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Friday, July 15, 2016

Throwin' shade; (and Mod Pdge Fabric)

If only...I wish this was a scandalous blog post where I call out some unnamed hater and drop the mic on some fool who did me wrong.
This post isn't even about sunglasses...it's about lamp shades.
Woo hoo, look at those beauties...I bet I'm totally capturing readers with this image, drawing you in with a great pair of boring old lamp shades.
Even though I have a huge backlog of sewing projects to show you, I feel like it's been a while since I did a non-clothing DIY post. Here's how I did something to some shades. I'll throw in some pictures of lamps, too!
So, those are two small fabric lamp dealies. They're boring and beige but they were $1 each and just the right size for some $2 lamps I recently brought home.
Just a couple of fancy ceramic pillars painted to resemble french vanilla ice cream with the little black specks. How can I make them more appealing? With fancy shades. Or regular shades that I would fancy up. When I got this idea in my head, I impulsively got up and went to Savers to look at fabric remnants and pillow shades. I had a plan.
A plan that included Mod Podge for Fabric that I had to acquire. (I added that brand name to the title because maybe this post will come up on Google searches.) So, with my blue-labeled decoupage medium and two floral place mats --that's what I found at Savers-- I was down to do this thing. I cranked on the air conditioner and  for ready to attach some things to things.
That's pretty much my way of describing most of my projects. I take two or more items/materials and some kind of adhesive then join them together: attach things to things.
The place mats were very 60s-70s floral with a barkcloth feel. There's a hastily snapped picture of one of the place mats before I tore into it with some new fabric-only scissors.
...and here it is after.
What did you think I was going to do? Take measurements, mark where to cut, do geometry, and then cover the shade with properly sized fabric? That's what a good crafter would do. I decided to cut a bunch of the flowers and leaves from the mat in various sizes. I was going to do this collage style.
After a shit-ton of cutting, I grabbed a paint brush and started painting the backs of my cut-outs with Mod Podge, paying no mind to the fraying around the edges. Because screw it. I let my hard work dry overnight before adding the top layer of Podge to my masterpieces. Eventually, I had these:
Closer look?
High five me because I created these and these are great. The flowers are kinda 3-D, kinda trompe l'eoil (prob spelled that wrong), and maybe a little shabby. Buy my lamps.
High on my own personal satisfaction, I overestimated my technique and hauled one of these babies out of hiding:
Just the shades, not the granny lamps. Those are two perfectly good, huge, drum shaped lamp shades that also happened to be all dingy and ugly from their years. I got a fix for that.
The picture doesn't do it justice, but it's a glorious large pillow sham featuring botanical-looking wildflowers in beautiful colors! I repeated the above process...
Nope. That's a no for me, hard pass, do not want. I guess from a distance, it's doable but it just reminds me too much of a poster that has been plastered with images cut from magazines and layered with Elmers.
But, you should see the lamp I planned on pairing it with:
Nice find, right? It's all swirly and 70s colored. Mint condish, lamp lovers...for sale on Etsy.
I've got a whole lamp party over here. Boatloads of lighting! Stick around and I'll do a whole post of 'em, nothing but pictures of lamps.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I guess this is growing up

So, to conclude my story about the 2015-16 school year...
Cat interpretation of me and my little girls as we strut down the hall.
It was a good school year. It was nice sitting at the end of the table with AB on one side and RW on the other. It was fun referring to them as "my girls" because I usually have "my boys" and this was a nice change of pace. I loved the whole class, really. I wasn't the only paraprofessional in the room. Christine was there too, so we had three adults as well as several students that needed attention. We had EJ, a boy with autism and a big mouth who had a hard time controlling his body. He was also smart as a whip and affectionate with friends. AB is not a cuddly child, but when EJ ran and hugged her, she allowed it as if she knew that physical connection was something he needed.
We had this sweet little curly haired boy, RD (not special needs) with a brother in first grade. Brother was always in trouble. In May, the "troublemaker" brother was hit by a car and had to be put into a medically induced coma. So, that was sad. I saw curly haired boy at Savers with his grandmother and I told her that it was really important to me that this boy come out of this, as I had just lost a family member.
The point of all this is uh...just pointing out the hard things that kids have to go through. I'm just glad we had such a good group of diverse children.
Here is a picture of me with a spring dress to break up all the text.
 So, as the spring went on it was clear that AB and her siblings were in good hands at their grandparents' house. I hoped that this would become her "forever" home. This would be good for her to have a stable home life, but...not so good for me.
You see the grandparents live a few towns over. AB and her sister GB were only finishing the school year with us and assuming they stayed with their grandparents in the fall, they should be at their neighborhood school. My little girl would be away from me.
AB, GB, and I never talked about this. I didn't want her to spend her last weeks at PV (our school's initials) having anxiety about the next year. I just wanted to enjoy the time we had together.
We started practicing songs for our kindergarten "graduation." One was a cheesy graduation-themed cover of "Dynamite" (you know the one). The other was a corny but seriously heartwarming rendition of "Lean on Me".
During one of our rehearsals, I told our class to really listen to the words. "The song's about helping each other through our hard times that we have," I said without being too specific. I told the class how they were there for me when I was sad. In my mind, I thought about RD and his brother's accident; I thought about WT, the brilliant Vietnamese boy when he had to serve a detention after ignoring the warning about running in the hallway (he was horrified!); and I thought about all the hardships AB had been through that brought us to this moment.
Four kindergarten classes would be performing and doing a little commencement activity on the last day of school, so we practiced on the stage ahead of time. During our first stage rehearsal, the other para, Christine was absent so I was looking after all of the children with special needs. One girl, LL, wanted no part of practice and left the stage, walking out of the auditorium. That would mean I had to chase after her.
I hadn't mentioned LL, as she was sort of an antagonist in AB's story. Her behavior was not so good and my little angel was often the victim of it. Sometimes they were friends and sometimes LL pushed, teased, and even stole from AB. I wanted LL to stay away from her, but AB always gave her more chances.
LL was stealing and her favorite thing to grab was Play-Doh. Yes, fistfuls of it would be hidden in her pocket. Therefore, she was not allowed to play with Play-Doh. One lazy afternoon, the children were moving about the room doing different activities. AB, RW, and some others with playing with the stuffed cats and dogs at the "vet center."
LL came into the room after speech services and was told she could choose an activity. Sadly, she whimpered that what she really wanted was to play with Play-Doh. She was near our group as Christine consoled her, reminding her of the consequences of theft and telling her to pick a different activity.
AB picked up her own Hello Kitty plush, walked over to LL and handed it to her. Do you see the heartwarming scenario I'm describing here? Just a short time previously, LL took a tiny Lalaloopsy doll out of AB's backpack. AB caught her doing this, but what was she to do?! Demand it back?! Tell someone?!
She can't do it. Even when an awesome toy is at stake, the mute child cannot speak.
Christine thwarted her plan to sneak Loopsy out of the room by hiding it in a bag of chips when she found a doll-filled chips bag. She asked AB if it belonged to her, who confirmed it did.
Less than a week later, here she is consoling the girl who stole her doll by offering her another of her toys! What incredible empathy! She didn't even need words. She invited a girl -who had previously been mean to her, but who was now in need of a friend- to join in with her activity. If she had been using her words, I imagine what she was saying was: "You look very sad, like you need a friend to help you. Here, take my precious Hello Kitty which I trust you to have, despite your previous actions. Let us now play with stuffed animals."
My heart heart melted. This would be the time to play...
It's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World!" by Prince! If it's not taken down yet.
Back to where we were onstage. Our class had done two concerts with the music teacher and neither time, did AB want anything to do with being on stage. This time she was trying. As she stood on the risers, I told her that I had to go make sure LL was safe and asked her to stay with our friends. I would be right back.
I was, and she did. She stayed on the stage. I was so proud that I told her I would find a graduation Kitty with a little graduation cap and diploma. Like this one:
I should probably get a graduation Minnie too. Neither of which I was able to find in stores and had no time to wait for delivery. I ended up with these:
I was going to remove the caps from that bear and smiley face and place them on Kitty and Minnie. I decided that the Lollipop Kitty wasn't right and managed to find one at Savers that was just perfect, albeit a little large. I forgot to take "after pics", but I have one of Big Grad Kitty:
You shoulda seen that girl's jaw drop with delight when she saw that. Here's the little lady herself in one of the photos Christine took for me. I wish I could show you that face.
That morning of our graduation party was beautiful. All the children were so dressed up pretty and excited. It brought back memories, like from a few years back when B (Read about him here) was leaving kindergarten and I told him that I'd always be there for him. I had made the same blue cupcakes that I did in 2013. In February, I had to say goodbye to B, as he left our school to join the program for emotionally handicapped children; he needed more help than we could give.
I remembered even further back to Jesse's kindergarten graduation. As we mingled in the classroom after the ceremony, he lifted his arms to hug his mom and asked to be picked up. Even though he was headed for first grade, he looked so small in my aunt's arms.
These days are so bittersweet. As I looked at the glowing, happy little girl before me, I noticed that she was a world away from the one who started school earlier that year. Had she been staying in the neighborhood, I would've been looking forward to another awesome school year together; but I would have to say goodbye.
The others, I would see next year, except for EJ who I would also miss terribly. Even though I will see them again, it won't be the same because they won't be the same. There is no other year like the year they are in kindergarten. They grow up and us adults are forced to stand by and watch with nothing we can do to stop it!
Sometimes they grow so fast that you can no longer help them and for their own good, you have to say hope they are in a better situation.
This year I said goodbye to one of my angels, when we could no longer meet his needs.
Or sometimes, you watch one grow into a wonderful young man only to lose him forever.
So...I guess what I'm saying is that life is cruel. Children should stay little forever and should definitely never die.
So, that was my school year! When times were bad, I was fortunate to have had some sunshine in my life at work. I'll never forget that little girl and I know I'll see her again. I will never forget any of them.
The end.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

If you wanna be a teacher's pet

Here I am, finally picking up where I left off in my last post. School themed post, just in time for the 4th of July. First; a project. T shirt surgery. I've got writing to do so I'm just gonna show you this top.
I've been going back and forth because I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to show a shirt bearing my school's name.
So, back to my story. To recap; I was newly assigned to work with AB, a girl in kindergarten who had select mutism as well as some behavioral issues. My "mentor-ship" got off to a great start.
AB's home life was...not so great. When she was present at school, Mom dropped her off quite late. The lack of consistency made her anxious and unwilling to walk into her class. She would follow her sister and stand outside of her 2nd grade class.
Parents...this is important. Drop your kids off on time so that they can start the day and their morning routine with their classmates. Just saying, that helps them a lot.
Seeing as though my first goal was simply to get her and keep her in our classroom, I would accomplish this by any means necessary. I offered her all sorts of incentives. As a child with some sensory issues, she loved playing with sand, Play-Doh, and the bin of uncooked beans (yes, that's a thing). "Want some sand? Great, let's go back to our class and play with sand! "Want to do a puzzle? I found a great Hello Kitty puzzle and it's waiting for us in class!"
It's not as if she was being defiant. It was often as if she was scared and confused. Several times,  I found myself sitting alongside the little girl in the hallway of the 2nd grade wing while she would literally fold herself in half. She would sit with her feet together and lean forward with her head down on her little sneakers. I few times I poked my head into a classroom and called to one of my friends who had been in kindergarten two years ago. "Hey, so and so! Could you let me borrow an iPad from the cart?"
That video was one of our favorites and I called it "the morning song." I would fire up this video on the screen of an iPad as I sat beside her on the floor. She couldn't resist that upbeat, happy tune and soon her head would come up so she could watch the video which had an immediate soothing effect. Crisis averted! Back to class.
Sometimes, I would go to the ladies' room and come out to find her waiting at the door. It was endearing to me, but made me feel like I had a huge responsibility. I picked up all sorts of Hello Kitty toys on my thrift trips. Just little things to use as an incentive for doing school work or for listening during lessons. Her hair had become a tangled nest on top of her head and I wished to take her home and give her a nice shampoo.
A short time later, those knotted curls stopped being a problem. On a Sunday night, I found one of those bagged items at Savers: a Hello Kitty plush with glasses alongside a smaller Hello Kitty in a tutu. On Monday I put them in my drawer of supplies to keep for an emergency. I walked out into the hallway and awaited her arrival.
At first I didn't recognize her. I did a double take as I saw a little girl with a short blonde haircut--it was AB. Dressed in jeans and long sleeved shirt, she looked like a completely different girl. She had no backpack and no Kitty in her arms.
Over the weekend, AB and her brother and sister were removed from her mom's care and handed over to her dad. (I'm guessing that he saw the immediate need for that haircut.) I guess it's a good thing I bought those stuffed cats for $3. Fearing a difficult morning, I presented the kitties in hopes of starting the day off with a smile. She had nothing but the clothes on her back and seeing Kitty must've have made her pretty happy. She held them closely in a tight hug.
A major upheaval in her home life could lead to some setbacks in her progress and behavioral changes. I braced myself for hard times...
But, they never came.
She just kept moving onward and upwards. If this were a movie, this would be the part where AB and I are shown confidently strutting down the school hallway, with some badass song about being awesome playing. Other staff would be smiling at her and complimenting her new look/good behavior/or whatever cat or doll she was carrying. I soaked in the pride of being involved in such a successful turnaround.
 When I had to leave town for my dad's surgery, I came back to learn that once again she had a new home. Removed from dad's house and placed with relatives a few towns over. The nurse told me that while I was away, she had a few "accidents." Normally, I would just know the look that said she needed a bathroom break. I knew to ask in the morning and afternoon. When I wasn't there, she just didn't know what to do.
I'm good buddies with the school nurse and she said that I was the only consistent thing she's had this year. She even said that I was sort of intuitive of her needs like a mom. Knowing how changing schools would probably be traumatic, our school social worker arranged for transportation to get her and her sister to and from. Another change.
Still, she grew stronger. I modified grade level assessments and found the bright mind hiding within. The kids in class had always wanted to play with her, and she was enjoying playing along. I noticed she seemed comfortable with a little girl I'll refer to as RW. RW is a wispy little sprite of a girl and is also a child with special needs. I used to work with her older brother. Like AB, she knew all 50 first grade sight words, much to the surprise of the classmates. AB's big sister, GB told me that she wanted to have a playdate with RW. The class teacher, Jan agreed that we should foster that relationship. Since AB was doing pretty well academically, Jan and I agreed we should keep a focus on socializing. RW needed help anyway, so soon I was including her with many of the things I did with AB.
AB liked Hello Kitty, RW liked Minnie Mouse. I would motivate them to work by searching for images on my phone of the two characters which had something to do with whatever we were learning.
During those difficult times, when I mourned my loss of Jesse, being with these kids made me feel better. Jesse died on Tuesday and I returned to school on Thursday. The night before, I prepared costumes for the next day's theme. It was spirit week and Thursday was twins day. I had previously asked AB if she wanted to dress as Kitty and Mimmy (do you know that Hello Kitty has a twin sister?). Overhearing my question, RW jumped in and said that she want to join. Triplets it is.
Pardon the awful picture, it turns out getting two little girls like these to pose for a selfie was not easy. I grabbed some cheap HK shirts and headbands, and using classroom materials, I attached construction paper cat ears and bows with scotch tape. You can barely see them! AB is on the left, holding a stuffed kitten on my shoulder and in a Hello Kitty disguise, RW stands to the right and is censored by Minnie.
They loved their cheap costumes. I just loved them. To be continued one more time...
Want to see how I did that shirt?
I started with that standard t shirt that had a horrible fit. It wasn't a soft, stretchable one so my no-sew cutting and tying trick was a fail.
I had that shirt that I decided against using in a previous project. I don't need a Superman shirt.
Check it out, my shadow. I layered 'em up to decide how much of the blue shirt to cut. Then, I cut what I wanted and just sewed that part on the black shirt.
I really, really like my shirt. It's a little snug to be work appropriate but I don't care, because I love that stalking panther and the red stripes.
Brb on my long-ass story.