Monday, April 26, 2010

Random Monday-ness

School Stuff: On Friday I picked Em up after school and brought her to my school where we watched the spring play, The Idi-Odyssey. The play is a comedy designed to explain to students why they have to read "old" works such as The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer. It was cute, and I was pleased with Emma's behavior as I am certain she didn't understand much of the humor.

--33 School days left. Whew!

--My students are still somewhat "checked out," but after reviewing their crappy grades with them last week, more of them are "on board" for work time now.

Emma: DH and I are at our wits' end.... Getting dressed/hair brushed/out the door on time in the mornings has become a HUGE ordeal. I hate yelling...DH hates yelling....but it seems we result to this at least 2-3 mornings per week as Emma lays in bed stalling.

--We've tried a sticker chart for "cooperative mornings" where she could go to the Dollar Tree if she filled up a week. (Em LOVES Dollar Tree.)
--We've taken away evening TV time based on morning behavior.
--I've refused to pack her lunch and forced her to eat the school lunch (she WAY prefers packing) if she didn't cooperate in the morning.
--We usually leave at the same time. There have been many mornings I've left without DH and Em (poor DH!) Em freaks out when I do this, but it still doesn't change her behavior.

Em is usually such a sweet girl....but the dawdling in the morning is driving us NUTS! Any parental ideas of what makes your kids get up and dressed independently in a TIMELY manner?

DH: Plugging away at another book. He texted me last week that he finished the 5th chapter of his 3rd book. He continues to seek agents. I'm so proud of him!

--Sick, sick, sick. DH was vomiting and in bed much of the weekend. He seems to have caught a stomach virus. Bleck. Poor guy.

Me: My parents arrive on Tuesday evening for a 4-day visit. SO excited to see them! One of the greatest pleasures of Mommyhood is watching Em interact with my parents. Hearing her on the phone with them this weekend was precious. She is SO thrilled they'll be here to attend a school field trip with her this week.

--I got all of the house cleaning done this weekend. (Drat! I shouldn't have put it off....sick DH couldn't help out like he usually does!) Tonight all I have to do is change the bedding and the house will be ready for visitors. Yay!

--I finished the Percy Jackson book series. LOVED them! And was tickled to see in the acknowledgements from the author that he considers this "the first of the Olympian series." YAY! I assume this means there will be more Olympians in the future---awesome!

--I've been hooked on the Showtime series The Tudors. I've watched all of seasons 1, and 2. I'm halfway through season 3. (Season 4 recently started and I have them recorded and waiting for me on our DVR.)

--Last weekend I was able to meet more blog pals!!! I met Lynn from Wistful Girl and Kym from I'm a Smart One. We met at the Applebee's in Waycross, Georgia. It was super! We had over 2 hours of conversation. Topics included: IF-issues, Teaching, Insurance, Husbands, Childhoods, etc. Even Leroy from the original Fame TV show. We had great conversation! We're planning to meet up again this summer...I look forward to it!

Kym, Lynn, and I

Friday, April 23, 2010

School, Home, and a Playdate

I'm a little behind in the times again....

School: The good news: Our last district visit for the school year was this past Tuesday. We FINALLY had a positive review of our department. Guess my stress and work the past 2 weeks paid off. Whew!

The bad: Last week was the first week of 4th quarter. My students are already checking out. They are ready for summer... "Are we really doing lessons this week?" "FCAT is over, why are we starting a new unit?" Seriously??? We still have school until June 11th. It's going to be tough to maintain the kiddos these next few weeks. I truly don't remember having students feel "finished" quite this early before. Sighs.

More good: Em and I went to the last home Track Meet of the year this past Wednesday. 3 of my students are on the team----and I enjoyed cheering for them. Em loved standing in the grass beside the track, waiting for the gun to fire signaling the beginning of each race, and then she'd sprint down the length of the track and back. Needless to say, she slept GREAT that night!

The good: My parents are coming to visit and will arrive next Tuesday night! YAY! They will also be able to attend a school field trip with Em on Wednesday (petting zoo and picnic lunch,) which Em is very excited about. Then Em will stay out of school on Thursday and Friday to go on adventures with them while DH and I are at work.

The bad: There was a cat (in heat) making God-awful noises outside of Emma's room last night. Our dog woke Emma up with his barking just after 11. After I pounded on the window, the noises stopped. Em went back to sleep. Around 12:30 blast it if the whole thing didn't start again.... loud meowing/screeching outside and dog freaking out and barking inside. I have a feeling Little Miss will be dragging when I wake her up in a few minutes. Sighs.

Lastly for now....

On April 9th, Em and I were able to meet up with a blog friend and her Kiddos who live in St. Augustine. We met Katie and her 4 year old twins Megan and Jeremy at their house. Then we traveled together to a park. The kids played. The Moms visited. Next, we all had lunch and had MORE play time at their house. It was great! (Only one accident of the day---Emma and Megan were running full speed and ran into each other---Em had a large goose egg/bruise in the middle of her forehead, and Megan had a big bump on top of her eyebrow. Oops!) Overall, the kids got along together really well.

Katie is a freelance writer for a local newspaper. She made me giggle when she informed me that I had a type-o in the comment section of my blog. (I had written "Dear Reders" instead of "Dear Readers.") She was sweet saying she didn't want to embarrass me by telling me of the type-o in a comment where others could see it. People----I teach Language Arts for a living. I am a spell check Diva. If I have a type-o, I implore you to TELL ME.....because spelling inaccuracies drive me crazy! Thanks! :)

It was wonderful meeting another mom with Kiddos close in age to Em. It was nice getting to know someone I've only known for the most part via blog land. (Katie substitute teaches sometimes, so I had met her at my school before, but we weren't able to have much conversation time.)

I need to get ready for work, so must go. Pictures below were all taken by Katie. (K--THANKS for sharing your photography prowess!) We look forward to future playdates!

Megan and Emma

A smooch!

Em and Megan

Jeremy, Em, and Megan

Searching for red leaves

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Night Ruminations

Tonight is probably the last time my blog-buddy Danifred is going to host Friday Night Leftovers wherein bloggers can blog whatever random "leftovers" they didn't blog about yet that week. Check out other blogger's leftovers HERE.

Birthday Stuff:
a. New sneakers. I nearly forgot how nice it feels to have arch support. My old N.ewbalances were much in need of a replacement. On Wednesday I went to the mall with Em and DH. I was able to purchase new sneakers AND new sandals for less $$$ than I had planned to spend on just sneakers. AWESOME! I wore my new sneakers all day today....ahhhhh sweet comfort!

b. DH surprised me with "Percy Jackson: The Demigod Files" by Rick Riordan. Super cool! I didn't know there were other Percy Jackson related books. I'm in the middle of book 4 (of 5) and am loving the series! Looking forward to another fun read!

c. Rockin' bracelet. Yesterday we received a package in the mail from my sister Laurel. Included were birthday gifts for DH and I and some cute things for Emma as well. As Laurel recently returned from a trip to Spain (with some of her high school students on an exchange program visit) all of our gifts were purchased in Spain. Check out my awesome GREEN (my favorite!) bracelet. LOVE IT!

Yearly Eye Exam:
The bad---at my eye exam yesterday I was informed that I have an astigmatism in my left (already "lazy") eye. I didn't know you could "get" an astigmatism...I thought it was something you're born with. However, according to the eye doc astigmatisms are common occurrences "as people age." Gee, Mother Nature...happy birthday to me. ;)

Overall it's not that big a deal. Though my thicker contact lens has taken some getting used to.

The good---I always use my prepaid prescription card to purchase a year supply of my contact lenses. (I wear the disposable type that need to be replaced every 2 weeks.) I like the convenience of having the year supply on hand. In addition, I like that with buying a year supply, I always get a rebate. This year in addition to my year supply and rebate, my doctor's office had the perk of a FREE pair of sunglasses.... Thus, with my year refill of contacts I got a free pair of Vera Bradley sunglasses with lovely case! Price tag said $139. This is a definite upgrade from my usual $12 T.arget shades. Sweet!

Me in new shades.

VB glasses and case.

I didn't get to choose my case, but I love this teal/brown print.

Blog Friends:
Today Em and I met my blog friend Katie and her cute-as-pie twins for a playdate. I'll give more details in a future post (including pictures---Katie is a wonderful photographer!) A great time was had by all, and I believe future playdates are in store.... yay!

In 1 week I am going to a girl's-day-out lunch in Georgia. I'll be meeting blog friends Lynn and Kym in person for the first time. SUPER COOL!

That concludes this session of Friday Night Leftovers. Thanks, Danifred for being a swell hostess!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

35 Today

Birthday: I turn 35 today. After re-reading last year's birthday post HERE, I find I am in the same place in many ways. Still hoping, still wanting Child #2, still wondering if I am "meant" to have another child, or if I should try to turn off my longings and be content as a mom of "an only."

What's new this year? I have been diligent about charting my cycles. I have borrowed a fertility monitor and have been using it to determine the ultimate "babydance" days. I met with my OB in January and reviewed the few charts I had. DH and I are to continue "getting busy" on my peak fertility days each month for 6 months. I have a follow-up OB appointment scheduled for early August. If I am not PG by that time, OB will refer us for further testing (she mentioned specifically semen analysis for DH...I don't know yet what I would be involved in.) I am a little frustrated at waiting 6 more months when it feels like we've been waiting forever (we've been trying to get PG for almost 3 years now.) However, as I wasn't actively charting, taking temperature, or consistently using the fertility monitor, I can't blame doc for encouraging that route of "trying" first.

What's similar to last year? Much of why I want a baby is because sibling relationships are important to me. I want Emma to have a sibling! She wants a sibling too, mentioning casual things now and then. For example, when she didn't want to wear her Easter hairclips this week, she told me I could "keep them for if I get a Baby Sister someday." Sighs.

Showers for Friends: Baby Shower #2 went mostly well. My expectant gal-pal is PG with a boy, so unlike Shower #1 where the girly items made me nostalgic, the boy clothes and toys were unfamiliar to me...and good God were the tiny baby clothes the cutest things EVER. I am in love with the teeny-tiny socks that look like sneakers! I was pleasantly surprised to see 2 co-workers from my old school, so I ended up sitting between the two of them. It was good to reminisce and catch up...and luckily for me, this helped keep my mind from dwelling/wandering. Whew!

Spring Break Fun:
Em and I visited Fort Clinch State Park yesterday. (Ft. Clinch was an active fort during the Civil War. It's located near Fernandina Beach...about 45 minutes north of Jacksonville.) Em loved walking around the large fort, through the brick tunnels, and then visiting the nearby beach. Pics below...

Em with cannon on the roof of the fort.

Larger view of roof/cannon area.

Dining Hall

Em in one of the fort tunnels.

Laundry area.

Where soldiers could get uniforms, shoes, and blankets.

Tool shed.

Em thought it was neat to see a U.S. flag without 50 stars.

The main bunker inside the fort.

Em found a shady bench.

Splish splash girl.

Em: "Look at the parking garage I made!"

My beach girl.

Mission accomplished! She-who-hates-naps was sacked out on the car ride home!

Lastly, me with Cannon #35 in honor of my b-day. Here's to the next 35!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


The sandals: "Too big, I wanna wear my Crocs."
The cute short-sleeve sweater: "Too itchy."
The Easter hair clips: "Those pull my hair, I wanna wear a headband."

Lovely weather. Gorgeous flowers blooming on our next door neighbor's tree. Little girl who loves to pose for pictures...priceless.

From our house to yours, Happy Easter 2010!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Break and Award Essay

Spring Break: Yesterday was the first day of Spring Break. Em and I stayed home and had a PJ day. I was able to get caught up on much blog reading and commenting--yay! Em played dress up, "soccer" (which involves kicking a ball around from our living room to kitchen and back,) "ballet" (dressing up and dancing to music,) and Barbies among other things. (I especially liked when she got out her High S.chool M.usical dolls and was acting out the movie with them---too funny!) We didn't bathe or get dressed until after 5 in the afternoon when DH called to ask if we wanted to go to dinner when he got home from work. After a quick dinner at Moe's we were back home to our PJs. Ahhhh, what a first day of break!

Today is shower #2. Shower #1 surprised me....rather than feeling baby longings and bump envy as I anticipated, I actually felt nostalgic and reminiscent.... The teacher/wife in Shower #1 are having a baby girl, so much of the clothing and blankets reminded me of items I used with Emma long ago. For shower #1 I was able to give $$ to a friend who purchased a gift from both of us. For today's shower I went to T.arget myself and felt like a punch in the gut as I walked through the baby aisles there. So thank you, dear friends, for the warm wishes...I hope today's shower goes as well as Tuesday's did.

Tomorrow is Easter! Wow! The year is flying by. Em seems to have a better understanding of the reason we celebrate Easter than she has in prior years. Her school set up neat stations that teachers escorted students to this week: Wine/water to discuss miracles, bowl of water w/ a towel and chair to discuss Jesus washing the disciple's feet, manger scene to celebrate Jesus' birth, footprints to discuss the disciples running away from God, a cross to discuss Jesus' death, etc. Really neat idea!

School Stuff: On my planning day this week I was able to get ALL of my lesson plans for the month of April finished. Woot woot! This includes copying/clipping worksheets and assignments I'll need. Awesome! It's hard to believe it will be the last quarter of the school year when we return.

--I'm tickled with a nice leather bag I found on sale at T.arget for just under $30....I bought it as an early birthday present for myself, as I've been wanting a new work bag. (Also, buying other non-shower items helped diffuse the shopping experience.) I love that it came with a removable zipper "sleeve" that my netbook will fit in if I need to take my computer anywhere. Double cool!

--Why is it that curse words are the first things people often learn in a new language? One of my newest students was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She's only been in the U.S. a few months, and speaks VERY minimal English. In the middle of class last week, she was trying to record on her computer, but the headphones/microphone wouldn't work. I was stunned when she said, "I hate this fucking computer" in the middle of my classroom. I had to speak with her one-on-one in the hallway. She was totally embarrassed...she knew she was saying a bad word, but to quote one of my favorite movies, she didn't realize it was "the mother of all curse words."

--My principal and I received an email message this week stating that my nomination form for the "All Star Teacher Award" is being reviewed. They asked us to submit growth reports showing the reading level gains in my classes. WOW! I'm excited to be considered....let's see what happens next...

--Lastly, I am attempting one more time to cut/paste the essay I wrote which was submitted as part of my nomination packet. (Thanks to Heather at Geek by Marriage and her DH Jase for helping me figure out how to get rid of all the "meta tags" crud!)

The Prompt: Using at least 150 words, please describe how your R180 classroom tells the story of truly turning students' lives around.

My Essay Response:
I began my post-college career as a Social Worker. Working as a case manager and advocate for Children's Services enabled me to witness many parents making positive life changes. After a few years, I felt that my once-a-month visits with the children on my caseload created limited relationship building. I wanted a profession where I could work with children on a daily basis! Thus, I completed the coursework necessary to become an educator. Seven years later, much of what keeps me in the teaching profession are not the academics, but rather the relationships I develop each year with my students. I believe that rapport and creating a safe learning environment are vital to helping students learn. A secure environment is especially essential when students have deficient reading skills. Students who are embarrassed because of their below grade level abilities MUST have a place where they can learn skills without being belittled by others. Thus, I strive to create a safe haven---making fun of others is OFF LIMITS in my classroom. Through encouragement and tangible goal setting, my students learn and grow.

Three years ago my district implemented the R180 program in all middle school reading classrooms. R180 has merged perfectly with my core beliefs. The reports and data available help me work together with students to set reachable goals. Resources that are a key part of the curriculum enable me to easily differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs, which is extremely important as my classes have a vast range of reading levels. The teacher-student conferencing which is an integral part of R180 assists in my rapport building. Learning students' interests helps me connect them with engaging books they find appealing. Most importantly, the R180 program allows me to have more time doing what is most important to me---getting to know my students...

This year I have worked with many teenagers who are coping with complicated situations in their home lives, including: two students who have an incarcerated parent; one student who along with his brother were the sole survivors of a car accident which claimed the lives of everyone else in their family; a student who witnessed the murder of his step-father; and another student whose family moved to the U.S. to escape war in her home country. I am humbled that as 8th graders, some of these children have endured horrendous heartache. I am excited when we work together to increase the student's comprehension skills, test taking strategies, and/or vocabulary proficiency.

One student I've worked with this school year is J.B., an English Language Learner whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. The first few weeks of the school year, J.B. seemed angry and upset. In conferencing with her, I learned that she was disappointed to be in R180 for a third year. I was able to show J.B. data indicating the HUGE amount of growth she has made since starting the R180 program. J.B. was particularly awed by the graphs which show an increase in her overall reading level. By getting to know J.B. and finding interesting books within her reading range, I was able to "hook" her and re-connect her with the positive aspects of R180. To date, she has taken the second highest amount of book quizzes of any 8th graders at our school this year! What a turn around!

The R180 program has assisted me in changing students' lives for the better. By enabling me to confer with students while teaching reading skills and strategies, I am able to show students that I don't just care about their academics, but about their well-being. On an almost daily basis I am able to witness the "180" my students are making within their own lives. I am thrilled with their reading gains, but my heart sings to think that I might have helped them to make a "turn around" within their personal lives as well.

--It's a national award, so I don't know how much of a shot I have. There are 4 awards given, but only 1 for the middle school level. My main concern is that they will want something that is more reading-focused. However, this essay is ME and why I teach. I love the R180 curriculum, but I don't want my essay to be just a commercial for their product.

--The weather here is gorgeous! Finally in the low 80's. We've had our house windows open the last several days....LOVE it! Happy Spring, everyone!