Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I know you're not surprised that I didn't actually make my goal to post about my white board vinyl on Sunday.  All I have to say about that is I've been getting lots done, and I am super, super, pooped. 

I did promise you vinyl though, so here I am to share a little more of my madness with you.

A couple weeks ago I contacted the Vinyl Magician, Janae from Thoughts in Vinyl, and I asked her if she could cut some vinyl for me to make this grid set-up for my daily agenda. I knew I didn't want it all in one piece because a) it would have been a nightmare to put up, and b) I'm not an octopus.

Sad as I am about lacking those six extra arms, I'm a realist, so I asked Janae if she could cut me a bunch of strips of vinyl that I could piece together into a grid. Don't worry, I knew what I was getting myself into and I braced myself for the fun to come.

Half the battle is in the mental preparation. Like bracing myself for Monday on Sunday evening.

Once I mentally prepared myself for the process, step one, was to map everything out with measurements. It was pretty handy working with a white board because I just wrote my measurements and guideline grid lines right on the board. I used a wet erase marker for those lines so they wouldn't wipe off when I touched them.

Obviously my title went up first. When doing vinyl I always work from the top down. I don't know if that's the best way, it's just the way I do it. 

I used a level to drop my vertical lines, and I taped each of them a few inches at a time while alternately checking that they were still straight. 

Once the vinyl was completely taped on one side, I was comfortable enough to pull the backing off and apply the vinyl.

I did all my vertical lines first, and then I moved to the titles.

I took some pictures of the process for applying the lettering. I like to first tape my titles where I plan to apply them, making sure that they are level.

Next, I like to cut each large piece into manageable sized pieces to work with, making sure to use lots of tape so everything stays lined up. This is maybe not the best way to do it, but it works for me, a person who is mishap prone.

This picture shows how I've cut the vinyl title into two separate lines, and then taped them to the board. Notice I didn't tape at the bottom, and there's a reason for that. I leave the bottom unfettered so I can remove the sticker backing paper and apply the vinyl to the board.

Instead of applying the whole piece at once, I cut the word "ESSENTIALS" into three more pieces and applied each section individually, starting with pulling the vinyl and transfer tape away from the sticker backing paper. 

Once I separate the transfer tape and the vinyl from the sticker backing paper, I let the backing paper drop to the floor. I'm a messy worker and cleaning up after myself is for later. 

Next I smoothed the transfer tape with the vinyl back onto the board.

Now comes the fun part.

I pulled the transfer tape away from the white board S-L-O-W-L-Y, making sure the vinyl stayed on the white board and not on the transfer tape.

I kept going, getting more excited with each new section.

One down, three to go.

This is where I stopped on Thursday. Believe it or not, this took me about three hours to do.

I stopped here because I knew the next day was going to be TEDIOUS, yes, all caps, because I had a lot of long horizontal lines left to do.

I'm generally pretty anal about using a level when applying vinyl, especially for a project like this. If I would have measured from one line to the next for placement of the vinyl, if even one line were off just the smallest little bit, then subsequent lines would've only gotten progressively worse. By using a level for each line independent of the one before it, even if every line is off a tinsy little bit, the effect isn't cumulative because one line isn't dependent on the last.

Does that even make any sense?

It's cumulative chaos vs. controlled chaos.

That's what I'm talkin' about.

My lines aren't perfect, but you can't even tell unless you are right up on it, looking for the slip.

And you're not, are you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting There


Whew! What a crazy couple of weeks I've had. I've been in my classroom a lot, and just this week I'm starting to see some things come together enough to take some pictures. This post is going to have a lot of pictures, and believe it or not, I'm not even ready for my classroom tour yet. Cray cray.

First up is the area of the classroom where students should visit after they've been absent and they need to collect their assignments.

Last year was the first time I used the calendar method of posting daily assignments, and it is definitely a keeper. Like many of the things in my classroom, I've lifted this idea from other teachers. My absolute favorite thing to do is to troll other teachers' classrooms to get ideas. It's like Pinterest in real life.

Each class has it's own calendar, but I also have files directly under the calendars where students can find assignments that they have missed. I try not to keep much more than a week back of assignments, because I don't want to encourage extremely tardy assignments. Students can still make older assignments up, but they have to see me before or after school to get those assignments.

The other thing I keep in this Assignment File is my teacher copy of the Interactive Math Notebook. That way students can get their notes caught up as well. It's important that they have the information, and they are graded on it, regardless of whether or not they were present.

This was one of those quick, but extremely gratifying Pinterest inspired projects. It pretty much speaks for itself.

This is another Pinterest inspired project that seriously makes my heart go pitter patter. I have my crayons sorted by color on the left, and my colored pencils on the right.

I wanted to do this for a couple reasons. The first is because it's just so pretty and that just makes me happy. The second is because the kids take so ding dang long trying to find their colors, that there always seems to be a traffic jam at the colors. I can almost feel my blood pressure escalating on days when we are pressed for time.

Um, every day.

I had to go to two different Walmarts to find enough drawers to do both my crayons and colored pencils. I'm sorry if there are none left for you. If you go to look for them, there are 3-drawer versions and 5-drawer versions. If you want to do the rainbow, you'll want to get the 5-drawer versions.

The teachers at my school have been busy completing Pinterest inspired projects for their classrooms all summer, and just this week we've been at school at the same time and we squeal over the things we've done. I can't tell you how many times we've squealed "I saw that on Pinterest!" It's pretty funny.

I sorted my markers too, but since they don't get smaller with use like the pencils and crayons do, I opted for the cheaper route of spray painted tin cans within a basket.

I've been a little label happy this summer too. I used the template from Ladybug's Teacher Files for these particular beauties. They are free, by the way. Follow the link on her blog name to go to them. I printed mine on colored card stock. 

I made a bunch of these in Power Point with the Circle Shape tool and my favorite font of the moment, Sketch Rockwell.

Same deal with these, but on a smaller scale.

These trays are where students turn assignments in. Would you look at that dust?!!!

It's like my house that I've been neglecting all summer, because yuck. I loathe dusting. It's so pointless.

That's a lot of labels there. I was obsessing over how I was going to indicate which period was on each shelf, and I came up with this idea. I sure hope it holds up.

I cut a little rectangle out of the labels that was just large enough to slide one side of a binder clip through. Then I just clipped the label to the shelf with a tinsy little piece of a poster strip to the inside of the underside of the binder clip so that the label would sit at a ninety degree angle to the shelf. 

Whew! Run on sentence. I think that sentence needs a comma or two, but I'm not sure where exactly. Pretend it's perfect.

Anyway, the poster strip piece was on account of my OCD freakishness could not handle wonkily askew labels. I know my limits.

This is just a little step back view from that corner section.

And the other side. Surely you've noticed stray cords and such in my pictures. Let me explain. The part of my classroom that I'm not showing you yet looks like it's been hit by a tornado. Trust me, my neighbor teacher, Betsy, has exclaimed several times this week that my room looks like it's been hit by a tornado.

I'm not really a tidy worker. It always gets scary bad before it gets better. That's because when I unpack I just drag everything out into the middle of the room and then bounce around, ping pong like, working on things. It takes forever to accomplish anything because I keep getting distracted and half finishing things.

Still trying to figure out how to make that ADD work for me.

If I could just concentrate.

I started my bulletin boards on Monday. I got this hair brained idea that I was going to use fleece to cover my bulletin boards. Well, I was at school until 9:00 Monday night because the fleece was just a little too thick for the cheapness of my bulletin boards, and my staples kept sproinging off the board. You probably don't want to hear this, but I had staples in my underthings when I got undressed that night. Not cool.

Anyway, it's a good thing there were no kids around because I was whaling on my stapler like I angry eyebrow my students not to do. It was so bad that I thought maybe my stapler was broken, so I went to Staples to buy a new Stapler (ha ha, that's funny).

And it was not my stapler dang it! It's my stupid bulletin boards. 

And I guess it's okay that I have two staplers now because I'm sure I'm just going to break one of them anyway. They just don't make staplers like they used to.

Or do they? Were staplers ever awesome? I've never owned an awesome stapler before. Well, except for my electric one. I actually have an electric stapler so the kids don't have to touch my staplers. If they touch, they break.

Anyway, since I'm going off on a tangent already, let me just finish telling you about my electric stapler. It's awesome. I have to angry eyebrow instruct the kids on the proper use of the electric stapler every year, telling them that they cannot play with it, it's a privilege, blah, blah, blah, and I better not ever hear them using two staples in a row or else they're going to be paying me a nickel for each wasted staple. Because they're so expensive and I only make ten cents a day.

You see, I know boys, and electric staplers can sound like a machine gun if you repeatedly put a piece of paper under the sensor to see how fast they can staple. Don't ask me how I know, I just know.

After that ordeal, it took me another three days to get around to finishing the boards.

This board went right back up because it's one of those things that I repeat until I'm blue in the face. Now I just point and sigh. Not really, but I can if ever I'm that weary.

I know Anne Alagna, an internet stranger, is going to give me crap about the unbalanced look of this board, but I just wanted it done at this point and I was tired of fighting with the sproinging staples.

Deal with it, Anne.

If it gives you any comfort, I completely stapled the pads of each of my index fingers. Completely. As in I had to pry the staples out with pliers, and I felt the flesh squeakily, reluctantly give way like a raw steak.

Too bad I don't teach science, right? Kids love that stuff.

Maybe I can recreate it for a special lesson. I just have to find the math in it. I know it's there, it's everywhere.

This board is near and dear to my heart because I super big, pink puffy heart LOVE Divisibility Rules. They save lives, man.

I should probably be kicked out of the Bulletin Board Club for this one. I totally popped out a bulletin board kit and slapped the whole shebang up there Willy Nilly. You can tell, can't you?

Super Skillz I have. I know.

That's it for now. I'm delirious with exhaustion. My plan, although you should never hold me to it because of that time-space continuum deficiency I have, is to get back on here Sunday evening, or Monday-ish, to share with you the progress of my vinyl white board grid.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Manic Mode

I've been on vacation for real for the last three weeks. The girlies and I were in California for two weeks, and my mom drove back with us to spend a week. We packed a lot into the last three weeks, and I don't feel like I did a lot of relaxing, but I did finish our vacation anxious to be productive.

While my mom was here the whole family did the Color Vibe 5K.

Even my Mama Llama.

All good things must come to an end, so early yesterday morning I took my Mama Llama to the airport and I hit the ground running. I have a week and a half to whip my classroom into shape, and I also have a million other things to do that are not school related. In between working in the classroom I've been shuttling the girls and myself back and forth to doctor and dentist appointments and running errands.

And I haven't even started my spring cleaning yet! Every summer I say I'm going to tackle that, and every summer I somehow run out of time. It's frustrating.

I know, whine, whine. I'll stop.

Before leaving for California I started having school nightmares. Thankfully I haven't yet had the nightmares where for some inexplicable reason I show up to school naked and all the students are knocking on the door to get in while I'm digging in boxes trying to find my clothes. And yes, I also would like to know how I actually get to school without realizing I'm naked, but that's how nightmares work, I guess.

Thankfully I've been wearing clothes in my nightmares of late, but my classroom is still packed up and I've planned nothing for the students to do. The no plans part is enough to give me heart palpitations because I am not a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl. I need plans.

Anyway, since I started going in before vacation, I spent a lot of time doing unimportant, fun things, like sorting my markers.

If you are one of my 12 Instagram followers, you've probably seen some of these pictures already.

I made labels for the colorful bins I bought at ReallyGoodStuff.com. They make me happy.

My eight graders will keep their interactive math notebooks in the bins unless they need to take them home to finish their class assignments. My seventh graders have to keep theirs with them because they'll be using them for their homework.

What do you think of the bulletin board border around the white board? I've seen a lot of classrooms with them actually on the whiteboard, but I didn't want mine to get ink on them, so I put them on the outside.

I'd like to change the vinyl on the whiteboard to a grid set up. I have three classes to prep for this year, plus Advisory, so I need to update it anyway. This is what I'd like to do.

Every day when the students come in they ask "What are we doing today?" I always point to the Agenda while I will my head not to explode. I have an entire whiteboard to devote to this, so I'm going to post the entire week at a time. Sure, plans may change, but I think this will be very helpful for my students, especially if they know they're going to miss a class.

Also, sometimes I have a conscientious student who will come up to me and ask for their work ahead of time, and if I don't have my plans right in front of me, or they're buried on my desk because 180 students, I really have no clue what we're doing because I have the memory of a gnat. My typical response is "Bduh. Um . . . I'll get back to you." Not cool.

Yesterday I started working on cutifying my filing cabinet. This is what it looked like before.

And this is what it looks like now. I still need to make labels for it, but I'm pretty happy with the result. What I don't know, is how well it's going to hold up. If it doesn't hold up, I'll be peeling all the contact paper off next summer and painting it. I sure hope it holds up.

I posted this picture on Instagram and shared it to Facebook, and then my sister got all up in my business about the contact paper, maligning me on Facebook in front of my friends. And I cried.

Not really. I mean that did happen, but I didn't cry .

You do remember my sister, right?

She is just like she looks in this picture.

Anyway, she was all up in my business and accusing me of being a hypocrite because I teased her (and my Grandma too) about covering furniture with contact paper and that it's so tacky, blah, blah.

So really, I knew my sister was going to be all "HA! " when she saw my contact paper furniture, because I did deserve it.

But people change, man.

And my filing cabinet was U-G-L-Y.

I think that now it is pretty. So I'm a hypocrite. Sue me.

Next up is my desk.

No, not this desk exactly, but yes, this desk.

This particular desk was on the shooting range, riddled with bullet holes, and I noticed that it's the same exact desk that I have at school. Except minus the rust and bullet holes.

Peanut Head took all the legs off this summer and something-something to them to make it not wobbly. Now an elephant can sit on my desk, and it will not collapse.

Anyway, both desks make a hideous screechy groaning noise when the drawers are opened. Perfect transition signal when I'm feeling naughty. Which, if I'm honest, is every day. Multiple times usually.

My desk is now covered with contact paper. I still have three drawers left to cover. That's why they're not in the picture.

The most difficult part of this project was devoting the time to do it, about eight hours. All the exterior hardware has to be removed and then put back on, and it is not fun. Plus it's a sweaty, have to be on the floor a lot, kind of job.

Getting up off the floor is not as easy as it once was.

If you're under forty you have no idea what I'm talking about. Forget I even said anything. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

So that's where I'm at with my room. Glitter Man is going to take proper pictures for my classroom tour once it's all done. I doubt that will be before the end of next week though.

With any luck, and not too much exhaustion, I may pop in here and there to show little accomplishments. If not, for sure I'll be posting on Instagram.

I post other stuff on Instagram too. Stuff that doesn't necessarily make it onto the blog because, you know, time. That or it's just not enough to justify a post.

Like this. It's my minivan disclaimer.

Anyway, if you want to follow my Instagram drivel, my handle is Jillderbeast.  Peace out.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mom of the Year . . . and a Giveaway

Hello, hello! I have been trying and trying to get a post up for nearly a week, but apparently I'm too thick to figure out how to add pictures to a mobile blog post with just my phone and/or iPad and my 3G cellular network.

I tried to be patient and problem solve to figure it out, but in the end I was too impatient. Big surprise, I know.

Anyway, the girlies and I are on our yearly trip to California. We have family spread out from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego County, so it's always a two week affair. On our yearly trip, there's this phenomenon that occurs when I get about 30 minutes away from the Bay Area where I just HAVE TO GO SHOPPING!!! It's like Shopping Tourette Syndrome, where I start twitching and my eyes flick back and forth looking for a mall. Shopping Malls beckon like jewels amongst the rolling hills.

Come hither. See my wares. Touch them and be content.

Wow, that sounds a little porny. Not what I was going for.

I believe this shameful consumer impulse falls upon me because I am, in my mind, shopping deprived in my little neck of the Famous Potato State. Lame first world problem, I realize this.

We have a little mall, but it's not a MALL. I don't want to dis where I live too much, because really I love it, and not being able to shop on a grand scale is actually a good thing for my family's continued well being. I just need to get a fix once a year is all. Want to get a fix.

And fix I did. In the picture above the girls and I are standing in one of my favorite stores, Williams-Sonoma. I love, love, love that store.

More on that in a little bit, because that's where my giveaway comes in. I first want to share with you yet another example why I deserve to not win Mom of the Year.

Today I was driving back to my Mama Llama's house with her and the girls, and I wanted to drop by Michael's to see the Project Life kits that were recently made available in retail stores. I've been so tempted to order one online, but I really wanted to touch one before I made that leap. And boy, am I ever glad I did. The albums for the kits are enormous. Enormous like a broiler pan long, enormous. I don't know about you, but I don't have any shelves in my home that an album like that will fit on, so I decided I would just stick to my Digital Project Life.

Satisfied, but a little let down, I walked out of the store, got back in my swagger van, and started driving us back home. I was telling my mom about why I didn't buy the thing I went into Michael's for, and Zoe Bug was in the back seat flailing her arms and yelling "Mom! Where's Annie? Mom! Where's Annie?!!!" in increasingly loud bursts of inquiry. I just shooed her inquiry away with a wave of my arm, as if to brush away an errant fly. In my mind Annie was hiding from me in the back of the van like she sometimes does, and then . . .

"Annie! I left my baby in the store! OMG, I can't believe I am driving away from the store where I left my baby! I should have a license to have kids!"

Then Zoe, ever the supportive child and always Johnny on the Spot to make me feel like the excellent mother that I surely must be, exclaims in her horrified voice, "You have a license to be a parent?" 

As if the authorities would be so lame as to bestow me with such a responsibility.

And why would they? I leave my children in stores far away from home, with nary a bread crumb or a GPS with which to find their way home.

I'm raising children without a license. Someone arrest me now. Before I hurt someone.

The irony here is that my Mama Llama is retired Child Protective Services and she made me. What kind of social worker raises a sicko like me?

My Mama Llama does. Blame her.

I know you want to know how this turns out, right?

Well, we get back to the store and I'm thinking I bet I can get back in there without Stinkerbell even realizing I've left. And I did. I found her walking towards the front of the store shortly after I walked in the door, and she did not look panicked. But then this is Stinkerbell we're talking about.

"Ha, ha. Funny story, Stink. You're not going to believe this but I actually drove away from the store and left you here. I forgot you in the store."

And do you know what? She didn't even look surprised at all. She looked at me with this look on her face that seemed to say "Oh, I believe it. I believe it and you're lucky that you came back here after me because I know where we live, and I know your phone number, Woman. And furthermore, I have problem solving skills that you incessantly scold me to use. I have them and I know how to use them. Go ahead and leave me in the store again. Go ahead. Watch what happens."

She said all of that with a look. A look that gave me goosebumps. 

I'm a little bit skeered of my own child. I hope I never do that again.

I wonder if there's some kind of LoJack for kids that I could install? One that alerts me when I get, say a mile away from my child. Enough time to safely alert me and still leave enough time to get back to the scene of the crime and pretend like nothing ever happened.

I'll have to work on the ratting myself out part though. I suck at that. I'm a Tattle Tale.

So, Mom of the Year. Bring it.

Now for the fun part. Looky what I found at Williams-Sonoma. They're Summer Harvest Pie Crust Cutters.

I have the autumn set, but I've never seen this Summer Harvest set before.

This is what you can do with them. Pretty cool, eh?

I bought a set for me, and a set to give away.

The Giveaway starts now, and it ends on Friday, August 9th. Good luck!

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