Thursday, April 24, 2014

Threats and Vigilance

Earlier this week a troubled soul made a threat to the local schools by emailing several school officials and claiming that on April 24th (today) there would be some sort of mass violence at a local elementary school. A letter was sent home to parents regarding the threat and although the threat was most likely a hoax sending the letter was the right thing to do. Parents then were faced with the decision of whether or not to send their children to school on April 24th.  Law enforcement agencies worked together to trace the source of the threat and deemed it a hoax.

I opted to send my children to school, but I will admit that my confidence faltered a little as I drove up to the front of the school without any wait (unheard of) and realized that about half of the students would not be at school today. Was I making the right decision? Should I go back and take my children home?

I drove past the school several times during the day and saw at least one police officer each time. Obviously law enforcement was stepped up and working overtime to protect and defend our children. And for that I am grateful. (And now the school day is over and every child is safely home.)

The threat of violence at our local school is relatively low even on days like today, April 24th. But different threats face our children every day. Will they succumb to negative peer pressure? Will today be the day they are accidentally exposed to pornography? What kind of language will be used around them? What kind of media will they be exposed to? Will our children know how to stand up for their beliefs and standards?

Are we as parents, teachers, and leaders as vigilant as we need to be in preparing for and defending against the day to day threats our children face? Are we strengthening our own defenses against evil so that we can have the guidance of the Lord to help us strengthen our children's defenses?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Handprint Family Tree Quilt

Completed quilt with autographs
I wanted to do something special for my parents so when I knew a family reunion was being planned I jumped on the bandwagon and got this quilt done in a six weeks (that's a big deal for someone with 5 kids not to mention 40+ handprints that have to go on the quilt).

My siblings quickly sent me via USPS or email the outline of their hands and their children and spouses hands. Then I set to work. The funnest part for me is the planning and choosing a color scheme.

Work of art on display on the kitchen table!
My parents have green trim in their bedroom so I decided to go with green leaves. And yes, each leaf is the size of that person's hand at the time the quilt was made. I gave my mom the leftover fabric so she can add more handprints or leafs or flowers or whatever as more people are added to the family if she wants to.

Prior to pin basting
So that I can remember how I created this quilt and you can create one of your own if you like here are the basic steps I followed.

1. Spend tooooo much time on pinterest trying to find the perfect family tree quilt idea to copy.

2. Decide to create your own pattern. Draw that pattern out and decide you don't really like the chunky geometrical style after all.

3. Muster all your artistic energy and a roll of white paper and draw what you think should be the perfect tree. Show said tree to your husband and a visitor who both declare it looks like a roach. (They are both right.)

4. Give up on your freehand artistic skills and instead use your Silhouette Studio software to alter an existing tree to fit your needs. I am one of 10 children so I wanted a tree with 10 branches.

5. Realize that with the one directional design of the brown fabric piecing the tree together would be a difficult job.

6. Create your own "whole cloth" applique technique. It goes something like this:
  • place the brown tree fabric on top of the white background fabric
  • print your tree from Silhouette Studio with a grid on top of it
  • use lots of rulers and chalk to make a grid on your brown fabric
  • refer to the grids to enlarge the tree from 8 1/2" x 11" size to queen size quilt size
  • use a short straight stitch to sew the brown fabric to the white fabric (no wonder under involved)
  • be sure to backstitch or tie off your threads
  • carefully cut off the excess fabric to reveal the brown whole cloth tree
  • (not the cheapest technique and more wasteful than I like, but I have lots of scraps and I'm very happy with the result)
7. Use three different techniques to transfer handprints to fabric with wonder under or similar fusible interfacing.
  • iron green fabric onto an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of fusible interfacing then use the copy feature on your printer to copy the handprints onto the paper backing of the interfacing 
  • realize that construction paper handprints are going to use all your printer ink if you copy them so decide to cut them out and then trace them onto the fabric directly
  • use your sliding glass door as a light box to trace handprints onto fusible interfacing and realize it's faster than using the copier method because you don't spend time troubleshooting the printer which doesn't always like interfacing (sometimes low tech is the best method)
8. Watch a long movie while cutting out handprints. Remember to label who is who because 40 handprints later you won't remember.

9. Decide where to place all the hands and quickly iron them on before you change your mind or lose one of the handprints.

10. Decide that straight stitch outlining of the handprints will work just fine and will be much faster than zigzags.

11. Do all that straight stitching around every single finger times 47 hands. Thank goodness I didn't do right and left hands!!

12. Realize that your calculations are a bit off and you need a border for the quilt top. Find your inner frugal self (which self had to disappear in the early stages of production) and use leftover green fabric to make a border.

13. Wait a few days for your back to heal from the latest "I lifted the baby the wrong way and now my back hurts" episode before pin basting the quilt.

14. Use the largest available surface in your home to layer your quilt sandwich. Since that surface happens to be the living room floor, take advantage of the carpeting and just use straight sewing pins to pin the layers directly to your carpet  while wondering how in the world you will manage to pin baste this without pinning the carpet.

15. Employ your creative and frugal resourcefulness and realize that your daughter's trundle mattress slides on a piece of hardboard an eighth of an inch thick and the size of a twin size mattress. Carefully slide said hardboard (like pegboard but without the wholes) under quilt sandwich and pin away!!

16. Decide how to quilt the quilt. I opted to quilt along the tree line using invisible thread on top so it wouldn't show when I went over leaves. I used dark brown thread on the back so the back of the quilt has the winter version of the tree. In large unquilted areas quilt clouds or birds or hills to complete the scene.

17. Don't forget the binding!

18. At the family reunion have everyone sign their name with fabric markers (marvy uchida bold point markers because no heat set is required).

19. Remind your parents that yes this is a nice quilt but it was intended to be used and it's okay if it gets dirty. It does wash. I didn't make it to be a wall hanging. ;)

20. And that's how you make Handprint Family Tree quilt in 20 steps or less!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mom takes a sample STAAR test - 4th grade math

Tomorrow my fourth grader takes the STAAR test in math. Today she had a dentist appointment and missed most of the math review. Lucky her, instead of relaxing and having a homework free night she came home with a 12 question sample STAAR test for homework. She made sure I knew that her friend in another class had no homework and instructions to relax and get lots of rest.
STAAR - Apparently the state of TX isn't great at spelling, but at least you know what STAAR stands for now.

I try hard to support my children's teachers and although I was tempted to just tell her to forget about that sample STAAR test I bit my tongue. Instead I told her I was going to do the sample test and write a note to her teacher explaining that this was the best effort of a college graduate who frequently uses math in crafting and quilting and I don't expect any better from a 4th grader.

My daughter kept looking over my shoulder and wanting to help me with the test, but I wouldn't let her. I told her it would be cheating. After I finished writing my answers down on a separate piece of paper (her request), she insisted on taking the test too. Then we compared answers. Out of 12 questions we only disagreed on 2 answers. One I was right (mass is not effected by difference in gravity but weight is). One she was right ("read the directions Mom it says to add the number of vertices and edges together").

Here are my un-professional notes from taking the 12 question sample test:

#33 "What in the world?" the graph - #of computers and #of classrooms really didn't make sense and would be useless in the real world. What they really wanted students to do was figure out the ratio of column x to column y. It would have been easier without the confusing graph data titles.

#34 Not a multiple choice question and I didn't have an answer blank to bubble in so I wasn't sure what format they wanted the answer in. So I guess you really do have to teach the test for questions like this. This was the "read the directions Mom" question.

#36 I'll admit I hazarded a guess and when I realized it was one of the multiple choice answers decided I must have used the correct process. Question was something about how many t-shirt combinations can you make with 4 different colors of shirt, 4 different colors of ink and 3 different designs. (multiply 4x4x3 to get the answer).

#38 Just made me mad - toooooooo picky. What is the width of 4 of these video game controllers rounded to the nearest whole number? It showed a picture and even defined where the width was. Then you had to use their ruler to measure. If you were the least bit sloppy it looked like 1.5 inches which would round up to 2. But in fact it was only 1.45 inches which would round down. Then multiply that times 4. Fortunately the answer 8 was not a choice neither was the answer 6.

#39 After #38 I was mad at the test and felt that this question was unfair also but for a different reason. You have x number of containers that hold 24 quarts. How many quarts of water do you have in total? Simple multiplication question after an extremely picky question. x times 24 = your answer. Here's my beef with the question: nowhere does it state that the containers are full. It just says they hold 24 quarts. Every time I buy a tupperware from the store it tells me on the label how much it holds, but that doesn't mean it's full! So how much water do you really have? It depends on if any of the containers have water in them!

#48 My only other questionable question I actually had a clue from helping my 4th grader with homework earlier this school year. It's basically a vocabulary question. The question shows two figures and asks how they have been changed. The answer choices are a) rotation, b) translation, c) reflection, and d) none of the above. The correct answer is reflection but even my design program for my craft cutter refers to this as mirror image. I wouldn't have had a clue what translation is (sliding the figure one direction or another) except for the homework I helped with. And I graduated with honors from high school and college!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jobs for Moms - Part I Piano Teacher

I've probably read a dozen articles about jobs for stay at home moms. Most of the time I'm not impressed at all. This series will explore jobs for moms as researched by a Mom (me). I'll even try to interview some people I know who successfully work from home while being a mom. I'll start with jobs that I have done successfully in the past or currently.

Part I: 
Piano Teacher

Skills Needed: you must play the piano well
      you must be enthusiastic and work well with children
     organizational skills to keep track of payments

Equipment: piano!!

Not Necessary But Nice: a music related degree (you can charge more and should charge more if you have a music degree)

Potential Income: depends on your particular market. I've heard of piano teachers who charge as little as $8/lesson (crazy in my opinion) and it goes up from there. I personally would charge $12 per half hour lesson in my particular market. I started teaching at $10 per half hour lesson.

Cons: after school hours (unless you have homeschool piano students)

My choice: I currently choose not to teach piano because I need to be available for my own children after school. I found that I couldn't take care of an infant and teach. Then I noticed that my own children weren't learning to play the piano because I was too busy teaching other people's children.

Works for Others: My sister teaches piano lessons and allows her kids to watch a video or has someone else babysit for her while she teaches. Her teaching funds the family food budget. She has a music related degree and taught choir at the college level prior to having children of her own. (Did I mention she plays better than I do too?)
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