Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

This year, I was asked to head up the Teacher Appreciation Week at our school.  I had done it once in the past and it was the NIGHTMARIEST NIGHTMARE EVER.  I took over last-minute for a girl who wasn't able to do it due to a sudden and complicated pregnancy, and she'd planned the most elaborate, intricate Teacher Appreciation Week ever.  When it came down to it, I should have re-planned it, but didn't know how else to do things.  My oldest child was in Kindergarten, and I naively thought that since I appreciated teachers, everything would work out without too much hassle.  The short story is, it was a ton of work, and I was completely overwhelmed.  And pulled my first all-nighter since college.

I know some schools are very low-key with their Teacher Appreciation Week.  It's generally the first week of May, and their teachers get a small gift from the room parent.  At our school, the PTA generally arranges for a treat every day, door decorations, a gift, and an hour-long luncheon for the teachers on Friday. It really is kind of a big deal!

So, you can see why it was with great trepidation that I approached Teacher Appreciation Week this year.  I planned throughout the school-year, but decided I needed to really get things going at least a month and a half before our actual week.  Our official theme was "Books" -- but our unofficial theme was "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie"!!

The one thing that really made me feel calmer was that about 25 people had signed up to help this year!  I had a meeting with all the people that signed up to help -- and only three people (one was my next-door neighbor who's just about my best friend) showed up.  I wasn't nervous though -- several others said they could help with other projects, but couldn't attend the meeting.  Of the three that came, two took two of the treat days, and the other took my scariest project -- the teacher gift.  I absolutely hate asking people for donations -- I blame my paper route, where I had to collect money from the people I delivered to.  But one of the ladies that came actually volunteered to put the gift together and ask for all the donations -- and suddenly it was like I could breathe again!

As Teacher Appreciation Week drew closer, I put together a few little decorations -- some that didn't work out so well.  One that did work out was kind of fabulous -- my neighbor (the same one from before) came over one morning and our kids played while we burned ourselves on the hot glue gun, making a book wreath.  It turned out so pretty! The other that turned out was my book page garland.  I made hundreds of circles out of book pages, glued them around a long piece of yarn, and wound them around the skein of yarn, just in case I needed more.  I ended up using a little less than half of what I made -- but I think it turned out pretty cute, and it was very on-theme. :)
(You can see a picture of both projects on the food table below.)

On Monday morning, the girl in charge of gifts brought them and handed them out, and I gave them a little agenda.  I also had the school secretary send out an email telling them that these were the themes for each day, and treats would be in the faculty room from 10:00 - 1:00 every day (except Friday).  I think it turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself!  And I have a little nod to the rescheduling in the due dates.  Hee hee -- I'm such a nerd about stuff like that!

With our themes, we made sure that each day would have some food treat that coordinated with a children's book.  For example, we did blueberry muffins with "Blueberries for Sal", cookies with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", etc. 

I coordinated with the girl in charge of Room Moms for the door decorating, and in the end all but one door was decorated.  We decorated the doors the last day of school on the week before Teacher Appreciation Week.  I'm also a Room Mom for my little girl's class, so I decorated that one and the extra one.  It's official -- I am possibly the world's worst door decorator.  I've done it several times, and I've made peace with the fact that mine are super obviously the worst ever. 
See what I mean? There are so many levels of bad in this picture.  I think the teacher knew it was the thought that counts. :)  She really is one of the sweetest, kindest teachers we've ever had -- sadly, this door does not reflect that.  Oh, well -- I guess we can't all be good at everything!

Friday was my biggest job -- the one-hour luncheon.  Even though it was Teacher Appreciation Week, traditionally everyone in the school (from janitors to office staff to teachers) is included in the luncheon.  So, I was in charge of feeding 75 people.  Did I mention that I feel like I'm really bad at planning parties?!?  I had a recipe for a really yummy sandwich (my Dad actually said it was his favorite sandwich ever), and as the day got closer I really wanted to have the meal catered somehow.  Of course, I only had $200 to work with, so ordering 6" subs for everyone was out of the question, but I thought I might as well put on my big girl panties and go ask if we could get a discount.  I went to a local sub shop and asked if they could give us some sort of a school or group discount, and they said they could give us no tax -- which totally changed the price NOT AT ALL because we already get a tax exemption because it's PTA.  Oh, well!  So, Thursday night I stayed up a little late making sandwiches.  14 French bread loaves full of sandwiches.  And of course there were leftovers (12 would have been more than plenty), so I can say that they were pretty tasty, if I do say so myself!  All the other food was brought in by others, so that was probably my biggest role for the day, besides being there and making sure all the food was out.

I think the luncheon was a HUGE hit, and I was so glad I thought of books to coordinate with everything!  We had "Pinkalicious" punch (just strawberry lemonade), "Very Hungry Caterpillar" fruit & veggie trays, "Green Eggs..." (deviled eggs dyed green), "...and Ham" sandwiches, and for dessert we did "Alice in Wonderland" treats -- meringues, and cupcakes, and tarts, and all sorts of goodies.  The only thing I couldn't figure out a name for was the chips and the pickles, but I figured everything else was so fun it didn't matter.  It turned out so cute too!
While the teachers had their long luncheon, the Room Moms made sure there was at least one parent for each class.  I made a cute little booklet packet for each class, and they were told to pick up a packet and a ribbon, and the instructions told them how to make it.  Basically, each packet had at least one paper per child (plus a few extras, just in case), with writing prompts such as "I love being in Ms. Jensen's class because..."  The children could fill it out however they wanted (writing, pictures, whatever), and then the helper bound the booklet with ribbon and they left it for the teacher.  I told the parents that when they were done, hangman or some other game might be a good idea.  Joel did most of the hole punching while I was making the sandwiches Thursday night -- I decided he could appreciate the teachers too! :)
This is an example of the thank-you gift I gave to all my helpers.
If you look closely, you'll say this one says: Joel -- You're a champ and my FAVORITE! Love, Natalie :) THANKS Your help was better than chocolate.  Inside a snack-sized baggie was an assortment of snack-size Kit Kats and miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  (Joel got extras because he got this baggie and helped me eat the leftovers too -- but he earned it!)
In retrospect, I think I should have actually done a little more coordinating with other helpers -- I ended up helping with three days out of the four, plus my biggest job was the luncheon.  I guess I'll know better for next year, right?  Oh, wait -- didn't I mention?  I'm in charge next year too.  The good news is, I've got a little experience under my belt, so I feel like next year could be the year of stress-free Teacher Appreciation Week.  The extra-good news is, I found out that door decorating is -- get this -- OPTIONAL.  Yep, that's something we will definitely not worry about next year!  Although I think that might mean we need to do something a little more major at the entrances of the school or something.  The extra-extra-good news is, the girl who did the gifts this year VOLUNTEERED to do the same thing next year -- hurray!!  It might work out all right after all. :)

Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back

So, I have been gone for a while.  First, it was Teacher Appreciation Week (our school did it March 24th-28th and I was in charge of the whole shebang).  Then I got pneumonia - again.  But now I'm back with a vengeance!  I'll do a quick recap of Teacher Appreciation Week tomorrow and talk about quilting on Friday -- unless I get sick again!

My last post, I'm so sorry to say, talked about how I was avoiding doing any sewing -- and it stayed up for more than a month.  How embarrassing!  I found my mojo within a week of writing that post, and I'm sad I haven't been able to share until now.  Here's how:

1. I gave myself a break.

After writing that post, I realized I really needed to stop feeling guilty about not wanting to sew.  I had so much going on, I really felt stressed – and I am NOT a huge fan of organizing parties, so Teacher Appreciation Week was really stressing me out!  I told myself that I didn’t have to do anything until after that week of craziness was over – and I didn’t!  It was amazing how much more motivated I felt after that week was over, too.  I wanted to sew again!  But before the week was over, I participated in a Rainbow Flashmob on Instagram. I was accidentally assigned two different colors - blue and orange - so I did both. It was so fun!

2. I organized some areas in my sewing room. 
I know it might not look any different to anyone else, but I completely organized my little bins, wrote down every single project I'm working on, and found some room for my kids' projects.  I don't know if I'm slightly OCD or what (and really, who isn't?), but I really can't focus on any project until I have a clean space to work.  I’ve discussed it with my sisters, and we all have the same problem.  We’ve decided that maybe it’s because we get overwhelmed by too much work, so we just don’t start.  I think it’s a perfectionist thing – if you can’t do it perfectly, why even try?  So, cleaning up the things that didn’t need to be there really helped me to focus on what I needed to do.
3. I started eating right & exercising.

I know this doesn’t necessarily correlate with quilting, but I really noticed a difference in my motivation when I started eating really healthy and exercising.  My sister’s sister-in-law had a health challenge, and it REALLY was a challenge!  We got a point or two for everything we did perfectly each day, and the points were for things like eating no sugary treats, no fried foods, and 5 fruits & veggies each day.  To get a perfect score you had to exercise FOUR HOURS a week!  It was so hard for me – but I was killing it until I got pneumonia!  Now I’m back to my sedentary ways (I’m still in recovery and don’t want to do too much too soon), but tomorrow I’m going running with a friend and have high hopes of being healthy again.

4. I made a design wall.

I used ideas from a couple of different tutorials (from Oh, Fransson! and Ellison Lane, mostly), but basically I got some foam insulation and taped batting around it.  I just used tape because I don’t have a staple gun – we are very basic on the tools around here – and I thought it would work out okay.  It looks so good, I think!  There was a cute little photobomber in this picture – I asked him to look tough with his “sword” and this is what I got!

5. I have a deadline.

There’s nothing like a deadline to really make you go go GO!  I am going to International Quilt Market in May, and my goal of four new patterns just can’t happen – since I lost a week and a half to pneumonia, I really can’t do one more thing.  But I do think I can get three new patterns done.  I really need to focus and work hard, but now that things are tidy and I’ve got my mojo back, I really think I can do it!  I'll have an update on Friday -- we'll see how I do!