Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The battle of a creative mind

I haven't slept much this last week. Lots of things running through my brain. It's hard being a natural "fixer" and creative person. I am constantly evaluating and wondering and processing the world.

It's hard to sleep when your brain doesn't shut off.

Like this morning. It is currently 5:18am.

And I have already spent an hour working on my graduate classes. In fact, I just turned in my final exams for this semester! Woohoo!

That is a huge relief.

I'd like to go back to sleep. But I can't.

And I can't go run as I ran 8 miles on Monday and did a 6 mile track workout yesterday.

I guess I'll paint. Cause I sure can't clean house at 5am!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our new Kids Room CLEANING strategy!

I am so very tired of fighting my children about their bedrooms and how filthy they are. It is an absolute constant battle. And I refuse to clean their rooms for them while they go outside and play. It is way easier to do so, but what am I teaching them when I do that?

Anyway... becuase I totally understand the overwhelming nature of a messy room, I'm been trying new approaches. 
  • I've tried designated tasks. .. make your bed.
  • I've tried designated colors.. just picking up things that are blue.
  • I've tried threatening.. if I pick it up, it goes to Goodwill.
  • I've tried... you get the picture.

Well, I think I have finally found something that WORKS!!! OH MY GRAVY!

At least it works this week. :)

I had Kylie take pictures of her room.

She then looked at the picture and identified a section that she wanted to focus on and went back and took a close up of that area.
We then analyzed the picture and identified where everything in that picture went.

Then she went and cleaned that area and took a new picture of it.  TADA!!

Oh my word she was so excited!

Talk about celebrating small wins!

She then went back and looked at the original picture and we talked about what to work on next. She identified the area, took a picture of it and came back to me.

We discussed the poor state of her stuffed puppy dog and identified where everything went.

And off she went. A few minutes later she came back with a replacement picture.

And then she was ready to tackle THIS. Oh my.

She made it this far.

And so we stopped for the day.

No tears, no drama.

Would I have liked the entire room clean? Of course. But I really, really liked the fact that she did the work herself and that she was PROUD of herself!!!

that is a WIN people.

And what about Lexi. well.... let's just say the pictures we have of her before reflect hoarding practices and worse... She started working on her mess last night. She already has some dramatic changes!!

And maybe that is what is needed. A visual reminder of the progress.

Anyway, for now, we have a winner room cleaning strategy!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Nontraditional Baby Gift

One of my friends is having her second baby girl. This friend is not a traditional baby pink and frills kind of woman. Nor does she concern herself with what others think or say about how a nursery is supposed to look like.

I love that!

She really likes sugar skulls and the traditions and family stuff that go with the Day of the Dead.

I have no knowledge about this stuff at all. I really had no idea as to where to start when I wanted to paint her a gift.

So I took a good look at her bedding, did a little Etsy research and found some ideas and a starting point.

Here is her bedding.

And a couple of baby gifts.

You get the idea.

Vibrant and bold colors.

So I did some searching on the web for a cool skull drawing that would work to paint. Truly, while I hate stealing someone else's artwork to paint, I had NO frame of reference. I'm just thankful that there was something cool for me to copy!
So I took the drawing and drew it onto my canvases.

Then I used sharpies to color in the drawings. I made a truly rookie mistake here. I forgot to put a layer of paint down first! UGH!! I realized what I had done after I had already drawn all of the skulls. I was NOT going to redo this work.

I used 3 black sharpies and rotated them around in order to keep the ink flowing well. Sharpies work really well on canvas for a project like this!

Here are the canvases before paint.

Ad then I started painting. I painted one color at a time for the most part.

After painting the skulls, I went back over the black again to clean up the drawing portions.

And here is the completed set. I really, really enjoyed painting these. I learned a lot about the process and what I would do different should I create something like this again.

And here is what I did with the left over paint.

A little more my "style" huh.

but I have to say, I'm really thinking about painting another set of these skulls! Maybe make my own this time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A side benefit (and drawback) of healthy eating!

Yesterday Maddie had a visit to her Rhumeatologist then we went and visited a friend in the hospital. 

Then we went to lunch.

So many choices in the big city.

So many healthy choices. So many bad choices.

We ate at In and Out.


It was yummy! But left me feeling a little greasy and queasy.  

So we shopped it off! :) 

I was looking for a new outfit for an important meeting. I didn't find what I was looking for.. BUT, I had to try on SMALL dresses!! WOOOHOOO!! (That was super fun!)

We got home and for dinner I ate the leftover Lobster Mac-n-Cheese that Doug and I made at a couple's cooking class. I hated for it to go to waste!! I ate lots of healthy veggies with the pasta, but oh my....

I was hurting by bedtime and this morning.

With Eat to Live's lifestyle, you don't eat dairy or fat. Well, you can guess what made the mac-n-cheese so yummy. Yeah, lots of dairy and fat.

Ugh! I feel bloated and bleh.

So this morning I got up, had a great workout (even though I wanted to throw up at times!) and decided to enjoy a detox day!

It's back to fruits and veggies for me!

First up a green smoothie. So good. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Environment as Third Teacher

In the quest for education rigor, academic performance and high stakes testing, the educational environment is easy to forget.

I'm talking about the actual brick and mortar building.
The classrooms, the playgrounds, the hallways, the bathrooms.

All of it.

Sure, it has to be safe. Everyone is aware of that.

No one (or at least I'm not) is going to send their kids to a school like the one in Matilda!

But if we want to reach students and help them to achieve all that they can be. Or let's face it, to just ENJOY the journey, we have to stop and ask what their daily environment looks like.

I really, really appreciate the Reggio Emilia approach of Environment as the Third Teacher. Interested in learning more? Click here is a fantastic pdf article on our teaching environments. What I see in this approach, besides acknowledging that the environment we live in is important, is that it levels the playing field a little between teachers and auxiliary staff members.

In fact, I bet the custodial team at my campus has never been given articles on environment and how all team members are CRUCIAL for successful schools. Sure, people are quick to stop these hard workers when something isn't done, but when was the last time I stopped Lilly as she is organizing the cafeteria and told her thank you and that she MATTERS! Shame on me.

So what am I going to do?

Well, I'm going to start by saying thank you and telling our maintenance/custodial team that they matter. Then I'm going to work on changing MY environment. A really good article on creating quality environments is "How the Environment Inspires Curriculum." 

And then I'm going to...

1. De-clutter. I'm going to look for and get rid of "unintenional knick-knacks."  (man just typing that and looking around my dining table, I'm like oh man. How about the Easter basket that is on my china cabinet? It's July. Talk about an "unintentional knick-knack")

2. Walk around the room/building and ask "What is the purpose of ___?"

3. Remember that the environment needs to be balanced. If I break the room into sections, have I balanced the space or will all of the students be forced into one area so that I can create a cool space that looks fun but rarely used. The idea of taking a section and placing it on a mental scale has me rethinking sections of my classroom. I have a ton of space designated for rarely used stuff, but for every day life with students, we end up crowded.

4. Create more FOOT space than SHELF space. (Boy this another ouch for me. I have shelves, shelves and more shelves. Both at home and at school.  I really need to get rid of some of my junk to make room for life!)

And once I've done that. I'm going to stop and brainstorm about the places that I like spending time in. And figure out what I can do to bring that about into my daily environment.

Here are a few of my favorite places.. these are just representative pics from google. I haven't necessarily been to Starbucks on at Downtown Disney. :)


So what do I notice about these places.. I love the contrast between light and dark. I love the different textures. I love the see-thru containers.

Stopping and brainstorming about my teaching (living) environment is pretty fun. I would have said that the lack of windows to the outside world was the hardest thing for me to overcome. But after some visual brainstorming, I have so many ideas! And ideas that I can implement! I can't cut a hole in my cinder block wall and put in a window for my classroom. But I can add contrast and texture!

This is where I am starting.  These are pictures from my classroom at the start of school last year.  It's pretty much the same.. maybe even less cluttered right now!

First up. Moving the big front table from the dominate position in the classroom. We use it primarily for holding supplies. So why does it get soo much space?? If I move the monster table to take up some wall space, I can open up a large section of the classroom for feet space. This would really help the traffic jam of students trying to get in and out from their tables.

And the half painted wall of cabinets? It bothers me, but I got used to them. Like we all do. We get complacent in our daily life. I'm not sure what color they will be painted, but something for contrast!

And that's one of the best things about summer. It's a time to rejuvenate our minds and bodies AND our environments!! Because I want my environment as the third teacher to be a ROCKSTAR.. not a teacher in need of assistance plan! ;)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reggio Emilia: Progettazione or Projected Curriculum

Have you ever met a child that decides that he or she likes something and then wants to learn EVERYTHING there ever was to know about that subject or item?  Surely you have. :) 

Like the pre-kindergartner that can label and discuss all the dinosaurs.. 

Or like when my oldest daughter, Maddie was in early elementary and she learned about the Fibonacci number sequence. Maddie carried a notebook around with her for YEARS where she would add numbers to her sequence. She finally grew out of the phase when the number pattern would take up an entire line of her spiral. Really. She was adding 20+ digit numbers together. It was amazing.

This focus was done on her own and completely child paced. We helped her when she asked. Like she needed us to help her find out the name of a 24 digit number. Septillion. 

Anyway, watching a child totally engrossed in a learning is fun. The joy and concentration is amazing. 

So often as parents and educators, we forget about this innate quest children have to learn. We push and prod and poke for children to learn the way WE want them to learn. We fuss and threaten and then wonder why they don't care!

I really think it's because we have forgotten to engage their sense of wonder. Basically, we have forgotten about that they are kids and NEED to be be challenged in their own way. 


We want them to do math or science. From worksheets. 
And then we bemoan that they don't care and that test scores are low.

So how do we get them care? 

Well... what if we engaged their sense of wonder through the use of Projected Curriculum?

Projected Curriculum is a Reggio Emilia mindset that uses teaching strategies that challenge students to research and explore real world topics. Students decide on the topic (with a little supervision and direction), become the expert and share their learning with others. These investigations can be done in a small group or individually.

Some of the investigations include projects, but Projected Curriculum is NOT a series of arts and crafts days! (I know, my pictures that I have included look "crafty.")

Going back to the Reggio mindset, Progettazione means to project to the next steps.  Teachers are to watch, observe and listen FIRST and then a help students take the next step in a learning journey. This journey might take 10 minutes or it could take months. It's a flexible approach. Yes, I said the big bad word flexible.  So much of life in public school does not seem flexible.  But really, providing individual learning opportunities doesn't have to be time consuming. Nor does it have to be outside of the bounds of what we are already doing.

For example, as a late elementary student (4th-6th grade), I was totally obsessed with reading biographies on American Presidents and the President's children. I read all of the books our local library had and any others I could find. This was done completely on my own and no grades were ever given. I don't think my teachers even knew that I was interested in reading biographies. But can you imagine the tie-in to established classroom curriculum that I could have had if projected curriculum had been offered. 

So why this post? Because as I work through lesson plans and ideas for this next school year, I am going to be more flexible. That doesn't mean that I am going to through my curriculum bundles out the window! But I am going to be more intentional about OBSERVING and LISTENING to students in order to engage their interest and sense of wonder.

It's my job to make sure that when students leave my classroom that they have the knowledge of the subject. That's it. It's not my job to force all students to learn in a cookie cutter way.

Through investigation and exploration, I'm going to let students take the lead on their learning this year! 

And sometimes that learning will be take shape via arts and crafts. 

And sometimes science experiments LOOK like arts and crafts but really teach the scientific method and in the end make AWESOME digital art work! :) Thanks Lexi for a great science lesson on food coloring, dish soap and milk.

Want to read and learn more about Reggio Emilia? Here are some great links:  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Having too much fun to take time to blog!

We are in the wonderful busy time of the year called SUMMER!!!!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I'm still getting up around 6am most days to workout, but heck, the first number isn't a 4, so that's really sleeping in late for me. :)

Over the last few weeks I have been vacationing a lot and scheduling in my classwork in between and all around the fun.

Over the July 4th weekend, we went on our 11th Annual Lakehouse Vacation. We had so very much fun! As my girls have gotten bigger, this has become more and more fun for me. When they were little, it was good, but a beat down as relocating little kids to a lakehouse for a few days with 20 people and not very many bedrooms/bathrooms was hard work! But now... it's just fun!

A photo posted by emilymclemore (@faithhopeandart) on

Doug and Maddie missed out on the trip as they had other commitments, but the little girls and I played hard!

Then we came home, washed clothes, regrouped, and went to Galveston Island. Our girls had never been to a real beach or the ocean/gulf, so we surprised them with a trip! It was fun!! They knew that we had to be in a city 3 hours away for a wedding on Friday, so we told them that we would just go early and play. On Wednesday morning, we loaded up and headed out. When we got to our destination city and were eating lunch, Doug said what if we just kept on going and went to the beach. The little girls were shocked. Maddie had figured it out the night before as we were packing.

So after lunch, we loaded up and drove another 3 hours to Galveston.  It made for a LONG DAY. But totally worth it.

They LOVED the beach and the waves.


I enjoyed running along the seawall and doing handstands on the beach. :)

A photo posted by emilymclemore (@faithhopeandart) on
And if the beach wasn't enough, we played at the condo pool till exhaustion or hunger took over.

From Galveston, we drove back northwest three hours for a wedding. Kylie was the flower girl. The rehearsal was ROUGH! Kylie was not sure about this process. But Saturday dawned and a well-rested, full-tummied kid was ready for the day.

We even had time to visit Texas A&M for Maddie. I hadn't given it much was just a look see. Then as we were walking around the campus, she got mistaken for a senior on a real visit by a couple of male student workers in the library, and well.. this mom got a little teary!

And then it was time to get ready for the wedding. Kylie went from rambunctious kid to  
DIVA FLOWER GIRL!! She was adorable!!

Look at this girl.
A photo posted by emilymclemore (@faithhopeandart) on
The reception was in at a vineyard. I couldn't pass up the chance to get some pictures!

We arrived home Sunday afternoon and went every different direction Monday morning.

And this week we even met with the builder for our house!! WOOHOO!! I really can't believe it. After talking about it for 15 years, we are actually getting ready to build a forever house.

Busy times. 

I wouldn't trade these moments for anything.

(Oh yeah.. and how are my classes? Well, I have a week and a half left of this semester, so let's just say I'm going to be busy. But six more hours will be finished! I'll have 18 graduate hours completed in eight months. wow. And only four classes remain. I can do this!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saying the Right Thing

I am a talker. I totally acknowledge that. But when conversations are tough or I am required to have a confrontational conversation, I struggle!

As part of my graduate course work, I am learning so much about good communication skills and how to have "fierce conversations." 

But one framework that has really stuck in my head is that of saying the right thing every time. Given that I feel like I saw the WRONG thing most of the time, I was pumped to read and learn about this process.

So here is much simplified version of Robert D. Ramsey's "How to Say the Right Thing Every Time".

I like it as it is similar to the THINK mindset, but more tailored to the professional world.

I will be printing/making this for my classroom! 

Wonder how big I should make it?! :)