Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hello October

I blinked and it's October.  Granted, Las Vegas lacks the gorgeous changing leaves that most other places enjoy, but it's starting to feel like fall.

September was a whirlwind.

At work, everything still seems to be in an adjustment phase.  I'm still getting used to not having prep every day. I'm frustrated that our paperwork wasn't processed in time and the earliest I'll see my overtime is October (8 weeks after I started earning it).  It's a lot of extra work with no financial incentive and that's rough.

Mrs. H and I are still very committed to our curriculum units.  We're integrating reading, writing, social studies, and language arts.  Ms. C will be joining us soon because it's an intense workload and we appreciate the extra help.  I love what we're teaching and our students are having some amazing conversations centered around their analytical thinking and research.

It's also something new and there are kinks.  Some have offered constructive, precise, helpful feedback and that's always welcomed.  Some prefer the snide comments to everyone but us and well, that's not helpful.  But, at the end of the day, I'm immensely proud of how we've combined multiple subjects to provide a well balanced education.

For example, they've learned about human migration theories from reading multiple sources (and taking Cornell notes as a strategy to zoom in on main ideas, supporting details, evidence, vocabulary, and summarizing).  From there, they are researching different Native American regions (Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Plains, and Eastern Woodlands) to analyze human environment interactions.  This coincides with the STEM challenge they've been working on with building different homes.  Next week they'll make a flipbook on their region, share with others, and read (literature) folk tales from their region.  The lesson will transition into finding facts in the fiction, then creating a narrative as if they were in that region (using facts for historical accuracy).  They've already learned how to write an informational paragraph (lead, topic sentence, main ideas) and citing (reference materials).  We've read picture books from each region and looked at the different land forms.  In art, they're making dream catchers and music is starting them on Navajo flutes (after their October performance).  They're excited about what we're doing.  Most of the teachers are excited about what we're doing.  Admin is excited.  But there's always the grouchy ones who find fault in everything but their own work...

The long hours are hard, but the payoff is rewarding. I'm hoping things will lighten up in mid October when we have a third person on the planning team. 

Wedding planning is about done.  We've picked our cake (and cupcakes).  Our ring bearer gift is here.  His groomsmen gifts are ordered and by the magical coincidences of the universe, the Etsy seller is near my mom and we're saving a bundle on shipping costs.  Our  bachelor & bachelorette parties are coming up this month and I'm being surprised by the events of the evening.  My bestie is flying in to celebrate and we're going to get her dress fitted that am (because that's not something I want to rush in November).  We've clarified details with the venue, have over half of our reply cards back (they're due mid October), purchased Blue Man Group tickets for my family (for the day after the wedding), and are almost done with the favors.  We're off to the court house in a few hours to pick up our marriage license and then to the bank for the wedding loan.  I've got a few more logistical things to figure out and another hair trial to do, but we're pretty set. 

Seriously, the long engagement was the way to go! I haven't felt pressured or rushed on any aspect of the wedding.  I've enjoyed the planning and that's how it should be.

September also brought a baby shower, time with friends, date night, our Reading Ranger Rodeo, and some routine house work and maintenance (hello new AC motor!).

Looking ahead to October, we've got three bridal showers at work (one of them being mine!), a friend's engagement shower, friends' birthdays, and some relaxing time.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Classroom Set Up

Tomorrow may mark the fifteenth day of school (and the start of week number four), but it's time to take a sneak peek into my classroom and all the prep that went into the first days of school.

Bulletin Boards

These are a huge deal at my school.  Having a well put together bulletin board is a point of pride and my classroom boards are no exception.

I pattern mixed with chevron and polka dots, but still think the work looks. 

I decided this would be my Reading Rangers board and added red accents.

The top sheet is a guide that reminds students of how the colored dots coincide with Reading Rangers.  With this program, students read within their ZPD (zone of proximal development) and increasingly tackle more complex texts. The envelopes hold tickets and they fill them out as they complete their individual goals.  

The other bulletin board in my room is complimentary colors, but chevron with a solid.

This  is where we'll hang our anchor charts, so we can "anchor" our learning.


I struggled to perfectly match the grays, but I think it's close enough.

The outside board has overlapping post cards to make a border.  

Since fabric can be expensive, my teacher hack is to use a flat sheet and cut off extra.  Works like a charm! 

Since I have so many students, I took over space beyond the bulletin board to fit everyone's work.  

It's still strange to see my new future last name. I won't be changing it on this blog, my teacher twitter account, or on my {Teachers pay Teachers} store, but everywhere else my last name will be changed.

My students are calling me by both last names, I've changed it with Scholastic book orders, and I made new business cards, but I won't jump through the school district's hoops until summer break.


We're expected to display our learning standards, so I might as well make the space cute. 

I also have space for our "ten for ten" checklist.  Every time students earn a perfect 10 in specials, I write the date in the box.  When ten are filled, students get a bonus recess.  (They've already earned their first one, which we took indoors due to the weather.)

Below is a classroom motto, then below that is space for the standards. 

Missing Work

Absenteeism can be a problem and after a few years, it was time for some new absent folders. The paper folders just won't do, so I snagged a few bright yellow plastic folders from Target:

I'm working on  being more explicit with my students, so I tweaked the folders to have very clear instructions:

So far it's working!  For a class of 35, I have 5 folders.  I hope I'm never missing more than 5 students at a time!  In terms of procedures, the missing student's fellow table mates are responsible for completing the folders and filling in the student upon his or her return to the classroom.

Work to Finish

In elementary school, we often use the same passage for several days, or make work double sided and need to return to it later.  For this reason, I make work to finish folders.

Again, using the same plastic folders as above,  each student now has a space to keep his or her work.  For most students, this is manageable.  Every year I have a few that really struggle with organization and need more support in keeping materials together.

As a side note, buying plastic ones means I can reuse them for several years before I have to replace them, which is good for my back to school shopping budget.

Class Decor

I've tried to keep the decorating of my classroom to a minimum, but there are still a few places that I've added some personal touches.  I'm in my room a lot so I want to like what I see.

The crayon wreath I made last year didn't survive the summer heat, so I found a wooden one at Target that was much easier to recreate.  I had the Harry Potter inspired sign from years ago just hanging out in a box, so I brought it into the classroom.  The tissue box is a plain wooden one that I added scrapbook paper to and then taped over.  It's held up to a few years of student use.

I found the board in the dollar spot of Target (although it was one of those weird items that's $3) and had a friend vinyl cut the letters for me.

Class Information

Instead of doing the standard "meet the teacher" letter that parents always use, as a grade level we switched it up and made flip books:

Forty of them.   Students were excited!  This was a download from TpT and before we cut them, each page had 2.  They are pretty easy to assemble and I'm sure would have gone much quicker if we didn't all try to copy at once and use four different colors.  Lessons for next time.

I also dedicated the space behind my teacher desk to be class information and a reference space:

Specials schedules, GATE time (although this year it's push in and called Project Based Learning), and more is easily accessible for me, the students, and substitutes.  I'm all for making everyone's job easier.  

Through the power of caffeine, DVDs, B's help, and sheer determination (cough stubbornness), my classroom went from this:

To this:  

 (Yes, the table cloth is totally a strategic move so I can hide things under my teacher prep table.  As a bonus, it was on sale at Target.)

 Ready or not, here they come!


Saturday, September 17, 2016


A few days ago, I realized I was getting married in exactly 2 months, so I snapped this gem:

(I'd also just done my nails, so it was an excellent chance to show off this new fall gel color.)

In exactly 55 days (according to the Knot), I'll be getting married.  

So dear readers, welcome to the final count down.

It's seems as if everything is falling into place and I'm not really stressing (which is the goal).  This long engagement (a year and a half) thing is the way to go! I haven't felt pressured or stressed to make any quick decisions.

Without further ado, wedding updates:

My hair

I'm doing my second hair trial today.  I'm 95% sure I know the style I want to go with (full updo) to go with my dress (strapless sweetheart neckline), but I'm having my stylist try a long curly style today just to be sure.   

I vetoed a veil (it was like an itchy mosquito net), but am having a sparkling headband instead.  

The flowers

We've paid the deposit (which was half of the cost) and finalized everything. I'm having my bouquet and a toss bouquet because I want to keep my flowers (and craft something with them).  My mom is getting a wrist corsage, whereas his mom and grandma wanted pin on ones.  The corsages will match, but not be identical which is fine by me. I don't want a pin on to ruin my mom's dress!  

The groomsmen, ushers, ring bearer, and his dad are all getting boutonnieres.  The center pieces will be low (so people can still talk at the tables) and there will be balls of hydrangeas lining the aisle.

Flowers weren't super high on my priorities list, so we went with what was in season to lessen the cost.  We also kept it to roses and hydrangeas (with touches of baby's breath) to minimize costs.  I wanted an elegant, traditional look with our flowers without being ridiculous (cough Kardashians cough).  I also don't care what wedding trends say, there are no feathers in our floral arrangements.

The invites

After a bit of a timing issue, our invites arrived. 

We had engagement pictures redone because none of them fit with the desired invitations.  An engagement shoot was already included in our package, so we took more in a completely different location (Lee Canyon at Mount Charleston, right outside of Las Vegas). 

I googled how to assemble them and tackled the task with B.  I assembled and stuffed, he sealed, stamped, and put on our address stamp.  I printed addresses on sticky labels to expedite the process, but I also picked a pretty cursive font that looks quite close to my hand writing. 

Because the invites have already gone out, I can now share the front of them:

This dancing and dip one is my absolute favorite from our (second) engagement shoot. 

We've already got some of our reply cards back,


and as a wedding tip to fellow brides, number the back:

This number corresponds with the excel document I have with addresses and wedding information.  That way if guests forget to put their names, I can easily see who it is and avoid making awkward phone calls.  Plus most guests won't even look at the back of the reply card. #weddinghack

I did take a short cut and not mail my coworkers' invites (because there are ten or so of them that are invited).  I did stamp the reply envelope (because that's what Martha Stewart's wedding etiquette post instructed me to do), but we saved a bit by hand delivering those.

The Guestbook

He changed his mind from the large painted S's that I stained to a more traditional guest book.  He wanted one with pictures (from our second engagement shoot), then seemed surprised when it arrived and had pictures in it.  (Oh B!)

He did help pick the design, but only after I narrowed down his choices to my favorite three.  We had our guestbook made on Shutterfly and because I had a coupon (I LOVE coupons), the 20 full color paged hard back guest book was under ten dollars.  That's half the cost of a generic, picture free one at a craft store.  I'll call that another wedding win.

(If you're in need of a wedding photo book, Shutterfly is currently offering a free 8x8 one with the code FREEBOOK4U by 9/18/16.  I'd also highly recommend following Shutterfly on Facebook or social media because they have awesome deals like this all the time. I don't think I've paid full price for anything but prints, and even then I was able to snag free shipping or other deals.)

The garter

It's here thanks to one of my wonderful bridesmaids.  It's got some blue in it (keeping with tradition) but it's also Batman themed.  Technically, Batgirl, but still in the Gotham family.  I'm super excited!


I booked the wedding suite for the night before (so I can have a bestie sleep over before the girls get ready) and extended our stay for an additional night (because I didn't want to wake up the morning after our wedding and rush to leave).  I also booked the men a suite to get ready in (because 8 men were not getting ready at our house, where the animals live.)

Guests, we've got a block of rooms at the Eastside Cannery and Sam's Town with a discounted rate.  Please book before 10/10.     Locals, please consider taking advantage of this as well because we have an open bar.

The dress

My second dress fitting is tomorrow afternoon (after a work planning session in the morning).  I need to start wearing my shoes around more to finish breaking them in, but I purposefully went for a low heel for maximum comfort.

The cake

This one isn't technically done yet, but our cake tasting is next Sunday afternoon (both our teams have early football games).  I'm bringing the cake topper and we're fairly positive we're doing a small cake to cut (and for pictures), then serving assorted cupcakes.  Perhaps it's the frosting to cake ratio, but I just like cupcakes more than cake.  Plus that way we're able to give a few options...and easily transport home the left overs.

The dancing

My brother and I selected our song and had the opportunity to practice over Labor Day weekend.

It's choreographed and playful, but not creepy and super romantic because that would be incestuous. 

B and I also practiced our first dance.

He refrained from dropping me (but did threaten it).  He also has some ideas about what he wants his mother son dance song to be (and it's no longer Tupac...we carefully moved away from that option).  No final decisions made there because I'd like him and his mom to talk about it together.

Up next?

We're ordering groomsmen gifts this weekend.  We're supporting a small business by going the Etsy route (as opposed to a store in the mall) and the quality seems higher.  

Next Friday some of my maids are coming over to help finalize the wedding favors, help with music selections, assemble props, and help with the wording of the ceremony.  Since our dear friend is our officiant, we want our ceremony to be a reflection of us.  Will it be serious? Yes.  Will it be super religious with scripture readings? No.  Will there be silly comments about my inability to put lids all the way back on containers and his love of Madden? Probably.  Will there be a Harry Potter reference?  Always.

Next month we're applying for a loan (because we can't pay for our wedding in full before it occurs) and getting our marriage license.   I did have to clarify to B that yes, he had to be there in person to apply for the marriage license with me (to prove he exists).

I've got another details appointment next week, have music due to the DJ by the 11th of October, and still have to figure out a location for the rehearsal dinner.  We got another recommendation of a family owned Mexican restaurant (not a chain) that's close to the venue, so I want to check it out first.

I've had quite a few people ask what I'll do after the wedding with all of my time.

The answer is simple: Enjoy being married and continue to celebrate life and other friends' major milestones.   Oh, and take more naps.

Several friends have little babies on the way.  Other weddings are on the way.  His aunt and uncle's 40th anniversary is on the way. Graduations are on the way.

Life won't end because my wedding is over.