Look what I made today.
It took me five years to do it.
Okay, not really.
But I did buy this huge letter W five years ago. And it sat in the dining room, and then on top of the china closet, and finally, in my clothes closet. And then it got packed up and moved to Florida with us where it resumed its spot on top of the china closet - until today.
I was standing on one of the dining room chairs looking for something on top of the china closet and I saw the W and I thought about how ridiculous it was that it's been, literally, years, and I have not completed this project.
And then I thought about how many other things I push off, I pretend that I don't need to do or just can't plain make a decision about and so I keep that task or project or whatever on my to-do list and it never gets crossed off.
So today was the day. Or rather, this afternoon was the afternoon.
I thought it would take much longer to decoupage my W than it did. I started printing pictures at around 12pm and it's now 8pm and it's all done. But it didn't take 8 hours. That would be silly because I don't have eight hours to do anything, ever and also because in between 12pm and 8pm I made dinner, folded a load of laundry, did the 2pm school pick up, colored, baked corn muffins, did the 3pm school pickup, did homework, served a snack, sang a few songs, cleared the table for dinner, did the 4pm school pickup (!), served dinner, cleared dinner, washed the dishes, packed five lunchboxes for tomorrow, did more homework, cleaned up the playroom, got four kids into pajamas and everyone into bed.
So this project must have taken, what, five minutes?
No. Not five minutes. But somewhere between five minutes and three hours, I would say. I guess it depends on how big your letter is and also if you decide to decoupage the sides and bottoms of your letter.
But let me back up here for a second and tell you what I did.
First, many years ago, I saw this project here
and I loved it.
Pictures printed in black and white on regular printer paper. Nothing fancy here.
This is the back. It's what the front looked like before I started this. You gotta love a letter that looks the same front and back...
The first step is to sort through all your family pictures on the computer. I chose 25 pictures, copied them into a word document and played around with the sizes of the pictures so some were bigger and some smaller.
Then I printed them in black and white, cut them out and the layed them out on the W to see how they would look.
And that's when I realized that I did not have nearly enough pictures, so back to the computer for 25 more.
Wash, rinse and repeat. In total, I probably used about 100 pictures so just keep that in mind when making yours.
To attach the pictures to the W (which by the way, is nothing more than cardboard; I think it's a base for a papermache project, very light-weight) I used Modge Podge and a foam brush. Modge Podge dries clear so I was not neat about this at all, but I was careful because the printer paper is very thin and I did not want the pictures to rip.
Glue the pictures to the front and then do the same to the sides and tops and bottoms of you letter. The tops and sides and bottoms are really optional. In theory, you could paint them a solid color or just leave them as is, but many of my pictures wrapped around the sides of the letter a little here and there so it was all very uneven after I finished the front of the letter.
And I really do like how the W looks wrapped in pictures from all angles.
Now I just have to figure out where to hang it. I had the perfect spot for it in our old house, but now I'm not so sure what to do.
But I need to figure it out. It can't really live on the kitchen table.
Now on to the next project - pulling out all the Chanukah decorations and figuring out where they go in this new house of ours.
Oh, old house, how I missed you today with your fantastic W spot and awesome Chanukah decoration mantle.
I didn't know it would be such a challenge making this new house into a home.
We bought a couch today.
The picture below is the couch coming into the house through the backdoors, but first it has to get through the still-standing sukkah.
We are big fans of craigslist and yet every time we look to buy something, I get all nervous.
Will the sellers be crazy?
Will we hate the couch (air conditioner, toy, whatever) when we see it and then have to tell the seller no to their faces?
And the worst, how will we get it home?
That's what happened today. I mean, it's a couch, you can't exactly throw it into the trunk.
And also, both Josh and I wanted to see it, which meant all the kids had to come too. The six of us fit comfortably in the van, but no room for a couch here. So we took two cars, took all three booster seats out of the van, put them into Josh's car and off we went. The car seat stayed in the van. We'd have to be getting something a lot better than a couch to make unhooking the carseat worth it. Actually, I can't think of anything that would make taking the carseat out worth it, short of getting a new van. And even then, a new van is already so expensive, why not just get a new carseat to go with it, you know?
We got lucky with this couch. I don't think anyone has ever sat on it. And the owner steam cleaned it before we came. I don't even know what that means, but this is one clean couch.
We've been looking for a couch for the playroom for a while now - pretty much since we got off the train in Florida and yet, I just could not justify spending a thousand dollars on a couch for a playroom - or for anywhere really. So we've been sitting around on the floor a lot. And I'm okay with that.
But every once in a while I would take a little craigslist look and see what's going on. The problem is, usually nothing is going on - and I'm so not used to that. In NJ, every craigslist search included NYC and that was always where the motherload was because, - and I know it's wrong of me to gloat - but no one there has any storage space so haha, once city-people don't need their double city-mini stroller anymore, I'm right there waiting to take it off their hands.
Here, in our new city, there aren't as many people. And people have big houses. And big closets. And they seem to be keeping all their stuff. And that kind of doesn't work for me because I still need some kind of table for my front hall. There's nowhere to put your keys or stash your shoes.
Anyway, I digress. I do have a point here. And it's not that the couch got semi- stuck in the sukkah that hasn't come down yet on it's way in through the back doors. My point is that you never know what you're going to get, and you never know how something will work out. Craigslist is really all about taking a chance and we took a chance on the couch and we got lucky. It could have looked terrible in the room, it could have been too big, it could have been awful and we would have had to walk away, but it wasn't.
You have to try or you'll never know.
And that is what I have been trying to teach my art classes these past few weeks.
My students are very focused on their outcomes, which I find to be a terrible thing. They do not at all look at the process as the reward, they don't see that the making of their creations is really where the beauty lies and that is why I find myself continually trying to talk first graders down from the ledge of perfection.
They constantly want to start again.
They don't like one little tiny dot on their page and all of a sudden it's garbage.
I am finding that these kids do not understand what it means to be creative, to look at something that maybe didn't go as planned and try to figure out how to fix it or change course and do something different. Which is why I instituted a new rule in the art room.
(I mean, it's not that big of s surprise, I already gave it away in the title, but here goes:)
I'm not sure it's the right rule and I'm not married to it so I can always change back to letting them try again and again, but I really feel deep down that my students need to learn to look at their work and either go with it as is or change directions - their choice - but they do have to stick with it.
These past few weeks we have been working with watercolor paper and paints. The first week we learned how to write our names in bubble letters, use oil pastels to outline the letters and then watch as the water from the paints and the oil pastels interacted as we painted over the whole sheet of paper.
Last week we learned to draw robots, step by step, only using shapes - and I first saw the project idea here
. Then we watercolored around the robots after we colored them with crayons, again watching how the watercolors almost moved away from the crayon wax.
A couple of kids got it. A couple of kids were amazed at how all the different mediums played with each other. And the rest of the kids? All I had were complaints. Mine isn't perfect. I need to start over. I'm so bad at this. Why do we have to do things we don't know how to do?
Oh my goodness.
I was so sad for my students. So sad that they couldn't see the beauty and the creativity behind every move they make in the art room. It's art, it's not math. There's no one right way to do anything. And you know what, there's no one right way to solve a math problem either, despite what many teachers think but that's a whole other can of worms.
We talked about what the process
means, what the end
means, and what comes in between
. And slowly they started to understand. Very slowly and some kids still do not buy it, but many of them are seeing their work in a new light.
Maybe it was never explained before, but I don't think that's true because they had a great art teacher last year.
I think it might be because kids now - and I sound like such an old lady saying this - but kids are very used to instant gratification. If it's not immediate, they're not interested. If they can't do something the way they think
is the right way the first time, then forget it. Why work at something? What's the point? And I see it with my own kids too - if I cannot know how to ride my scooter (shoot a basket, play a board game, whatever) right out of the box, then I'm not doing it. And that kills me because I remember riding my bike up and down my parents' driveway for months before I learned how to ride without training wheels. Months! (Granted, I'm not very coordinated, but I did keep practicing).
And so that's why I have my no do-over rule. I started it two weeks ago with the bubble letters and the kids were horrified. They were slightly less horrified this past week and I'm hoping that once we start our projects this week (wait till they hear that this new project will take three weeks to complete, there's going to be a revolt. What do you mean we can't take it home right now?!
) that they will be a little less demanding of themselves. A little more forgiving that their paper doesn't look exactly like their friends.
We'll see, I can only hope.
As part of my Happiness Project
, I have been trying to break down big goals (declutter house) into teeny tiny little goals (clean out a drawer). And so far it seems to be working. The high I got from cleaning out these two kitchen drawers was well, pretty high, I must say. I immediately felt calmer when I was done, and every time I need to get something from either of these drawers, I smile. And I use these drawers all the time. You see, these two drawers are also known as the junk drawers in the kitchen. You know you have one, it's okay. We all do. I just had two.
I knew they were a mess but I let them be until one afternoon. I had just closed one drawer when I heard a huge crash of what sounded like pots and pans and breakable Pyrex dishes. I couldn't understand what had happened, there were no pots and pans in my little overstuffed drawer. I opened the cabinets beneath my overstuffed drawers and there it was. The contents of my overstuffed drawer had overflowed its boundaries and had poured out into the cabinet below. My slamming the drawer seems to have caused an avalanche of stuff, which in turn caused the drawer stuff to topple over an entire shelf of pots and pans. And time for a mini-goal it was.
This is what my drawers looked like before.
I purged, I sorted, I put things where they actually belonged. Then I tried out every pen in the drawer to see if it actually worked.
Then I put back each item that was allowed to live in these drawers. I feel like I need to hit The Container Store for some drawer dividing items. Well, not really The Container Store, but some cheaper priced store that sells the same items.
Here are my after-drawers.
This took fifteen minutes of my time. Imagine. And it used to take me at least five minutes to find something specific in these drawers. Oh Happiness Project, I'm so happy already!
Now that we have gotten into a groove with the Homework Box, homework time has become almost second nature to all of us. Almost. It's all very exciting. And we also implemented the shoe bin, where the kids dump their shoes as soon as they walk into the house - and they have totally gotten the hang of that too. So since things in boxes seems to be working so well, I have taken it a step farther and made The Kippah Box.
Putting on their kippahs is probably the most stressfull part of my boys' (and mine, Josh's, you name it) morning routine. They can never ever remember where they took off their kippahs the day before and there is no way in the world they have any clue where the kippah clips are because how silly would it be to actually clip the clip back on to the kippah when you take it off.
Josh tried to remedy the kippah clip problem this past summer by ordering, I kid you not, 1000 clips on Ebay. Three months later, we are down to about 100 clips. If I am doing my math correctly, that means we have been losing kippah clips at the rate of 10 per day. That is not only insane, it is unacceptable.
And so enter The Kippah Box. This was not so much a craft project as it was me dumping out the contents of a small box into a ziploc bag, putting stickers on the box that spell out "Kippah Box" and placing said box on the credenza in the porch, the last room we see before we leave in the morning and the first we see when we come home. I suppose that means that this is more of an organizing post than a crafting post, but if it helps anyone with a similair kippah crisis, then so be it.
The goal was for the box to live in the porch and for the boys to deposit their kippahs there when they came home from school. Yes, yes, I am well aware that my boys should be wearing their kippahs from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed, but seriously people, baby steps here, baby steps.
At this point, the box only works sometimes - as in when the box is actually in the porch. For some reason though, it seems that the box is always everywhere except where it should be. Really. I am constantly knocking it off the kitchen counter or tripping over it in the dining room. I have yet to figure out a way to keep it in its place. I considered hot-gluing it to my credenza but I like the credenza too much. My next idea is velcro, but I am not sure if the box would sit straight with velcro under it.
All I know is that I will not give up until I make this Kippah Box work. Because at this rate, in another ten days, we will have no clips left at all.
This will work. It has too. It's a box and it has stickers on it. Seriously, what's the problem? Maybe it's because I didn't decoupage it. Oh, lord.
This year is the first year that we have had homework and it's not going as smoothly as I had envisioned. I'm not totally crazy, I knew the kids wouldn't waltz in from school with smiles on their faces and immediately sit down at their designated homework spot and joyfully start coloring and practicing their letter sounds while praising their home baked cookie and milk afternoon snack.
But it has been a few weeks since school started and even I, a newbie at this preschool homework thing, knew that something was not right with our homework method. Like for starters, we didn't have one. Besides for not having a "homework spot", something all the "experts" say is a "total must", we don't even have a spot for the stuff we need to do the actual homework. Can you tell I'm rolling my eyes? I am. We don't even have a designated eating supper spot, how can we have a homework spot?
So each night we spend time looking for the crayons and pencils and scissors and glue. We'd usually find them wherever it was that we did homework the night before. Hmm, maybe I am seeing the value of a designated homework spot. Perhaps my mockery was uncalled for.
And then yesterday, in the middle of scotch-taping the homework back together after a child who does not yet attend school ripped apart the homework of one who does, I realized I needed a plan. The first part of the plan was for me to stop coloring the homework myself while my beloved watched Cyberchase. The second part of the plan was to get organized. We needed crayons, glue, pencils, scissors, and I am not sure what else in a box, but I am fairly certain that the box must contain something for the homework-less kids to do while the real work is going on.
Heaven forbid I should just throw all those things into a shoebox. Noooo. I need to decoupage that box first or else I will feel like I have not completed my task as a mother today. Have I done laundry? No! Have I cleaned up from breakfast? Of course not! But decoupage I will.
And so we made a homework box. We took an old shoebox, modge podge, scissors and scraps of scrapbook paper that were left over from another project. We cut, we glued, we made the paper fit even though it doesn't really cover the whole box. Add a few ABC stickers to spell out some wonderfully inspirational words like nice job and good work and woohoo, a homework box.
Then it was time to fill the box: I broke out the good crayons, you know, the ones we only take out for company. We added markers, pencils (well, I should say pencil, because sadly, we have only one), scissors, glue, and sheets of white paper cut in half that the other kids can color on while the homeworking takes place.
Having used the box last night for the first time, I can say with 100% confidence that it still needs a little tweaking. For example, the scissors and glue will no longer be living in the box. The mess that can be made by a four year old and a two year old during the ten minutes it takes for a five year old to do homework is indescribable. Instead, I think I will give each kid a "homework notebook" of their own so they can just color in it during homework time.
And that's that. A homework box.
I just counted. I typed the word homework 22 times during this one post. And I checked, there are no synonyms for homework. Oops, 23 times. I knew I hated homework for a reason. Darn, 24.