Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays

I'll be spending the next few days disconnecting from the internet and reconnecting with family and friends.  It's time to unplug for a bit and rest, so I can tackle next year fully charged.  

May your holiday season be filled with memories and time with loved ones.


Thursday, December 24, 2015


The holidays can be a rough time for many, myself included.  Balancing two families and their desires can be tricky, but luckily I'm blessed with understanding relatives (for the most part).  I decorated our house (because that makes me happy), but we didn't really have any friends or family over to enjoy it, so here's our happy holiday home:

At some point, we'll upgrade to a taller tree and make this one a kids tree.  However, this is very low on the priorities totem pole.  Perhaps I'll snag one if it's super on sale!

Chloe does love her sparkling lights! She was investigating before I could put on ornaments or get out the tree skirt.

 These are supposed to be ornaments, but I like them so much better clustered in a decorative bowl.

This decorating was intentional.  There's enough space on either side of the glittery candle for one of the cats to comfortably enjoy the safety of the ledge.

Yes, we have two trees.  We may have the same last name at this point next year, but that doesn't mean I have to take his team too!

The heart on the wall is a present from my mom from her Europe trip last summer.  She has a coordinating heart in her home. 

Not only are these pretty (and plastic, so they won't break), but they are a favorite of the cats.  Apparently they're great for rubbing one's face on...I'll take their meows for it!

I love decorating our table.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but there is subtle shimmer in both the table cloth and the napkins.  The ornaments, of course, are glittery.  The lantern is changed seasonally.

We've been blessed with lots of new friends this year.  I love that we'll need more clips to hang cards.  

(And yes, I've already started thinking about our card we'll send out next year.  This year I went with the handwritten option, but I think next year will be something along the lines of "Eat, Drink, and Be Married" and we'll show off our wedding pictures.)

Yes, I did the pinterest hack of putting a paper towel roll inside to take up space so the ornaments would go farther.  Works like a charm!

Close up of our tree with some of my favorite ornaments.  The chalk board ones were on clearance at Joann's for less than a dollar each, so I added the lettering myself.

One of several Christmas quilts from my mom.  Blankets and pillows are some of my favorite things, period.  (Added bonus? I snagged these pillows at Target last year for half-off.  I love sales!)

I packed our stockings for our road trip, but we display our stockings in front of the television.  This C one is for the cats (Chloe & Crookshanks) and I'm super disappointed Target doesn't make a red one with a W to match.  They've got 19/26 letters, W isn't one of them.  Get with it Target!

December has been tough.  Conferences were unexpectedly difficult. I've felt anxious and overwhelmed.  Temperature changes and lack of sunlight haven't been helping my mood.  I'm more tired than normal and have irregular sleep patterns.  From all my reading on depression and SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder), I wouldn't be surprised if that's a large part of why I'm struggling. Our water heater broke and that was an unexpected financial burden.  I had issues with my bank and extra fees that is still being resolved.  Our ice maker stopped working and there were a lot of hurdles to jump through in order to get it fixed.  It's fixed, finally, but it took three days and putting my life in limbo to be home for repairs.  B's been at work and on call, which means a lot more alone time, which isn't always a blessing. I appreciate the sacrifices he's making to make sure we are financially set. 

We've been puppy sitting, so the cats are extra elusive.  I seek them out to give them love and attention, but that attracts the puppies.  Both pups want to sit on my lap at the same time, which is wonderful...except ours is a good fifty pounds heavier than the visiting pup.  Waffles has been extra excited and rambunctious because her friend is here, which is draining. I love her, but she's a little too lively this week.

We also lost a loved one this week.  My mom had to make the difficult, no, heart-breaking decision to put down her beloved dog to end her pain.  The loss of a loved one (because pets are family) makes everything harder.  I'm glad my brother is there and that we will be there tomorrow.  We're focusing on the years of happy memories we had with the food stealing scoundrel, but it's hard. My heart is aching.

I've been burning the candle at both ends for far too long.  I've been keeping things bottled up inside and that's not okay.  I'm struggling and I'm speaking up about it.  It's time to unplug.  It's time to practice some self-care and reconnect with family.  My soul needs some quality time with people, not with screens.  So, for the next week or so, that's what I'll be doing. 

I'm pausing work.  I'll look at lesson plans and prepping for next year on Sunday, Jan 3.  I'll be back with lots of new classroom ideas and finally publish some of the drafts I've been working on.  But until then, I'll be unplugged.

Wishing you and your family a joyous and happy holiday season! See you all (virtually) next year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Snicker of Magic

Winter Break seemed like the perfect time to tackle my next book for battle of the books:

At three hundred pages, it took about the entire day to read...which was totally fine by me!  It was a whimsical story (and debut novel for Natalie Lloyd).  The novel lends itself really well to conversations about onomatopoeia and imagery.  

You can snag the {teacher's guide} and {chronological order sort} at my TpT {store}.  

Up next?  

A book for fun!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


What's better than starting a new calendar year with new teaching resources?

That's why I'm pleased to announce I'm having an end of the year sale!

For three days (12/30-01/01), my {entire store} will be 15% off to send 2015 of with a bang! 

Don't miss out!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Skypin' it up

We wanted to ease into the concept of mystery skype,

So we set up a skype chat with Ms. G, our former technology guru who has since moved on to a position at Ohio State University.

Our students had previously learned about the Midwest region with our {geography unit} and this was a fun review before we gave our {unit test}.  We prepped them with what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to say, then crammed eighty of them into one classroom.  (Okay, eighty is a bit of an exaggeration.  The actual number is closer to seventy three...but there were three teachers, it's okay!)

Before calling with the students, we did a test run...and boy am I glad!  We didn't have a working webcam, so we:
1) Tried with the iPads, but didn't have the password for the app store.  We could hear her, but she couldn't see us or hear us. She'd ask a question and we'd type a response.
2) Admin didn't have the password for the app store.
3) The person who did wasn't at our school that day, so Ms. G called him to have him email me the password.
4) Facetime didn't work.

After about an hour of problem solving (plus one iPad, one iPhone, one desk top, one Android, four adults, and two administrators...), we got it to work.  

The kids loved it!  She showed them various sites around OSU and we got to virtually meet her coworkers.  They asked thoughtful questions about the differences between Las Vegas and Ohio as well as which Disney princess is her favorite (obviously!)  The whole call took about twenty minutes.

Of course, I rocked a Michigan hoodie out of protest.

We appreciate you Ms. G!

Our next skype call will be to Ms. V after we learn about New York.  We've got a guest speaker for upstate NY (the neighboring kinder teacher), so Ms. V will be representing downstate New York!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Year, New Resolutions, New Books

I've got my hands full with thirty six students.  Many of my students, especially my boys, are reluctant readers.  They want "cool" books, which apparently, in the logic of ten year olds, I'm lacking.

So I posted a new donorschoose {project}.  I'm requesting sports themed graphic novels in addition to books on monsters, Greek Mythology, mysteries, and spies.  I'm hoping these "cool" books will hook my reluctant readers and help them reach their new years goals.

For the next week, you can double your impact by using the code DISNEYCREATIVITY at checkout.  Donations are tax-deductible and very much appreciated!

The last week

We had Monday off for parent teacher conferences, which left only four days to attempt to manage students' behavior choices.  The excitement over the holidays was adorable...and loud.

We had a spirit week, which always adds to silliness in the classroom.  I reward students who participate with bonus class dojo points and let them do a fashion show. I also take a group selfie and post it to our class blog (but won't post here due to students' privacy).  That always gets them super excited.

Our spirit days:

Tuesday: Wear white or snowflakes.  I completely good thing a coworker snagged some foam snowflakes at the dollar spot and I got crafty.

My students said I was channeling Queen Elsa, so I went with it.

Wednesday brought dress like a present day.  It was really, really difficult not to joke about this being inappropriate (cue Justin Timberlake).  I wore a green dress accented with a red belt and a red bow in my hair.  Halfway through the day, I discovered there were lots of bite marks in my belt...not sure which pet is to blame.  

Thursday was Santa hat or winter hat day.  I let my students wear hats inside, which was a special treat.  I had a tough choice to make that day:

Friday was pajama day, which is always a favorite.  I rocked Batman pajama pants with a Cardinals hoodie, much to the delight of my students.  They are very vocal about their passion for their football teams...none of which are my team.
Friday started with this treat on their desks: 

There are fruit snacks attached (I couldn't find holiday pencils) and the pass is good for one night of no math homework (much to the delight of my students).

The last week was also devoted to a Reading Rangers challenge (my favorite of the year).  The school was split into two teams (red and green) with a different leader (principal or assistant principal).  Whichever team read and passed more AR quizzes got to throw marshmellows at the losing team's leader.  I created a large paper book for my door and whenever my students passed a quiz, they wrote their name on the sheet.  For the first time in three years, the assistant principal's team won (my team) and I got to pick three students to throw marshmellows at our principal.  It was such a glorious bonding moment.  I'm blessed to have such amazing admin that aren't afraid to make fools of themselves in the name of student achievement. 

Some of the kinder classes decorated gingerbread houses and wrote letters to Santa.  Another fifth grade classroom displayed a fake fire on the smartboard during reading time and played holiday tunes (stealing that idea for next year).  Others did a book swap, classroom secret santas, and a hot chocolate party.

What fun traditions does your school have for the last week of school?


Winter Break Goals

I'm really excited it's winter break (said every teacher, everywhere).

Today we're doing Christmas celebrations with his family, tomorrow a repair man is coming to fix the ice maker, and once B's off call from work, we're driving to see my family.  This will be the first time that all three pets accompany us in the truck, so positive thoughts people!

However, I'm a list-making and goal-oriented kind of gal, so here are my goals for break:

But seriously,

1) Finish this season of Once Upon a Time on Netflix.  It's season...4?  I'm making steady progress.

2) Grade these student essays (at Panera, because I'm not above bribing myself).

3) Spend time coloring.  Yes, I bought a Harry Potter coloring book. I'm going to snuggle up in blankets and color.

4) Get to the bank.  I rolled up a bunch of change we had and should deposit it.  

5) Spend an entire day reading in my pajamas.

6) Have my best friend meet Waffles.  Who wouldn't love this face?  (That's her spider toy she five thirty in the morning.)

7) Do a tiny bit of work to be prepared for the first day back.  It's a necessary task to avoid panic attacks.

8) See Star Wars, but when he's not on call.  He just sat down to play video games and now has to leave for a few hours.  I appreciate his sacrifices to help make extra money for wedding expenses, but it's unfortunate that it's right around the holidays.

What are your goals for winter break? 

Bridal Updates wedding is now officially less than a year away!

Let's zoom in on some updates:

1) Our custom jerseys are here!

We're doing a football themed engagement shoot (for part of it, anyway).  Our wedding date is 11/11, so I ordered a Cardinals jersey for me and a Broncos jersey for him. They have our first names on the back.  And...I got them online on Cyber Monday, so they were 20% off.  Thanks NFL shop!

These jerseys are our Christmas gifts to one another.  However, since I was working late (parent-teacher conferences), he intercepted the box.  Not only did he open it, but he tried on his jersey and sent me selfies.  Thanks B!

2) I made table numbers:

The frames are from Joann's and I've been buying them slowly with coupons.  I made up to #12, but I may need one more set just to be sure.  We haven't decided if we're doing tables of 8 or 10. 

I've also got a plan for reusing the frames after the wedding!
3) I went dress shopping.

I didn't find the one.  There were some I liked, but none I absolutely loved.  My future MIL went with me, along with three of my maids and our officiant.  We had lunch first and went to two stores, so we made an afternoon of it.   I've got another appointment next Sunday with my mom, my MOH, and a bridesmaid.  I did make some decisions though:
  • I will be wearing ivory, not white.  It was much softer looking on my skin.
  • I will not be wearing peep toed shoes.  My feet hurt after just two hours, so that's a no no.
  • I liked a sparkly tiara/headband situation.  No one should be surprised that I gravitated toward sparkly items.
  • I have a general idea about the shape.  It will most likely be a strapless, sweetheart neckline on an A-line or ball gown shape.  No mermaid cut for me! 

I also decided on the color for the gals at David's Bridal.  They're wearing marine:

It's pretty close to this, except the dresses will be floor length and the flowers will be pale and medium shades of pink.    

I originally wanted pale pink dresses, but my lovely officiant (and life guru) pointed out that the maids would look naked because they all have light skin tones. it is!  I still get the pops of pink with flowers and darker colors tend to be more slimming.

The boys will be in gray with navy and blush ties.  My original idea of suspenders isn't an option because Mens Warehouse only has three (kind of boring) shades.  I didn't think the groomsmen would like suspenders as their gift, so we scrapped that idea. Oh well! They'll still look snazzy.

I will admit, I had to go a little...

on the saleswoman at David's Bridal.   She was insistent that my bridesmaids did not have a lot of time and needed to purchase their dresses that day.  We have almost a year, so she needed to calm down.  She also demanded that I must narrow down the fabric choices to only one option or my pictures will be forever ruined.  I reminded her that I was the bride and that I wanted my girls to be comfortable.  They can pick chiffon or mesh, whichever they'd like.  As long as they're in marine, it's floor length, and they feel gorgeous, I'm happy.   She was not pleased with my answers, but it's my day.  I won't be bullied into making any decisions so quickly.

Four of the gals found their dresses, two of them are matching.  The one shouldered look was gorgeous on both of them, so I'm totally fine if they match.  Another picked a different dress with a pretty neckline.  I'm thinking they'll have matching earrings (from me) and no one will have to worry about a necklace.  

Marlene, our officiant, is going with a pewter dress with a marine sash.  This way, she'll match both sides of the wedding.  She made the suggestion and I'm all for it!

4) We bought his wedding band. 

He picked it out (as he should) and it was a quick and easy decision.  He's more excited about his jersey (see #1) than this band, but that's okay.  He plans to have a wedding band tattooed on, since he works with his hands and outdoors.  He picked out a nice band that he'll wear on special occasionsWe took advantage of a $100 off coupon and opened a card to buy his band.  I've already paid it off and it's sitting nicely in a box in the closet...right next to my wedding band.  Mine is definitely the prettier of the two!

That's it in terms of wedding plans.  Family pictures are happening next month (our Christmas gift to his parents), engagement pictures will happen soon, and we're hoping to send out save the dates around Easter.  

 I think my only true crazy bride moment has been with the pushy sales people. I'm loving this planning period and am thankful I have other type A people who offer practical, sound advice.  Thanks girls!


Saturday, December 19, 2015


The past two weeks definitely, definitely won. 

I had 36 conferences, ranging in time from ten minutes to an hour.  I have thirty five students, but respect that everyone's family situation is a tad different, so one student got two conferences to avoid hostility. 

Even the most difficult, which included tears, ended in hugs and hand shakes.  I'm glad that (most of) my students' families realize that we are a team. It breaks my heart as well to see them struggle.  


There was some confusion with families in terms of when their conferences were held, but in the end, my extreme flexibility and positive attitude won.  I held all my conferences before school started on Friday.

I also managed to bite my tongue when one teacher was loudly complaining about the nineteen conferences she had to hold. Yes, nineteen.  Almost half the number I had to hold, despite no extra duty pay for having to stay until six pm all week to fit them in.  I struggle to respect her work ethic on a good day, but I'm definitely not the person to vent to about conference numbers.  

On top of that, I decided to tackle as much grading as possible so I could enjoy my winter break.  First semester ends mid January and I want to give my students a retake day.  I decided the first Thursday of the school year (Jan 7th) would be that day.  Students can come before or after school to retake any summative assessments.

Our grade books are broken into two categories: formative quizzes and quick checks that account for 10% of their overall grade.  The remaining 90% comes from summative tests, usually covering a unit and multiple standards.  To maximize their opportunity for improvement, I allow them to retake any of these summatives as long as they've put in extra review effort (in the form of online practice on scootpad, which grades assignments for me and shows them how to solve the problems correctly, which is a double win for both parties).

In order to help students know exactly what they should study, I had to finish grading their retakes from their first retake day (December 7th) and update their scores.  I encountered a grade book glitch (apparently I can no longer use Chrome to post grades, it has to be Firefox) and struggled to log into the grade book (thank you CCSD internet for your consistently unreliable internet), but managed to get them up to date progress reports on Friday morning before break.  Those that wanted to study had break to do so and could take home their notebooks to review.  Those that wanted to wait will still have a few days in January to brush up on those skills before retaking assessments.  

(This was for a #selfiechallenge and a neighboring teacher had this posted...I self-identified with the drawing!)

While this grading meant for very, very long days last week, I am happily looking at a very short "to do" list for the holidays! I already conquered the math tests, so I have one set of essays to grade.  In order to make this challenge tolerable, I'm taking myself to Panera on Tuesday morning.  My favorite Panera is conveniently near a large TJ Maxx, Target, the bank, and the mall, so I can knock out some last minute shopping as well.  My hope is that Tuesday morning will be significantly less crazy than say, Saturday afternoon.   

Despite the additional emotions of a spirit week and winter break, my students did a fairly good job at being on task and learning things.  

However, once Friday hit, my main goal was to calm the chaos.  We played math games.  Some finished typing their essays and making up their missed tests.  We got almost to the end of The Lightning Thief, but that's okay because we got almost to the end of the movie version as well!  I promised them we'd watch and read the rest on Monday after break, so that'll be a nice transition for them from lazy break to back in school mode.

How did I kick off winter break?

Take out and a nap!