Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip 2015: Embracing our Inner Thelma & Louise

One of my favorite movies is Thelma and Louise. I've always had a not so secret fantasy of loading up my car and taking off across the United States with my best gal pal. Mind you, my fantasy doesn't  include picking up a handsome stranger (if I do, I better not come home), being chased across six states or taking a flying leap across the Grand Canyon as Thelma and her pal, Louise did in the movie.
Thelma & Louise taking a selfie in the days before Facebook.

Well my version of the Thelma & Louise fantasy finally came true earlier this month. BFF Nessa and I took off cross country on a trip to pick up my step-daughter Hollie, and my three granddaughters  in Pennsylvania. How does this make for a Thelma and Louise adventure? Well you would have to know Nessa and me.

Most would have taken the straight route to Pennsylvania through Joplin, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnatti-etc. However, my Kevin will tell you nothing is ever simple with me. I planned and re-planned our route and finally decided if I was going to go across several states on this trip, it would be the states I most wanted to see. This evolved into a road trip that involved several southern states as well as eastern states and finally, in what can only be called a true manipulation of my poor husband and our funds, a side trip for two days and three nights in Savannah. Yes I am shameless and though Kevin was not happy, my motto has always been, "It's easier to ask for forgiveness that permission."

Route planned, bags packed, Nessa and I discovered we had forgotten a most important road trip accessory when traveling with children: the portable DVD player my niece, Jen was loaning us. It was still sitting in a bag at sister, Linda's house in Oklahoma City. Well a change in route would be in order. Instead of going down I-20 through Shreveport and spending our first night in Jackson, Mississippi we would go to Little Rock and then spend the night in Memphis. Of course, we would also do a little quick tour of Graceland.

Moments from our Thelma & Louise Adventure!
We loaded up and I gave a final kiss, hug and instructions to Kevin and Seth. I hadn't been away from Seth for a night in years. I was a little teary eyed but excited.  After picking up the DVD player from my sister, Linda, Nessa and I were back on the road and headed toward Little Rock.

Being ADHD, squirreling off on a tangent is a way of life for me. I get some of my best work done when I do this. However it doesn't always make for good navigating on a road trip. That was my job. Navigation. Nessa was the driver but I was the one who pulled up the maps on my phone and alerted her to exits or turns on the trail. Helping me in this endeavor was our car's GPS system: a disembodied female voice with a slight speech impediment that Nessa called Lola. We would come to despise Lola and her slurred, "Route Recalculating" in the hours to come.

 Kevin, knowing my squirrel headed ways, was a tad worried when I left but he knew I was in Vanessa's capable hands. She would get us there safely. Though a level headed woman, Nessa unwisely lets me have my way too often. Driving at a steady pace east of Oklahoma City, Nessa innocently uttered the words that would set us on a path through the twisty, windy back roads of Eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and finally Louisiana.

Just past Shawnee Oklahoma after a stop at Starbucks she commented, "How sad we aren't going down I-20 through Louisiana and Mississippi like we planned. It's so lovely through there." Having spent my summers with a favorite aunt in Louisiana and Mississippi, I too had been looking forward to the tree lined highways of those states. "Why Nessa! I bet we can still do that!" Excitedly I immediately got Google maps up and running on my phone and was mapping out our route. I figured it would add an hour or two to our route but we could get to Jackson, Mississippi by 10 if we headed down through Southeastern Oklahoma, slightly into Texas, east to Shreveport and then continue on I-20 to Jackson. Nessa agreed, saying, "You're the navigator. Navigate away!" Poor, deluded soul.  She would come to regret those words in the following hours. Slowing down, Nessa and I typed the new destination into Lola's GPS system: Jackson, Mississippi here we come!

Despite her willingness to do what I liked, the added miles and our goal of Jackson being far in the distance, Nessa became a bit of a car Nazi. There would be no little stops along the way except for food, gas or bathroom. This rather saddened me because I love the strange and quirky roadside attraction. As we entered Hugo Oklahoma, I was elated to discover via google search, that Hugo was known as Circus City Usa and is often the final resting place of circus elephants. They have an elephant cemetery and everything. What a cool little side trip that would make, right?
Well Nessa didn't think taking a selfie with an elephant headstone was worth the thirty minutes it would take to get off the road, snap pictures and get back on. Disappointed, I comforted myself by Facebooking about my BFF's new status as a fun sucker.

I didn't pout on Facebook for long. Nessa turned on the radio and before you knew it we were belting out tunes and laughing hysterically at the way Vanessa murdered the lyrics. Nothing was sacred and My sweet baby James Taylor's "Her Town" got turned into "It used to be whore town". Appalled, I immediately turned the channel to less personally meaningful  musical territory.

We made our way through Eastern Oklahoma, and even though the toll booths that dotted the highway were nipping greatly into our Starbucks fund, we couldn't be too upset. Each mile brought us closer to our destination. We couldn't wait to cross the Red River. Once outside the boundaries of Oklahoma, not only would we be free of those pesky toll booths but we might even find a Starbucks along the way.

South of Hugo we hit our first snag in our road trip. Fifteen minutes from the Texas border we saw the sign that things were going bad. The bridge across the Red River was closed due to flooding. During the month of May and into June, Oklahoma and Texas had received uncharacteristically large amounts of rainfall. Rivers and creeks that were usually dried up in June were busting their banks and the larger towns near where we live had entire neighborhoods evacuated. That had been two weeks previously. Who would have thought the River would still be flooding. Well it was.
Railroad bridge over Lake Raymond Gary near Ft. Towson
Being optimists, Nessa and I tolerated Lola's "Route Recalculating" and turned east toward Ft. Towson. No problem. We would just go a little further and find another road that we could cross into Texas. Traveling east, we reached Idabel and discovered Highway 259 crossing the Red River was also closed due to recent flooding. The sun was beginning to go down and Jackson, Mississippi seemed further and further away. Feeling frustrated, we consulted our map and headed north to Broken Bow.

It appeared our only way out of Oklahoma was by way of Arkansas. Nessa was beginning to show her frustration and worrying that it might be aimed at me and my obvious lack of navigation skills, I chirped up with, "Well that's okay. Arkansas is beautiful and we'll just cross the border and go straight to Texarkana and be at Shreveport before you know it!" Unfortunately, our misadventures had become as predictable as a 1970s television show; those very words heralded trouble ahead.

As we reached the Arkansas border, it was full pitch black out. When Nessa saw the Arkansas sign, my excitement grew. In the weeks before our trip, we had planned to take a picture with every state sign we came across. As planned, we stopped to take a picture. Nessa wasn't in the mood for selfies so I got out of the car and ran to the large Arkansas sign, careless of the possible snakes, animals and Bigfoot that could be lurking in the grass and woods just beyond the blacktop road. Nessa stood by the car and took a picture of me standing under the sign. Looking at the sad state of that sign (i.e. bullet holes, rusty brown splatters), perhaps we should have been a little more cautious.  Ignoring the perils that two women alone on a darkened highway might encounter, we jumped back in the car and headed down the highway.

At DeQueen, Arkansas we exited highway 70 and headed South with the intention of going straight to Louisiana.
We hadn't gone far when out of the darkness we saw a sign with a glowing arrow and the words "Detour" pointing east down a narrow road that took us off the major highway. As we turned, Lola's predictable "Route Recalculating" seemed to mock us and our predicament and Nessa yelled, "Shut up Lola!"

After the first mile, my ears began to pop and the road seemed to wind upward and twist and turn the further we went. This little detour would have been merely annoying during the day. However, pitch black night with only the occasional lights from a shabby looking house set off from the road made this a white knuckle experience for Nessa. As for myself, I was pushing the imaginary break at my feet every few minutes in anxiety over the twists and turns. Having a fierce imagination, I was sure we had been sent on a tour of Arkansas' version of Meth alley. Those lights through the trees, I was sure were the homes of people cooking meth. Would they be overly suspicious of a strange car? Would they shoot strangers? Vanessa confirmed my suspicions by commenting that the car we had been following the whole detour might begin to wonder if we were following them. The darkness was suffocating and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Worse, I discovered I had no service in the hills of Arkansas. When my panic was starting to come to the surface we saw the main highway up ahead. Though probably only thirty minutes in length, the little detour thru the hills of Arkansas left us tired and willing to stop sooner than Jackson, but not too soon. As we took to the main highway, Nessa cursed Arkansas and its blasted hills, claiming she never wanted to go there again. Virginia would share that curse with Arkansas in a few days.

When we saw the "Welcome to Louisiana" sign glowing blue in the distance, we knew we had reached paradise: the land of four lane highways and 75 MPH! Of course we stopped and I got out and took a picture. You can tell a lot about a state by it's welcome sign. Notice there are no bullet holes or rusty stains. Don't mean to slam the whole state of Arkansas. Just saying...

As we passed Shreveport, Lola did a most curious thing. According to her glowing six inch screen on the dashboard, we were not driving down a highway but through a field. This freaked Vanessa out. At this point, I was all funned out. Grumpily, I claimed it was because Nessa kept yelling at Lola back in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Lola was pissed off and showing us the only way she knew how. We were tired and the idiocy of these statements seemed somewhat reasonable at the time. Feeling a little trapped in a Twilight Zone episode, we vowed we would be nicer to Lola...just in case. Just as we neared West Monroe, Lola had chosen to forgive us and showed us the road we were traveling on.

When we saw the lights from of the Hampton Inn, our relief was audible. At 12:15 a.m., we checked in and collected our keys from a cheery desk clerk and went upstairs and fell into bed. Talking in the darkness while nestled in the comfort of our beds, Nessa commented how badly the day had gone. I reassured her that though the day had not quite turned out as planned, those little detours would make for a much more memorable trip. After all, we had been bragging for weeks about our "Thelma and Louise" road trip. How interesting would it have been to get straight to our destination without a few twists and turns to tell our friends about? Well that was our first day. As our misadventures continued we began to question our status as Thelma & Louise. I will share all--well maybe not all, in my next post. Have a great Friday-I'm off on a little weekend trip to Roswell, New Mexico with the family to look for possible signs of Aliens. Kevin isn't the adventurous type so let's hope it goes better than mine and Nessa's trip!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Going Through Life Chest First

Look at the pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell (above) and what do you notice first? Doesn't take long, does it? Their perky breasts! Marilyn and Jane both made a career out of going chest first through life and it paid off. Not to minimize their acting abilities, but their breasts were part of what made them a household name. Would billionaire Howard Hughes have invented a space age bra for a flat chested Jane Russell? Probably not.
Well around our house, we've been talking about breasts a lot. In fact, Seth has added a new word to his vocabulary: Boobs. Before last week, he was only allowed to refer to that area of a woman's anatomy as her breasts or chest. Sadly, I am the reason behind this new addition to his vocabulary. You see mommy had a boob job a little over a week ago and used the "B" word when talking about it.
Now before you start judging me for getting my girls all tanked up to double D's on a whim, let me reassure you, it was not exactly a cosmetic surgery. Eleven years ago, I lost my left breast (who I endearingly refer to as Mopsy) to cancer. My right breast (Flopsy) is holding up remarkably well and doesn't in any way deserve her name, but it rhymes. "Mopsy and Perky" just doesn't roll of the tongue as easily.

As for surgery, Mopsy had to have new stuffing. She was looking a little flat and with my fifty pound weight gain since my hysterectomy four years ago, Flopsy was 'flourishing" and noticeably out growing her sister, Mopsy. It's been ten days since the surgery and I am doing great. Another chapter in my breast's long history almost finished.
I must confess I have always been a bit obsessed with my “girls.” Even before I had cancer. Reflecting upon it, I think it started in fourth grade. I don’t remember thinking about my breasts before that. It probably  started with Marquita.  Marquita was a girl who moved to our school in the middle of fourth grade and she and I became good friends.  
Marquita was one those of the girls who started developing early. By fourth grade, she was three inches taller than any boy in our class and was wearing a B cup bra. That may sound small to most adults but when you are nine years old, a B cup is a big deal. BIG DEAL. Though poor Marquita was one of my closest friends, I must confess that once when a group of popular, flat chested girls called her “Marquita Malted Milk Balls” behind her back, I snickered just as loudly as the others.
Marquita was more mature than us in a lot of ways. She knew that everyone noticed her large breasts. Boys tended to talk to her chest. Surprisingly, she never seemed to resent our attitude. It was almost as if, she felt, this was just what she deserved for being so well endowed. Looking back on it cringingly, and for my part in it, I hope she took it as good naturedly as it appeared.

Marquita moved across town at the end of fourth grade and so ended her reign as the girl with the biggest boobs in class. Truthfully, we were all pretty flat chested in fifth grade so the boob obsession of fourth grade seemed to have left with Marquita.
The summer I turned eleven, my breasts horrifyingly developed or at least I thought so. I look at pictures of my eleven year old self and don’t really see why I was so mortified by this fact. I was a solid A. My breasts were barely discernable under my shirt. Unfortunately, so began my obsession with my breasts.
My sixth grade self (second row, far right) with my softball team, the Taft Bulldogs.
Not long after they began developing, my mother noticed my “bumps,” and bought me a little sports bra at a neighborhood garage sale. I wore it night and day. In my head, if I confined them, even in sleep, it would somehow slow their growth down. I know it’s crazy and biologically unsound but let’s face it, eleven year old girls back then, though highly body conscious, were not very well informed about the facts of their bodies.
When I began sixth grade that August, I was very conscious of my breasts. I measured my breasts against every other girl's in class. All were flat as boards except for one. Brandi. I was sure my friend, Brandi was bigger. Brandi and I had known each other since first grade but had never hung out much until that summer before sixth grade when we played on the same school softball team. We also both earned slots on the sixth grade cheerleading squad and so became permanent fixtures in each other’s lives.
I liked Brandi. She was a little scary at times. She was outspoken and had no problem telling you what she thought of you. If you were acting like an idiot, she would tell you. She also had this really funny, if sometimes raunchy (think sixth grade raunchy), humor that I loved. 
Though  I spent lots of time with Brandi  and our little group of friends in and out of school, something stood between our truly being BFFs. Actually two things: our breasts. Both of us were developing ahead of our friends and each liked to point out how the other was bigger. 
Brandi’s mother was a stay at home mom who made all her clothes. Having a single mom who worked a lot, I had always thought was really nice and wished my mom sewed my clothes. Though Brandi’s mom was a whiz with a sewing machine, she must not have known the cattiness sixth grade girls were capable of. She made Brandi a smock with little grey and purple hippos all over it. Though cute, it highlighted Brandi’s burgeoning bosom. Finally, I had proof her breasts were bigger than mine and I said so. Further, I think I may have made a teasing comment about the fact she looked like a hippo in it. That memory is fuzzy but I do remember she never wore the smock again.
I’m embarrassed by my sixth grade self’s bitchiness but I think it illustrates something about sixth grade girls. My fellow teacher’s talk about the hateful attitude of some  sixth grade girls. That bitchiness has its roots in a girl’s insecurity about herself. How better to make yourself look a little less imperfect than to point out the imperfections of other girls? Often, the same girls who had once been your closest friends in third grade.
As for Brandi and I, our friendship survived the insecurities of sixth grade. Today we are Facebook friends. Through her posts I am able to keep in touch with an icon from my childhood. When I think of her, it isn’t that pretty, fifty something face in her profile picture. Most often it is her sixth grade self in that hippopotamus smock.

Anyway, my breasts history is long and dramatic. Cancer, mastectomy, breast feeding and last week’s events would fill up a couple of blog posts. However, I am kind of tired of my breasts and looking forward to them just being something that fills out my shirts. Perhaps in the future I will tell you another chapter in my breast's history. Perhaps not. Have a great week!





























































































































































































































































































































































































































































Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A person's a person, no matter how small!

We Could Learn a Thing or Two from a "Crazy" Elephant

A few years ago my kindergarten class performed the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who. The book's main character, Horton, believes he has heard from an unseen population of little people living atop a speck of dust. So great is his belief that these tiny people exist that even when he becomes the laughingstock of the entire jungle and is accused of being insane, he does not veer from his claim. The underlying message of this wonderful story is "A person's a person, no matter how small!"  

As a kindergarten teacher in a rural Oklahoma public school, I sometimes feel a bit like Horton: the defender of little people. Who am I protecting them from?  Why the very people intended to be their greatest protectors: Lawmakers and administrators in the State Department of Education who view them not as the wonderful individuals they are but in terms of test scores, their effect on overall school grades and as future college students. 

College, hmm...We'll See
"College bound" is the new phrase in education. State administrators and lawmakers past and present are known for their  snappy little phrases intended to illustrate their concern for education. "Ensure each Oklahoma student graduates from school  college and career ready." "Educating our children to fill the technical jobs needed in a global economy." Makes for a great sound bite, huh? However, what message are we truly sending children who are retained because they cannot pass a 3rd grade reading test? 

In my home state of Oklahoma, we have something called the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). According to the OKSDE website, the purpose of the RSA "is to ensure that all Oklahoma students are reading at grade level at the end of third grade." Sounds good so far. Only problem is this: "a third grade student cannot be promoted to fourth grade if he or she scores Unsatisfactory on the state reading test." What if your child repeats third grade and still cannot pass the test? Retention again! A child can be retained up to two times. 

Teachers and school administrators across the state are feeling the pressure from state administrators to get results. Not only are we failing nine year old children, we are failing the schools who produce them! That's right. Schools are now given grades partially based upon their student's test scores. 

Kindergarten Teacher/ Doomsday Profit
Here's biggest fallout from this whole mess (at least to me): They are demanding results from a younger population of children-namely pre-k and kindergarten.

Curriculum once taught in first grade is being pushed down into kindergarten and kindergarten teachers, like myself have become doomsday profits:

"If little Johnny doesn't get retained and catch up then he likely won't pass that third grade reading test and he will be retained in third grade--perhaps twice!"

I always feel like I should have a chorus behind me saying, "Ooooooo!" after I make that statement. Am I exaggerating? No it is true that little Johnny or Susie may very well be retained in third grade which is much more mortifying and emotionally damaging for the child than if she/he is retained in kindergarten. At the same time, I feel we are scaring parents into agreeing and that just feels wrong. 

Product Versus Process: What are Really Ending Up With?
This pressure to perform has caused schools to become less about the process and more about the result: Good test scores. Consider this result: We can all say, "College Bound" but it is not going to happen if lawmakers and state administrators (all states, not just Oklahoma) continue to set kids up for failure. If they choose to make education a race to the top, they need to remember that with most races there are winners and there are losers.  Nobody in this country should be labeled a loser at the age of nine, especially by our education system! 
Something is Rotten Around Here but it isn't Our Kids!
This whole mess reminds me of that scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; The 1970s Gene Wilder movie not the creepy Johnny Depp remake. I'm referring to the scene where the character, Veruca Salt throws a tantrum and steps onto Wonka's egg rating scale, the "Eggdicator." Veruca is immediately given a rating of bad and falls down the garbage chute. I remember seeing this movie when I was kid and being a little shocked at Wonka's callus comment, "She was a bad egg" when her father was so obviously distraught. What our education system is doing is just as callus  when we retain  a child repeatedly and consequently set him on a path to failure.  We can say "college bound" and regurgitate all the little political sound bites we want but the reality is most of those kids don't go on to succeed in school, much less go to college.
Serving Two Masters
The state department of education has their eye on just about everything we do and demand "accountability" in the form of mountains of documentation on our students. Sometimes I feel I am serving two masters: the State Department of Education and Developmentally Appropriate Practice. They often are at complete odds with one another and leave me feeling frustrated.   

Keep on Believing 
So what are teachers to do? I wish I had a great answer. That would really make this post awesome, right? Sorry to disappoint you. 

Me (in the green) with some of the dedicated
staff and faculty at Big Pasture!
I guess we do our  documentation--dot our i's and cross our t's to satisfy the state but we also continue to deliver lessons that are as developmentally appropriate as possible. Most importantly, we keep sending the message to our kids:

"I believe in you! I know you can do it! I will do everything in my power to help you be successful!"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

There is No One Alive Who is Youer Than You!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
I am on the Read Across America committee at my school. My job is to help my principal and fellow teachers on the committee come up with neat ways to celebrate reading in our school. This event is celebrated in schools throughout the United States on March 2 and also celebrates the birthday of noted children's author, Dr. Seuss.  

Every year I do it up big in my class. We read Dr. Seuss all week and during the day’s festivities you can bet my kinders are eating green eggs and ham or Truffula tree cupcakes and most are dressed as their favorite book characters. I have been pinning lots of ideas in anticipation of the event. 

The World According to Seuss

This year, I discovered more than just cute art projects during my pinning. Dr. Seuss wasn’t just a ground breaking children’s author but someone whose books are multilayered with messages for living. Could we learn a thing or two from the wise rhyming doctor?

Consider the quote above. Imagine a world where we embraced our own uniqueness and tried to be our very best. Gone would be the unattainable goal of being as rich, as beautiful, and as smart as our neighbor or the person staring back at us from the pages of a magazine. We would never have to beat ourselves up for failing to be something we are not and could not hope to be--someone else.

Get a New Yard Stick
Does this mean we shouldn't dream the "impossible dream?" What celebrity hasn't said they were inspired by someone great or famous? Do we the "little people" not deserve to dream so big? Should we not reach that high? Of course, I don't mean that. However, we should not use other people as a yard stick to measure our success or value in life.  "There is no one alive who is youer than you." You are uniquely qualified to be the best you that you can be. No one does you like you.

That I happened upon this particular quote of Dr. Seuss' now seems a bit serendipitous. I began my little blog eight months ago enthusiastically but found I had a huge hurdle to overcome: comparing myself to other bloggers. I enjoy writing and blogging but I write posts I never publish. They don't stink but they just don't fit the mold made by those successful teacher bloggers I so admire.  

Though Dr. Seuss has enlightened me, I don't for one minute think I will completely stop comparing myself to those other bloggers. I can't change a lifetime habit overnight. I can however, acknowledge that no one is as uniquely qualified to write my blog as I am.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Girl Scout Sit Upon Gets a Face Lift!

I'm home sick today with a little tummy bug that has been raging around our school. I am feeling a little better but being a teacher, I feel guilty not doing anything so I decided to blog. Looking around my blog posts, I found this one I started but never posted. Can we say SQUIRREL?! That's my husband, Kevin's term for my habit of getting distracted and moving onto another project before I finish the first. Guilty. This is a great project and one that was not too hard-I made twenty of them for my class!

When I was eleven, my best friend, Donna Kay was a Girl Scout. Wanting to be just like her, I decided to join. My fondest memory of Girl Scouts was the first meeting when we made Sit Upons. 
For those of you who were never a girl scout and have no clue what I am talking about, a "Sit Upon" is a 2 X 2 foot piece of vinyl table cloth that you fold in two, hole punch on three sides, "sew" with yarn and stuff with folded newspaper. It keeps your behind dry and cushioned when you are sitting around the campfire or your troop leader's backyard during meetings. Here is a link that has a little history on the sit upon and a tutorial on how to make an old fashioned one:  If you want an easier, more modern take on the Sit Upon, keep reading.
 In May, when I chose "Camping" as my kindergarten theme for the 2014-2015 year I remembered that long ago Sit Upon and decided I would make one for each of my students to sit on during circle time and lessons on the floor.  I was really excited but then a few days later it occurred to me that kindergartner's fine motor skills might not be up to making a Sit Upon and that I would have to make 20 by myself! Well, I may have better dexterity than a young kindergartner but I also have arthritis. The thought of all those hours punching holes and sewing made my hands hurt. 
An easier version of the Sit Upon occurred to me when I was in the check out at our local grocery store and saw plastic tote bags. I thought "genius!" Turns out I didn't invent that one. Of course on Pinterest there was a tutorial that looked like someone had plucked it right out of my head. Although I was a little deflated at not having invented the modern Sit Upon, it was nice to see how someone else did it. 

 Now all I had to do was find the perfect sized bag. The last day of school I walked into Michael's and found these large lovely tote bags and bought every one they had. They were a $1.99 each but with my Michael's teacher discount and school tax exemption, they cost about $1.50 each. Here's what you need to make these cute sit upons:

Sit Upon Supplies: 
  • Vinyl Tote Bag-these are about 18"X18" (perfect size for kinder behinds)
  • Color duct tape
  • Newspapers
  • Washi tape
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Poly-fil quilt batting

My niece, Devon is a writer for Oklahoma City's best little newspaper, The Oklahoma Gazette. I asked her to save me any old issues she had. She hooked me up. You can use any newspaper you have, but free are always best. Because the Gazette is a small sized paper, I used masking tape to put them in the shape I wanted. The newspaper gives the sit upon support. After they were taped in the shape I wanted, I opened the bag slightly (you want it to stay in a folded position) and slid the taped newspapers in.

The original sit upon I made as a Girl Scout only had newspaper but Seth tried out my modern sit upon and said it was too hard. Hmmm. To hard or have today's kiddos become too soft? Oh well. I knew if he thought that, probably the kinders would too. So I looked through my class storage room and found the perfect solution: Poly-fil quilt batting. It comes in a huge roll. You roll it out and cut out the size you need. I put an 18"X18" square layer in each totebag on top of the newspaper for a little cushioning and Seth gave it a thumbs up.

Once I had all the sit upons "stuffed" it was time for the real work. Sealing them closed with the blue duct tape I had chosen.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I probably duct taped too much. I laid an 18 inch strip of duct tape along one edge of the bag. I centered it so that the edge of the duct tape length was hanging off the bag by 1 inch. Once I pressed the tape onto the front of the bag, I flipped it over, folded the duct tape and pressed it along the edge on the back side. This sealed the edges. For cosmetic reasons, I did this on all four sides. Next, I put another layer of duct tape on each edge so that the tape was flush with the edge of tote bag. This gave it a neat and tidy look and hid any imperfections such as wrinkles in the tape I had folded over. For the handles, I just duct taped the tote bag on either side of each handle and then put a  strip flush with the edge all the way across.
Cool Tip: When your scissors start to get gunky from cutting the duct tape, wipe the blades down with baby wipes and it comes right off!
 When all the bags were stuffed and sealed it was time to decorate. You could get really over the top and use patterned duct tape or washi tape. For my first one I accented it with some owl Washi tape. It is the new craze and there are so many cool things you can do with it. Pinterest it and you will see. I picked this up at Hobby Lobby for $2:

And here is the finished project:

Though I liked the Washi tape I decided to get rid of it. I didn't think my kinders would sit still until they had picked every shred of it off. As for the sit upons, the kinders love them.

I have discovered an added benefit to the sit upons: the handles. This epiphany came to me after I attended a teacher's conference in Oklahoma City in August. One of the merchant booths there was selling "Fidgets." It was a little tube of material with balls sewn inside that children can fidget with to keep them calm and able to focus. Although they are intended for children with Autism or ADHD, they help other kiddos too. Similar in texture, I figured why couldn't the tote bag handles serve the same purpose? It worked. Observe my class during lessons and you'll see some of my little ones fiddling with those handles and listening to my lesson!

On my classroom floor, I put down lines of duct tape in three rows in my whole group area. Each morning, the kinders lay their mat on the line where their name is. At the end of the day they pick them up and put them away in their cubbies on a hook. Simple.

I will make new sit upons each year.  However, I will make one change: buy white or solid tote bags and let the kinders decorate them with colored permanent markers. Kinders will love it.  Expect a future post next August when I do exactly that. As for the durability of the sit upons, we have been using them for almost five months and they have held up great. Well, until my next post, be safe and healthy!

My Seth giving the new and improved modern Sit Upon a try in his favorite reading spot in our library.