Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stop! It's Hammer Time!

{Novel Guide}, {chronological order sort}, and {bundle} are now available!

I've also graded a set of essays, entered them in the grade book, and finished my progress reports! It's been a long day...and it's 6:15 in the morning.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Marriage, 3 months in

We just celebrated 3 months of being married and four years since our first date.

Already, I'm a little sick of these questions:

1) What's changed?!

2) When are you starting a family?!

3) Are you sad the wedding is over?!i

First, nothing has really changed.  We already lived together. We already started a life together.  

I changed my name with the social security office, my bank, and DMV.  I'll be changing it with the school district this summer.  I have a legitimate worry that changing my name will come with the unintended consequence of losing my grade book and all my documents on the shared folder.  So instead, I'll deal with this over the summer.  I'll change my name on car registration in August when I get my annual smog check & pay my fees.

We have new silverware, I guess that's changed.  We are enjoying our wedding presents. 

But honestly, nothing has really changed.

I sort of feel like if things drastically change after the wedding, you're doing something wrong.  I know who I married, our wedding didn't change our relationship.  

Second, the whole starting a family thing...this one really frustrates me.  I have friends that have struggled with infertility.  I have friends who have miscarried.  I have friends that don't want kids.  This is a super personal question and not one I feel comfortable discussing with coworkers.  I've been married three months.  Even if I was pregnant (which I'm not), I wouldn't be sharing it yet anyway.  We'd like to pay off our wedding (and new bed set) first.  We'd like to wait until he's done with school (May). I'd like to enjoy drinking on our honeymoon this summer.  Would we like a family? Yes. Would we like one right this second? No. The puppy is enough for now.

Third, no, I'm not.  The wedding was lovely. I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for it. I have amazing friends and family who were tolerant of the process.  But I'm glad it's over. We can focus on us, and not seating charts. He can focus on homework and I can focus on helping others get ready for their special days.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One book down...one month late

In January, I gave myself the goal of one book a month.  

Then, {January happened}.  I cut myself some slack.  February has been equally busy with:

* Bingo Night at school
* Observations (and having classroom pictures shared out on Twitter)
* Hosting a Superbowl party (for which I was horribly sick)
* Battling the copier (and losing, so I wrote this warning)

* Hosting a nacho bar at work
* Hosting a wedding shower at work 
* Springs Preserve field trip
* Meeting with the middle school counselors
* Preparing for 2 more field trips this month (spoiled students!)
* Valentine's day party
(The before shot of what my students contributed:)

* preparing for standardized testing by preparing for a pep rally
* creating assessments
* learning & implementing 2 new computer programs
* Valentine's evening (#marriagemanaged)

* Girls Night (dinner & a movie at the fanciest theater I've ever been to! We had a waiter to bring us wine and dessert during the show.)

* Attending a bridal shower
* Home improvement projects (okay, that's all the hubby but I helped!)
* GATE training
* Mattress shopping (and the lunch date that was necessary)
* Writing {donorschoose} grants to snag some awesome books for my kiddos
* Using twitter to share my opinion to elected officials (and generally, it's that they aren't doing their jobs)

Oh, and the whole teaching thing.

Here's our map so far:

But nevertheless, I persisted and finished The Hammer of Thor (2 weeks late).  

The teacher guide, chronological order, and bundle (both products) should be available at my {TpT store} by Monday evening.

Up next?  The Angel Tree, which our school's librarian is also reading so we can talk about it.  

It's one of this year's Battle of the Books novels, so that's helpful as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Learning Snapshots

I wish more of my day was spent teaching students, or preparing to teach students, rather than filling out paperwork.

Nevertheless, this  is the career I signed up for.  Here are some snapshots of our learning lately.

Poetry Mini-Unit

We've been working on different types of literature (RL 5.5).  Students are quite familiar with the components of novels, enjoy reader's theater, but tend to avoid poetry like the plague.  I get it. I don't actively seek out poetry to read during my free time either.

We spent a few days on reader's theater in small groups.  I selected a passage about Mount St. Helens to tie in with our volcano unit (more on that later) and took the assignment as a speaking grade.

They also practiced taking portions of their novels and turning it into reader's theater scripts.

In doing so, students had to analyze what parts would be explicitly stated by the characters, what information would be presented in stage directions, and what parts might be eliminated.

But since poetry is a major deficit for many of my students, we decided as a planning team that this needed to be addressed.  With poetry, we'll discuss summarizing, layout (stanzas, lines), figurative language, and poetic elements.  Coincidentally, February is also poetry month, so we look like we're totally on top of things!

We started with a class guided poem on World of a Blossom, which actually sparked a forty minute conversation on symbolism (I budgeted twenty, tops).  They glue the poem into their notebooks, then practice annotating their thinking.  We worked on identifying types of figurative language before talking about what the flowers might represent.

I modified this lesson from Jefferson County's long range ELA plans, available {here}.  I taught their unit with fidelity a few years ago and really enjoyed their pacing.  Want just the poem? It's page 29 in the PDF.

Some of mine are experimenting with color-coding their notes.  As a teacher, I allow them this flexibility because fifth grade is such a crucial time for them to develop study skills that work for them.  I've had this discussion a few times with fellow teachers, but hold true to my belief that their notebooks are for them. As long as they have the basic requirements, they can annotate however they'd like.  We practice multiple strategies in the first half of the year, but the second semester means I let them choose how they take notes.  It helps get them ready for middle school where they'll take ownership of their learning.

From there, we did some partner and table reads.  I found a book in our school library about states and poems.  I selected some from the New England region to tie in with our geography unit.  As a class, we read about light houses.  As a table, they found alliteration in a poem about Gulls and Buoys.  With partners, they read about the Islands off of Boston Harbor (complete with pirates).

Surprisingly, they're really enjoying it! We spent some time earlier in the year reading The Raven, which they liked.  We'll be trying some colonial poems next, reading about Moana Loa, and ending with New Colossus.  (Timely, right?)

Project Based Learning

With our project-based learning, we ended our unit on catapults and moved into colonial America (which ties in with our social studies plans).  I'm so fortunate to get to work with such an awesome GATE specialist who co-plans and ties her standards in with what we're teaching.  

They're doing a five class period mock simulation of Jamestown and the starving time.  Each group has one leader (John Smith) that has to decide how the money is spent and which building tasks they'll complete during each given class period (season).  When the whole group works together on one task, it often leads to a lot of fighting.  It's interesting to watch which groups are able to divide up the work load to accomplish more during each season.

We also made sure to not select GATE students to be the group leaders.

Here a group is working on building their palisade, to protect Jamestown from wild animals and hostile natives.


We also finished up a mini-unit on volcano formation.

A fellow teacher and Hawaiian native came in to talk about Hawaiian culture.  One of her friends sent us a box of goodies from the Hawaiian Research labs on active volcanoes.  We spent time exploring topographic maps of Mauna Loa and watched several Discovery Ed video clips.

We've explored equivalent fractions, fractions on a number line, adding and subtracting fractions.  Once again, color coding the fractional amounts is a helpful strategy for many students.  We use colored pencils quite often in math these days.

We have reviewed with bingo in small groups:

This game was part of an old {donorschoose} project and is still loved by students years later.  Thank you again to friends, family, and strangers who continue to support my students and their learning.

Up next?

This week brings the 100th day of school, Valentine's day and the class party, and getting ready to go to the neighboring middle school for a tour.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Field Trips & February

I didn't do so great with my whole finish a book a month goal...

To be fair, a lot of events {occurred in January}, so I can't be too upset.

I'm currently dealing with a sinus infection.  They've lessened with frequency post {surgery}, but are still quite unbearable.  I get another new student today (that makes 37 in case anyone was keeping track) and we have an outdoor field trip...with a wind advisory.  Clogged nasal passages meant I woke up at four having trouble breathing (despite medication and a humidifier), so it's been an incredibly productive day before seven am.  I scheduled our tax appointment, took out the trash, tweeted my senators about blocking DeVos's nomination for Secretary of Education, graded, and read two chapters of my novel (ya know, the one I was supposed to finish in January).

We also got our Donor's Choose project funded! We've got another one collecting funds on another one entitled {I am Not the Enemy}.  This one requests books on the Holocaust, Jewish and Muslim faith, non-violent resistance, and Native American Indians. Subtle, right?  I'm not ashamed of providing my students with information about the world. They shouldn't be scared of their neighbors. They shouldn't be ashamed of their backgrounds.

I've been asked if I fear a censorship letter from the government.  Quite frankly, it'd be an honor to receive such a letter.  To be viewed as a threat for spreading truth.  I'd be right up there with the scientists, the media, and the National Parks Service.  #goals

Looking ahead to February...

We've already celebrated a 30th birthday party, hosted a Super Bowl gathering, and enjoyed a Netflix marathon. I also attended a friend's bridal shower and went #blackout for a stand against DeVos.

Also up on the docket for this month:

1) We have three field trips.  Today's is the Springs Preserve, we're going to the middle school for a tour, and my class won a bonus trip to the Smith Center at the end of the month for a play.

2) We're celebrating our four year anniversary with buying a mattress and getting our taxes done. Hooray for romance and adulting.

3) Our bathroom cabinet remodel will be almost done. I'm staining our new built ins myself to save on cost (and because I want them to perfectly match the other cabinets).

4) Finalizing the details of a baby shower.  Unfortunately, the bridal shower I was planning is no longer happening because the couple split.  I don't know the details but I wish them both the best.  I don't have the receipts for the items purchased, but luckily another friend is hosting a baby girl baby shower in the upcoming months and is willing to buy some of the items off of me at cost.

5) Hosting a bridal shower for a co-worker (and his soon to be wife) on Friday.  I've got help for this one and hopefully enough supplies. I'll find out Thursday night when I set up!

6) Finishing The Hammer of Thor, creating the TpT products, and starting the next novel for Battle of the Books.

In the mean time, feel free to visit {my store} and enjoy some discounts with the flash sale!

Saturday, January 28, 2017


My oh my, what a month.

I sit in the comfort of my quiet morning work spot,

Reflecting on all that has been accomplished so far this year.  Understandably, I'm exhausted and very thankful for the weekend.

I made major progress on planning a baby shower (March 4), a bridal shower (March 18), and hosted a work baby shower (Jan 13).  I've done some crafting and worked on printed materials (games, scrapbooks, invitations, etc).

I found gifts for a bridal shower (early February), a work bridal shower (end of March), a wedding (April), baby showers (TBD in early April, summer, and Jan 21), wedding work showers, and more.  We've just decided (okay, I decided) our guest bedroom will be the land of presents.

I'm so happy so many of our friends have exciting events coming up! We're thrilled to celebrate with you all.

We attended a friend's baby shower in Arizona and picked up our last piece of furniture.  Our bedroom is coming along nicely:

The next step is a new mattress, but we're waiting for those to be on sale over President's Day weekend.

I did my part to create equality-minded students, even if the current political mindset is full of hate:

I also have an active {donorschoose} project where I'm requesting books that celebrate Latino and African American culture, as well as portray strong women and scientists.  I'm also asking for books on climate and the environment.  #gorogue

I completed semester 1 report cards and comments.  That itself deserves a medal.  Or you know, pretty flowers from a supportive husband:

We also had our first APTT (Academic Parent Teacher Teams) meeting.  For all 36 of my students (because of course I got a new one mid-January), I created these:

Inside are their data graphs for the year and other data.  We created a power point, held an hour long meeting, and spent roughly 18 hours getting ready for the day (most of which happened outside of contract (paid) time.)  There are math games, vocabulary games, and fluency activities for families to work on at home.

Six families came.

To be fair, it was in the middle of the day. On a Thursday. Right after awards ceremonies.  Teachers would resist having to stay after for these meetings (because we wouldn't be paid), but having it during the school day meant very few families could actually attend.  

Instead of being upset with a low turn out, I'm going to think about the situation with the mindset that if it were at another time, more families would have attended.  Low turn out has nothing to do with their lack of interest in supporting their children, but rather the real world demands of having a job (or several jobs) and being unable to get the time off. 

I also decorated for Valentine's Day.  We're being super low key this year (our four year anniversary) with one gift (a new mattress) and ordering in Chinese food. 

We had another reading competition and our team won.  I prepared for substitute teachers (always hours of work), and managed to keep thirty six hormonal eleven year-olds focused on their learning for a good majority of the school day.

Battle of the books and the book fair have both started.  I think there's a mandatory Battle of the Books meeting next week, but chances are it's the same night as our school's BINGO night, chili cook off, and evening book fair.

On those days when I feel overwhelmed, a view from our playground usually does the trick at calming my anxiety:

(No filter. Picture from my phone.)

We've also started a new yoga routine, cooking more at home, and working on portion size.

We tried these {Hawaiian BBQ Tacos} and they were delicious!

When I say we've started yoga, I truly mean it's a family affair:

Luckily, all that's on this weekend's agenda is some errands (grocery and fun shopping), family lunch, and reading (for fun).  Plus we've got a cozy date night planned with a TV marathon.

Wedding Steps

With a few friends recently engaged, I figured I'd share our "how we got married without killing each other" system:

Announcing Our Engagement

First, we called our families and friends.  Those closest to us deserved to find out in person (or via text) before social media.  After we'd contacted those that we needed to, we posted the cliche kissing picture with my ring hand out.  Many congratulatory messages ensued.

Insuring the Ring

Thank goodness for pinterest because I didn't know I had to get my ring inspected, appraised, and added to our home owner's insurance policy (or renter's policy).  I set up an appointment at a local jewelry store and took the information to my insurance agent.

Picking a date

We knew we wanted to get married outside with pleasant weather.  For us, that meant early spring (Feb-April) or late fall (Oct-Nov).  We looked at 3 day weekends and holidays for out of town guests.  We didn't want to take any major holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, or Thanksgiving).  We considered New Year's Eve until we realized out expensive hotel rooms in Las Vegas would be for our guests.  B didn't want it near his birthday (April) and I didn't want it overshadowed by the first of April because some of our groomsmen have the tendency to take jokes a little too far.  We knew we wanted to get married on a Friday because it was significantly cheaper and that way we could afford an open bar (one of our must haves).  We picked Veteran's Day (11-11) and conveniently, many of our teacher friends already had the day off.

Touring locations

We asked for suggestions from friends and coworkers.  Some venues never got back to us (cough Springs Preserve cough), some were too small for our event (Mt. Charleston), some weren't going to be practical (lake cruise at sunset wouldn't work for seasick guests), some were run down, and some were simply stunning.  We toured a half dozen venues over several weeks, never seeing more than 2 per day.  I went into each appointment with a good 2 dozen questions.  Some venues laughed at my prepared and logical approach, so we knew that wasn't the choice for us.  I took notes during the meetings and refused to commit to anything that day. We thought about hotels nearby and accommodations for guests.  We narrowed our choice down to two different venues.  We were fortunate to be able to take our moms to see both venues and listen to their opinions.

From there, we made a pro-con list about each one....

on massive chart paper.  One of us is way more type A than the other.

Our top two venues were gorgeous, but we ended up going with {Stallion Mountain} because it felt more like us.  The other had a grand ball room and massive staircase, which made him feel uncomfortable.  Stallion Mountain was close to our home (under 10 minutes), had 2 hotels nearby, and was close to the Las Vegas strip for visitors.  It also had a spacious parking lot, security guards, and perhaps the most catering and kind staff I've ever worked with.

We booked our wedding (14 months out) and announced our date on social media...

with the pets of course!

Asking our bridal party

We had a small engagement party over Labor Day weekend so we could ask our bridal party.  I originally wanted a small bridal party, but he kept asking groomsmen so my original idea of one bridesmaid went out the window (which turned out to be wonderful).  I saw my bestie a few weeks before (we live on opposite coasts) and got to ask her in person at the airport.  We decided on asking our mutual friend to be our officiant and I asked her over lunch.  We "popped" the question to many of the other bridal party members at the engagement shower.  I popped the question with cute bags of flavored popcorn.  

B ignored the cute bags I made and asked his boys outside, with beer.  

Meeting with the coordinator

We lucked out with our venue because we had a coordinator handle many of the logistics for us.  We were fortunate enough to have a coordinator for the day of logistics, freeing up my bridal party to spend the morning getting ready, snacking, and enjoying mimosas.  

Picking colors

We went with deep navy, blush, and gold for our colors.  I originally wanted blush for my bridesmaids, but since they were all on the paler side, they looked a tad...naked.  Not the classy look I wanted.  So we had our girls in deep navy and the boys in gray suits with navy accents.  B was in a classic black tux and I had my cream gown.  Navy was a flattering shade (since one bridesmaid was pregnant), but not as harsh as black.  We then picked our theme (slightly rustic, slightly polka dotted, classic, with fun quirky twists).  We wanted our wedding to be elegant, but still reflect us as a couple.  After all, it's a celebration of our love.

PC: Stephen Salazar Photography, LLC


Since we had a photo booth (one of my must have's), I asked our photo booth rental about book mark strips.  Not only would this tie in my love of reading, but also give our guests a space to save their photo strips.  I typed up "consider yourself booked for our photo booth" and did my own ribbon, saving some money in the process.  I was able to pick up ribbon at Joann's with coupons and sales, which cut down on the cost.

We also did "hugs & kisses from the Mr. and Mrs." favors.  I ordered pink kisses from Oriental Trading, waited out sales for Hugs, and got pre-cut tulle circles in navy and cream.  I ordered custom tags from Etsy because the frustration of hand lettering 150 small tags wasn't worth it to me.

PC: Stephen Salazar Photography, LLC

Photographer & DJ

Booking these next was crucial.  We got recommendations from friends and our venue, then looked at sample pictures.  Our photographer actually did our engagement pictures (round 2) and was easy to work with, which made a huge difference.

I met with her about a week before the wedding to go over a shot list and create a time frame.  If your photographer doesn't do this, ask.  We spent too much money and time on the wedding for the pictures to be something we just winged.


Honestly, my wedding earrings and bracelet were from {Charming Charlie}, a trendy teen store.  I wanted something fancy and elegant, but I wasn't going to wear them again.

PC: Stephen Salazar Photography, LLC 

Similar styles at the bridal store were several hundred dollars, but I snagged the earrings and bracelet for $10 each.  They photograph well, held up on the big day, and didn't break the bank. 


For us, these were a low priority.  I went with what was in season and a few colors to save on costs.  I wanted to keep my bouquet, so having a toss bouquet was important (and something I had to bring up to my florist).  We had flowers for our bridesmaids, boutineers for the groomsmen, and corsages for our moms (and his grandma).  We had a good half dozen meetings with our florist and she still managed to mess up the wedding day by arriving an hour late and unprepared.  

The Rest

I tried to set aside an hour or two each week to work on wedding events, but at times, nothing happened for weeks and that was alright.  Having a long engagement meant we could spread out our expenses and not feel rushed to make any sudden decisions.  We could also wait for items to be on sale or use coupons (Joanns & Michael's) for crafting materials.

I asked for help assembling the favors.  My bridesmaids (the ones who were able) came over.  We had a craft night with wine and Chinese food.  

We made sure to still go on date nights and talk about the future.  Our wedding was one beautiful, expensive day, but I hope it's not the best day.  We have the rest of our lives to look forward to and it saddens me when people spend so much time thinking about their picture perfect wedding, but not the picture perfect life they want to build.

Even with the most meticulous planning (because I'm quite type A and own it), things will go wrong.  Our cupcakes had a different flavor frosting (not that I cared).  Our florist was awful (that I did care about).  The rehearsal dinner restaurant couldn't find our reservation (I got a little bridezilla in that moment).  The groomsmen forgot to give B his gift, meaning it wasn't in pictures.  Even with a detailed schedule, things didn't go 100% according to plan.

But at the end of the day, I married my best friend, surrounded by our favorite people, and had a big party afterwards.  That's what counts.

PC: Stephen Salazar Photography, LLC