' statuses.. but SEEING them in PERSON... nah.  And think about it... do you remember YOUR preschool teacher?  Nope.  They probably won't remember me even if they do see me.  {{sigh}}

So, today, as I was giving those good-bye hugs, I had on my "I'm gonna see them soon" face.  Big hugs, but no tears.

Then I came home and opened up the wave of cards that flooded in throughout the day.  


The notes of thanks were SO appreciated.  

I often sit back and think... hmmm... I have a K-8 Education Master's degree and Math BS degree... and I'm making only a slim percentage of what I'd be making at a public school... Will the kids or parents ever remember me?... Will learning to write their names and numbers and letters at age four really affect their education in the long-run?...

I read those cards, cried, and realized that I am definitely where I belong.

So, I hung up my cards...

I distributed my flowers around the house....

and decided this pretty little thing NEEDED displayed (can you believe someone made this for me?  Adorable!!)

and stashed my newest Frappuccino-bottle donation (for future crafting!)

and distributed my other gifts and realized I will have constant reminders of my adorable class.

And every time I see something from these guys, I'll say a little prayer for each one... even if they don't remember me.

{sigh}  Goodbye, my Oranges class.....
I love you and I'll miss you.
And years from now, when I see your name in the paper for Girl Scout projects, sporting games, graduations, Dean's Lists, engagement photos and proud parent photos... 

I'll smile and remember when your hand trembled in mine on the first day and when you proudly yelled said the Pledge of Allegiance and when you laughed hysterically over "U, "uh", underwear" and when you gave me a hug on the last day and your head rested against my tummy.  

MAYBE... just MAYBE you'll remember that you were well-loved in preschool.

Love, Ms. Christy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Force is With Us NOW

Remember the green Star Wars room?  It was looking pretty simple, but with the Dude's regular clutter, we wanted it to stay simple.  We added just a couple of details.

Here's the new poster over the bed.

A new wall sticker.  The dude decided Anakin wasn't his thing... so we went with this guy.

And, my favorite, the lightsaber light.  Yes, light.


It actually can cycle through about 9 different light colors AND includes a remote control.  Not to mention, it can be removed from the wall and played with (though I cannot testify to whether it would stand up to much abuse... so in this house, it stays on the wall!)

May the Force be With You.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gotta Hand It To You, Dad! Gift

It's almost summer-vacation for us preschool teachers.  Graduation was Thursday.  Just one more week of school (mostly fun stuff) and then, ... onto VBS preparation.

But before then, we need to squeeze in our Father's Day gifts.  We do a Mother's Day gift each year (I'll show that soon... sorry, should've posted that a month ago!), and to be fair, we send them home with Father's Day gifts on the last day of school, too.  Just for fun.

Here's what we did.

You'll need:
Package of Shrinky Dink paper (not patterned... just plain paper)
Colored pencils
Keychain ring/clip

First, trace the child's hand onto the Shrinky Dink paper.  Be sure to do it on the rough side.  We used a regular pencil lightly, so that it wouldn't show up later.  We (the teachers) cut out the handprints. 

I had the kids write their names in marker onto a thin sheet of paper.  Then I flipped the paper over, so that you could see it backwards through the paper.  

I then traced the backwards name with a Sharpie onto the rough side.  (This is so that the name shows correctly the right way while viewing the shiny side later.)  Then, be sure to punch a hole at the bottom of the hand.  I punched four in a clover-shape, just to make sure that it was big enough to get a keychain ring through later.

Here is what it looks like shiny-side-up before coloring.

Then, we had the kids color the hands with colored pencils before baking.  I baked at 375 for about 2-3 minutes (till the curling was done and the shrunken hand was flat again).

Here's a before and after shot.

Then, add the keychain ring (ours had clips on them, too.) 

Too cute!  Think Dad'll just LOVE these?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My New Dining Room Wall!

This is the before picture of our dining rom wall.  New paint job, but I couldn't figure out what to do with the wall.  

I wanted these... imagine how elegant they would've looked.  The off-white to match the bottom of the walls.  The brown metal to match the wall color.   Decorative, but not overdone.  {{sigh}}

However, at $458 plus exhorbitant shipping costs, I wasn't about to do this.  It killed me.  
I was so set on these, that I just waited... waited for the perfect sale.  But even on sale, after shipping, the price was just too much to justify... especially when you consider that this wall faces another wall with a big mirror, too.

Then, I started seeing gallery walls, empty-frame walls, walls of plates, collage walls, etc.  
So, after a few weeks of gathering mismatched, yet interesting frames from yard sales, and after spray-painting them all in Heirloom White, here's what we ended up with.

The chalkboard is just a regular frame.  I removed the glass, painted it with chalkboard paint and then put it back in with the cardboard backing after the frame was painted Heirloom white. 

The most expensive item in the grouping was the long mirror... I bought two of those on sale at Joann's for $9.98 for both.  A couple of these frames came from that half-off yard sale where I found a few frames at 13 cents!  Most were around $1 to $3.  The love sign was $1.  The wreaths were 25 cents each.  The door was under $3.  The sconce was about $4.  Oh, I love bargain prices!

The blank cabinet door is not finished.  I'm still working on a good short phrase/quote to put on there (Cricut, of course!)  Thinking of also putting a monogram directly on the wall inside a bigger frame too... we'll see.

The ornate metal 5x7 rectangular frame to the left is the sort with an opening at the top to slide in a photo.  I plan to make some sepia-tone photos of the kids to put in there... birthday child gets theirs for the day.  Otherwise, we'll stick to photos of all four.  Maybe previous Christmas photos at Christmas time?  

The frame in the middle that is showing a slight glare in the photo holds a piece of scrapbook paper that is a map of the Americas.  Cute.  I have this wonderful idea of one day putting the Google satellite map of our house in there one day.  However, it's still outdated and shows an empty lot!  Someday, those images will be updated....

See the ornate sconce on top?  The bottom edge of the sconce has a curled up lip.  PERFECT for holding a tiny piece of chalk!

I took these photos this morning.  Since then, I did a little yard saling and have since replaced the candle and the wreaths.  However, I'll wait to repost updated photos until the quote is in place, too.
OK... can I brag just one second.... look how dead center those middle three frames are on the wall.  The chandelier is centered right on them!  I even did this arrangement at 11pm at night, when I was getting drowsy.  Now my OCD, symmetrical mind is satisfied even with this arrangement.  Oh yeah, uh-huh! {{tee hee... back to the blog}}

Somehow these photos make it look like the gallery is a bit small... IRL, it's a bit bolder.  Funny how photography works....

I'm linking this to the following:



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Placemat Pillows

I found this cool idea on Thrifty Decor Chick's blog, although I must admit, the idea is all over the place.

So, when I found these placemats, I knew I needed to get them.  These are the type of fabric placemat that has a lining sewn on in the back.

The four black/white floral placemats came from the local thrift store for $6/four.  The tan/black placemat is from Target.  I think I paid around $3 for it.

The two green pillows underneath the placemats are our old pillows from the sofa.  You know the kind... they came with the sofa.

Somehow after years of no sewing, I've lost my seam ripper, so with a needle and a pair of scissors, I carefully opened a seam along the one side of the placemats.  

I then stuffed the placemats with the stuffing from inside the old green pillows.  Using a needle and thread, I did a simple stitch to close the opening.  And wah-lah...


The black floral ones will be used in the guest room, once I remake the beds (had guests last weekend!)

The tan/black one works great in our "bookroom".

Or maybe on the loveseat?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The "Almost Sleepover" Birthday

It's birthday time again in our household.  Of course, with six people living here, it's often birthday time.

My youngest son is 7 now.  We offer our kids the choice of "have a party" or "get a nicer gift".  Fortunately for us, the oldest two kids have realized that a DSi or iPod is well worth skipping a party!  Little do they know that a party alone costs more than either of those, so they are saving us big time too.

Well, the "unfortunately" part of this story is that the younger two kids haven't caught on to money and how much things cost.  To them, a DS is no different than a Lego kit.  So, The Dude chose a party.

When my oldest two were younger, we hosted some pretty cool, rocking parties (if I do say so myself).

Yep, that's the Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot at our party in 2005.  As it turns out, one of my kindergarten son's invitees' dads used to be the mascot in Pittsburgh.  He owned a costume business, and volunteered to come to my son's Pirate/Treasure-Hunt party.  This party was awesome!

Here is "China"... well our litte version of it during our daughter's "Around the World" birthday party in 2008.  (And since this party, we've actually BEEN to China... doesn't look anything like this!)  Each girl had a passport and went room to room doing activities/games/crafts.  This was to celebrate Chinese New Year.  The girls had to break all the balloons to find the puzzle pieces to put together.  It was a favorite "country" that day.

Here is my four year old (now almost 12) son at his Bob the Builder party.  That's our brownie-laden dump truck cake in the background.  The kids all did construction activities and looked adorable.

Strawberry Shortcake party in 2004.  Back when my life was consumed with just being mommy 24/7 (no outside work), I used to actually make cool cakes and stuff, too.

Another cake.... Rolie Polie Olie... remember him?  Yes, I even gave the pretzel rod legs "joints" by drizzling chocolate on them.  Yes, I had too much free time on my hands, apparently.

Ahhh.... those were the days BEFORE having four kids, BEFORE having a job, and BEFORE getting old.  LOL  I don't have the energy to pull off these huge parties anymore.  So, lately, our parties have been at Pump-It-Up (bounce houses), Chuck-E-Cheese's, the skating rink, Libby Lu (closed now, but it used to do makeovers on little girls... too cute), Build-A-Bear, Laser Tag place, the farm, TaeKwonDo school, and more...

Those offsite places are great for keeping your house clean and requiring little-to-no preparation.  I could call the store, reserve the party, pay the $$$ price and just show up.  So easy!  However, notice the $$$... meaning THREE digits.  Yes, we often paid over $200 for a party offsite.

So, now that our house has a little more room, we thought we'd attempt to do a party here instead.  I asked The Dude what he wanted.  "Race Cars", was the response.  Well, I've learned that the older the kids get, the less time/interest they have in too many prepared activities.  So, we decided to do an almost-sleepover party.  Meaning, they could come in pajamas, do a few organized activities, play with toys and Wii, and watch a movie with popcorn... and then go home at 8:30!!

We invited six boys, but only five could come.  That worked out great... our table had six chairs and it was an even number... sah-weet for gathering goodie bags and such.

I found on etsy this site:  Bee and Daisy.  They create printable pdf files that have all the cool things for your party, and this is one of the businesses that sell it as a whole party.  So, for $15 or so, I received the files to make the cupcake toppers, signs for walls, candy-bar wrappers, water-bottle wrappers, banners, pennants, cupcake-wrappers, and more.  I didn't print out too many things, since it ate up a lot of colored ink in my printer... but everything was so coordinated.

Here is my butler's pantry  party-prep-station.  

Water bottles look so much cuter when they have adorable race car wrappers on them.  So do Hershey bars and cupcakes, too!  I put the candy bars, sticker sheets, a Cars pencil, a Hotwheels car, and Cars pretzel bag into each bucket.  My son wasn't happy that I bought "CARS" movie buckets... I guess seven-year-olds are too old for that?... but too bad.  They were a buck each at Target, and matched the decor!

I made sure to wrap the vanilla cupcakes with white paper and the chocolate ones with red ... so I knew what I was picking up when the kids requested a certain flavor.

These are the pinata candy-filing bags... ready to go.

Here's the pre-party table, ready for the kids to arrive.  

The race car pinata made for a cool centerpiece until it was called into duty.  The trifle bowl held little bags of pretzels for anyone who was hungry early.

YAY!  A birthday means that I get to hang the ultra-cool Birthday Balloon Wreath!

The circle banner on the fireplace.

After pizza and cupcakes and a little "Wii MarioKart" playing, I pulled out the pinata.  Can you believe I put a nail in the little divider ceiling wall (or whatever you call it) to hold this 4 lb sucker?  Yes... a nail in our fresh new wall that will just make a hole for nothing 99.9999% of the time.  Mike says we'll just call it our "pinata nail".  :)

I felt bad that this pinata was the pull-string kind.  We briefly entertained the idea of cutting off the strings and handing the boys a bat.  However, after I realized that I was alone at this party (hubby took kids to soccer practice) as the sole adult, I figured strings made for a much lower likelihood of an ER visit.  Ha!

Unfortunately I had to lift most of the boys... I forgot how high a 9' ceiling really is!  I was so afraid that the first kid would yank the whole thing down.  Fortunately these pinata people are smart.  The one that triggered the trapdoor was about half as long as the others.  :)  The kids couldn't even reach it... so I was the last puller... and shaker of candy.  

They attacked the loot like vultures... unfortunately so did our Westie (caught her quickly before she grabbed any chocolate.)

And, it's almost gone.


After filling the bags, I quickly grabbed them back for taking home.  (C'mon... a bag of sugar... I know better with seven-year-old boys... that goes HOME, not immediately in the mouth at a party.)  Then I let the boys just go play with the Wii and The Dude's Hotwheels cars while I relaxed with some music and a magazine.  

Yes, I relaxed.  Can you believe it?  My husband and two girls were at soccer.  My oldest was consumed by the newest computer game.  And I was the sole party-chaperone for six seven-year-old boys.  And I relaxed.  That alone should prove to you just how well-behaved these little boys were!!  Sure, it was loud, but it was controlled and happy sounding.

Before I relaxed though, the pizza-table turned cupcake-table was next turned to the Lego-table.  Ever see these at Five Below?
PERFECT solution to the "what else can I plan for a boys' indoor party?"  With my girls, crafts are always a huge hit.  (Ever buy a cardboard coloring playhouse?  Wow... HUGE hit at my daughter's party in December!)

I put names on the plates and opened up the packages to look like this:

Every child had the same kit, so no arguing over who gets what.  Before I called them back to the table it had transformed into this:

Here is The Dude with his kit.

And a happy The Dude with it finished.  Please ignore the stretched out shirt... remember it was an almost-sleepover.  Let's pretend these were pajamas.

After the kids were finished, I put the finished project with the instructions and plate into a ziploc bag.  The labeled plate made it easy to identify whose was whose... and it kept the project protected during the drive home.

After Legos, the boys retired in the family room to watch a Hotwheels movie with popcorn and water.  As they did that, I brought out the pinata bags, the water bottles that weren't used, and the goodie buckets.  All ready to go.

The party was a huge success!