Wednesday, December 19, 2012

there's no place like home for the holidays.

After having the wall repaired where the tub was leaking, we finally have our house ready for Christmas.  And with a few days to spare!  It's crazy here as we finish getting ready for Christmas at  home and I finish up everything with my kiddos at school, so just a few pictures tonight.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

christmas time with the beer-nardos

At our house, we are big fans of countdowns of any sort, and especially big fans of Advent calendars.  I always had a tower of Advent boxes growing up that my Grandma loaded up with candy for us to countdown the days until Christmas.  While my Grandma no longer fills up our boxes, I have found other ways to countdown to Christmas, and Mark, of course, has his own special way.

For the past couple Christmas seasons, Mark has been getting his Advent calendar from a friend of a friend, but this year, he was heartbroken to find out that this friend was not going to be putting the calendar together again.  Mark simply could not go without it after having had his Advent calendar for the last two years, so he took it upon himself to make it.

What kind of calendar is it, you ask?  Why, a Beer Calendar, of course.  Mark loves to sit down every evening leading up to Christmas to relax and have a beer.  And this year, he collected a list of twenty three other friends and family members who would enjoy this exact same thing.

Mark and his (way too much) beer
He then went to the beer distributer, bought over $1,000 worth of beer, and recruited me to help him switch them all around.  And after a few nights hard labor, we now have twenty four cases of beer, each with twenty four different bottles of beer in them, waiting to be delivered to our eager friends and relatives (and gotten out of our living room).
my fancy numbers on the caps

Mark's blogging about each beer at his new fancy blog The Beer-nardo Blog.

Monday, November 26, 2012

happy birthday to me!

Once upon a time, Mr. B bought an incredibly (too) large TV for our tiny, tiny apartment.  In order to get me to agree, he gifted me a "Kitty Voucher"--a coupon entitling me to picking out a kitten from a shelter once we moved into a larger house.  For our first anniversary, he gave me a "Pup-grade," allowing me to get a puppy with my voucher if I so chose.

Scooter and Mattie on the ride home from the shelter.

Lucy went home earlier this week, and I have been going through puppy withdrawl. I have likened it to a bad high school break-up. I miss that puppy. When we got word that Mr. B's aunt would be going home and Lucy would be going home, I started looking for a shelter pup to adopt. There are so many shelter pups in the greater area around here... and I am a sucker. Every cute pup I found online, I would read his or her description... and they all had a friend. In fact, I found two separate cute dog listings, and both of them had friends. How lucky was I when I realized that the friend Scooter was talking about was Mattie and the friend Mattie was talking about was Scooter!

For my birthday, we went to pick up these two adorable Shih Tzus. Scooter is seven years old and Mattie is six years old. They're just starting to get adjusted to our house and Mr. B and I, but so far, so good!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

happy thanksgiving and pumpkin waffles

Happy Thanksgiving!  Sadly, I am not talented cook.  Cooking is simply a talent that I did not get--I usually leave that to my Gram, Grandma and my little sister, Melinda.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at my Gram's, and as the nice granddaughter that I am, I offered to make something for our dinner.  Gram told me I didn't need to bring anything, so I insisted that I would then make some waffles to kick off the celebration while everyone else was getting ready to cook the day away.

Waffles are one of the few things that I take great pride in my ability to make.  I like to make my batter from scratch and use my perfect waffle iron we got as a wedding gift.  For Thanksgiving, I decided to try adding some canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and extra butter to my waffle batter.  I want to try the recipe some more and make sure it is perfected before I post it, but the waffles were delicious.  I didn't even add syrup to them, they were that good!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

thanksgiving secrets are so much fun.

I love this time of year in my classroom.  Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season, and I love including all of the festivities in what we are doing in our learning.  I also enjoy spending some time on extra, more "fun" craftivities.

My favorite thing we did to get ready for Thanksgiving was our "Thanksgiving Secrets."  Last year, after searching Pinterest for inspiration, I found two great activities that I loved (The Thanksgiving Story Bracelet and Handprint Turkey Keepsakes) and combined them into one fantastic, super-project.

Materials Needed:
- paint
- construction paper
- cardboard
- pipe cleaners
- poem print-out (I changed the words from the original a bit to better suit our classroom and the bead colors I was able to find)
- glue sticks
- pony beads

We worked on these for a few days for five to ten minutes each time.  The first time, we painted the handprint turkeys.  We used Crayola Washable Kids' Paint for this--the kids picked the feather colors, painted their fingers and then printed them on quarter sheets of construction paper.  I love that first graders' hands are small enough to fit on a piece of paper that big!

When those were dry, each student got his or her handprint and a poem printout and glued them on either side of the cardboard.  I poked little holes at the top of the cardboard with an xacto knife before giving the kids the cardboard.  I gave the class each (half) a pipe cleaner (I forgot to pick up more, so I had to use the leftovers from last year.  Get more.  They are much more functional with a longer hanger) and gave them the pony beads they needed.  We read the poem as a class, with the students waving their hands in the air like they were on a roller coaster when they read a color word.  We strung the beads as we went, and then they closed off the hanger by threading it through the holes.

My favorite part, though, was when I gave the class the chance to add some extra details to their turkeys with markers.  Feet, eyeglasses and fancy hair were all making appearances on their turkeys!

The class was so excited to take them home today after our Thanksgiving Feast party and give them to their families. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

word building and cookie sheets--how i (try to) get kiddos excited about spelling!

I survived my first round of parent/teacher conferences at my new school this past week.  They went very well, but one thing was clear--some of my first graders do NOT like spelling.  My students completed a personal report card for me to share with their grown-ups during the conferences, and I was surprised by how many students gave spelling a sad face or an "ok" face, despite doing very well on spelling tests and loving the challenge words.

To try to make spelling more fun (or at least give it some novelty for a bit), I decided to change the way we do word building.  We have been doing word building off and on all year, but had been using little, laminated slips of paper that I had inherited from the previous teacher.  Let me tell you why I hated them:  1.) They were a pain in the butt.  2.) They were black and white--NOT FUN! and 3.) They were a pain in the butt. 

The slips were all together in a big box with compartments for each letter.  I will give them that they were at least sorted by letter.  I had to sort out the letters into little cups for each student every time I wanted to do word building, and I had a student attempt to sort them back in when it was clean up time (and I, of course, had to double check because I'm a little crazy).  This took way too much of my time.

So to try to fix this whole set up, I requested on my class website for a donation of dollar store cookie sheets.  I was incredibly excited when one of my kiddos arrived one Monday morning with an entire stack of them for me!  I then created a Word file with each letter printed multiple times so I could print them out and get to work.  I printed the consonants on blue cardstock and the vowels on red cardstock, laminated and then got out my trusty mini paper cutter.  I trimmed down the letters, stuck little bits of magnet tape on the back...  and WOO! New word building, with the letters already on the trays.

Now, all I have to do is pass them out!  We've only used them twice since I finished them, but the kids seemed to enjoy using them more than the little slips, it took me less than two minutes to get everything into their hands and there were no slips or magnets on the floor at the end.  WIN.  Despite the hours (upon hours) it took me to make all 13 trays, I still think this was a win.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the election results are in...

What a crazy day in first grade.  We spent the day learning all about Election Day, did our usual math and phonics routines, and even had a fire safety lesson that I may or may not have let slip my mind, and we still somehow pushed through and got everything done.  I had a blast with first grade today--and I think they had a pretty ok time, too.

Makes me feel old--these kiddos won't be able to vote for another 12 years!First thing when the kiddos arrived this morning, I heard little conversations of voting and why were the grown-ups talking about it.  I jumped in right away, and told them that we did not have to worry about the grown-ups and who they voted for because I had a feeling it might start some fights in first grade, and I didn't think it was a good idea for us to fight over something that we had no control over.  First grade agreed with me--win!  We had no arguments of "My mommy voted for this person," "Well, my daddy voted for this person!"--which at my school, was a miracle.

We spent our morning talking about what election day meant--that people were today voting for the President of the United States and other offices.  We discussed how often people vote for President and we calculated as a class when the first Presidential election my first graders would be able to vote in was.  This fantastic chart was the product of those dicussions.  We talked about how important it was for people to research and learn about the candidates before they voted, and how it would be first grade's responsibility when they can vote twelve years from now--and today during our first grade election.

Then, we read three stories--Grace for President, Duck for President, and My Teacher for President.  We used these stories as the basis for our "informed decisions" for our election.  As a class, we created a list for Grace, Duck and Mrs. B--why each would make a good president.  I must admit, that one of the reasons I would make a good president--according to first grade--is because I can do a good cartwheel (WHY didn't anyone ask Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama to do a cartwheel during any of the debates?  That could have potentially made my decision SO MUCH easier...).  Overall, though, they listed things like "Grace worked hard even though she didn't have to," "Duck wasn't bossy," and "Mrs. B is a good listener."  I was impressed.

When it came down to it, each first grader had the chance to go into the "voting booth" I created--a corner of our classroom sectioned off with a sheet hanging from the ceiling.  Inside, was a desk, a stamp pad, a rubber stamper, a stack of ballots and the ballot box.  Each kiddo got to go in to the booth and make the choice in private.  My kiddos made me proud--they did not discuss who voted for who.  They also insisted I cast a vote (they reminded me it was my civic duty...).  Once voting was over, they were SO EXCITED to find out who the President of First Grade would be.  We ran short on time, so I quickly counted ballots while the class packed up.

I didn't get many pictures inside the voting booth...First Grade was NOT letting the media in.

The results of our election were as follows:

Grace - 1
Duck - 1
Mrs. B - 13

One little problem--voter fraud in first grade.  I will admit--I voted for Grace (I didn't feel right voting for me, even if I can do a mean cartwheel...).  BUT...  I only have 13 kids in my class.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween-ween.

Happy Halloween from Mr. B, Lucy and me.  May you eat lots of candy, and not get sick.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

mammal strike at the zoo!

My school is awesome--we use an integrated curriculum approach to learning to tie everything together and give the kiddos concrete meaning to the concepts we are studying.  In first grade, this largely looks like our monthly unit and me trying to tie everything to it as best as I can--which sometimes is tough, but most of the time, really fun.

During October, my class has been studying mammals.  We studied the characteristics of mammals, learned about the rule breakers that lay eggs, learned about their different habitats and read SO MANY books about mammals (my class loved Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type). 

More Space to Race!Cut the Vines!
First grade spent most of the month learning about different kinds of sentences--and like most six year olds (and their teacher), they LOVED exclamations!  To get ready for our field trip to the zoo tomorrow, we read Animal Strike at the Zoo.  It's True! and then created strike posters for their favorite mammals.  I was so impressed with the creativity my class showed when we made these today!

I want my mommy!Back to the Wild!
I quit!
After reading the story, as a class, we came up with different slogans that the mammals may want to put on their signs--the only requirement was that they needed to be exclamations.  I wrote all of our ideas on the board, and then set the class free with construction paper and markers to create their own.  I gave them the choice of using one of our slogans or they could create their own.  Check out some of the signs my kiddos made!

This zoo stinks! I'm frooe with the zoo!  We want rootbeer!  More peanuts!  That's it!No more grass, more mud!

Monday, October 15, 2012

christmas in the woods!

Yesterday, I went to Christmas in the Woods along with my mom, grandma, gram, aunts, cousins, sister, in-laws and some family friends.  Last year, my mom, gram, my cousin, Sara, and I went for the first time.  We talked it up so much to the rest of our family that, this year, we took a group of more than twenty people to celebrate my Grandma's 80th birthday.  Our large group had a grand adventure, and I would love to share some of that grand adventure with you.

My cousin, Sara, and I really went to Christmas in the Woods just to go shopping at Berries in the Meadow's booth.  We spent a good deal of our budgeted money there last year, and this year, since I had an idea of what I could find, I budgeted more money to spend there.  I am so excited about my purchases--I can't wait until all this painting madness is done at our house so I can hang up my new things!  Check out these pictures of all of the goodies Berries in the Meadow has to offer.

On our adventure, I bought a few things--but my favorite was definitely this giant block to hang on the wall in our entry way (above our red Target cabinet).  I also bought (and quickly consumed) a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  Next year, Christmas in the Woods runs October 12-13 and 19-20.  I'm already planning our trip for next year!

And, for good measure, a picture of my grandma and my gram unwrapping birthday presents and enjoying their lunches.

Friday, October 12, 2012

i take such delight in being organized.

I am loving this "getting ready for Christmas" early thing.  I feel like I am so on top of things--and it's only October!  This week's tasks included:  compile card list, compile a list of people who will be given gifts and putting them all together in my Holiday Planner.

I also may have had too much fun with my photo editor on my phone...I am so proud of my Holiday Planner.   I love having everything organized, and I love having a binder that is specifically dedicated to everything. (Side note:  Did you see last night's episode of 30 Rock?  Liz Lemon is turned on by organization and office supplies.  At one point, Mr. B just glared at me with a stare that was nothing if not accusing me of something.)  It's fairly empty now, but as the holiday season gets closer (and closer, and closer), it will bulk up and I will have everything I need all in one place.

My planner is split into seven sections--October, November, December, Cookie Party, Card List, Gift List and Recipes.  Right now, the October, November, and December sections only have calendars in them. 

The Cookie Party section is for my annual cookie exchange I host.  In this section, I have a page protector for old invitations and a print out with a list of last years invited guests, with those who were able to attend highlighted.  There's room for this year's list...  and next year's...  and even 2014's.  The card list has my complete list of people who will get cards this year, with their addresses.  I am so proud of myself for having this part done and ready right now!

My gift list is what I am particularly proud of right now.  This section starts out with a simple check list of the people we intend to give gifts to so I can check them off after purchasing them.  After that, I created some print outs to organize my thoughts on gift ideas, the working budget for each gift and a checklist for when it is bought, wrapped, packed and given away.  I might have to add to it a "where it is hidden" part, though.  I have this section separated into "Family" and "Friends."

Our work in this house has hit a stand still--Mr. B is still trying to get that wall fixed up.  My dad came down to work with him the other night.  After completing a deep clean of our living room, I have been working on my planner and getting my unit for this month and next month together for school.
I can't wait for this weekend's fun--on Sunday, we're going to Christmas in the Woods in Columbiana, OH.  I am so excited.  I will probably showcase some pictures after the trip.  We also have a furry house guest for at least the next few weeks.  Meet Lucy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

one step forward... and seventeen steps back.

Mr. B has officially banned me from the everything room.  The wall with a little water damage?  Tonight when he was working, all of the paint peeled off.  I got sad.  He told me I'm not allowed in anymore.  He said it got worse.

My desk won't be ready this weekend.  Sad face.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

some progress.

After working every evening this past week on different things around the house--Mr. B in the "everything" room and I in the kitchen...  we have a little to show for it.  Very little.  But progress is progress.

I concentrated on getting the kitchen organized.  I wish I would have taken pictures before...  it would appear to be a much more miraculous transformation then.  Lesson learned.  Our cabinets around the stove were a hot mess--storage containers just thrown in, spices literally falling out of the cabinet when you open the door, and while sorting everything out, I encounter not one, not two, but three (opened) bags of brown sugar and two (opened) bags of powdered sugar.  I let Mr. B unpack the kitchen when we moved, and trusted his memory when making grocery lists when I went to get ingredients for wedding cookies (lesson learned).

Now, things are a little better.  I got some clear plastic boxes from Dollar Tree and sorted things out--ingredients for cookies, sweets and baked goods in one bin, more savory seasonings and the like into two others.  It is going to be SO much easier to find things now.  Someday, I'll make cute labels to go on the bins, but for now, this will do.  I cleaned out one of my favorite pots that I thought Mr. B had ruined burning homemade barbecue sauce--I boiled white vinegar in it for a really long time, and added some baking soda for the extra bubbles.  The house smelled like Easter eggs for a bit, but once I scrubbed the floors and the top of the fridge, it smelled delicious, like lemons and lavender.

Isn't the grey color wonderful?  I love it even more with the second coat.While I was doing that, Mr. B was upstairs working in the everything room.  He finished adding a second coat to the walls, and began sanding down the trim to get it ready for a fresh coat of paint.  But then, he thought wood was splintering off the trim as he sanded.  Luckily, that was not the case--it was just A LOT of old paint.  He also came across some water damage under the paint in the corner near my washer.  So he had to fix that up.  We're waiting for that whole mess to try so he can touch up the wall, and then repaint the trim.  Joe Schmoe (the old owner of our place) was surely a delight.

But!  My dad brought our filing cabinets down from my parents' house.  They're sitting in our dining area right now, waiting until they can be moved upstairs.  Seeing them when I come downstairs in the morning just makes me smile.  The turquoise color is just ridiculous.

I'm working on my holiday planner--I'll post about it soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

october = almost christmas. really?!

Oh my stars.  It is October already.  It's hard to believe--I feel like I'm just beginning to feel fully recovered from the insanity that was my August.  It's already been two months since we were in Roanoke for my pseudo-brother's wedding and all the family crazy started (two more weddings, Gram's 75th birthday, my Pap Pap's 90th birthday, my family of Danes coming to visit, hosting two picnics within two weeks at our house, I'm sure there was more, too).  And, I have been at my new school officially for over a month now.  Things should be settling down soon, right?  (Good joke.)

Now that I have settled into a sort of rhythm and routine at school, it's time for me to take a little care of our house.  Things have certainly gotten away from me while I was getting into the school year.  I have piles of scrapbook paper and other school supplies tossed around everywhere.  Goal:  Deep clean the house.

My husband and I bought our first house (a townhouse, really) and moved in at the beginning of April.  It took us until the beginning of July to get settled in--we painted a fresh coat of paint in most of the rooms, unpacked box after box, and bought some new furniture to fill in some of the empty spots.  Now that we've been able to actually live in it for a few months, we're beginning some new projects.

Our first "big" project is our everything room.  Right now, Mr. B's getting ready to paint a second coat of the gorgeous grey we chose.  After that, we will be constructing our new desk.  We sold his old desk on Craigslist and got it moved out last night (and an extra $85 in our pocket)--it was a fairly nice, IKEA corner desk.  Mr. B had owned it before we got married, though...  and it did not function as a shared desk very well.  We repainted some old filing cabinets and bought an IKEA butcher block counter top and will be creating a shared desk area out of that.  I can't wait until it's all ready to go.

While he's doing the painting, I'm doing some reorganizing, deep cleaning and getting a headstart on the holidays.  (Yes.  I told you I am a Christmas Queen.  I already bought a few Christmas presents.  I think about these things in July.) 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

field trips.

Field Trips.  Truth be told, I cannot decide whether or not I love them or I hate them.  Story time.

The first field trip I ever took a class on was a trip to the pumpkin farm with my kindergarten class.  This was, simply put, the field trip from h. e. double hockey sticks.  Fact: It was my first field trip as a teacher ever.  Fact: It was a whole school field trip.

I had everything ready.  I thought.  I had just enough chaperones, and had split the class up into groups with a parent in charge of each group.  I had lists to give the parents.  I had name tags.  I had printed directions to the farm for the parent drivers.  I had calculated what our bill would come out to.  I had all the money.  We were scheduled to leave after lunch, so I didn't have to worry about taking lunch bags.  I had a fantastic mentor teacher going with me and would be able to help me if anything went wrong.

It was mid-October, I believe.  I had been with my class for a little over a month, and did not know many of the parents.  Getting enough chaperones had been a struggle.  One of my parents had to cancel last minute because her daughter was sick.  I had twins in my class and their parents worked constantly, so they were unable to come and opted to send the twins' grandfather instead.  I had never, ever met this man in my entire life.  Chaperones were supposed to arrive, check in in the office and meet the teachers outside the cafeteria to get their lists, directions and review what our schedule was.

I arrive to meet the chaperones.  Everyone is there, except the twins' grandfather.  We wait for him.  And wait for him.  I have to pick up the class from lunch and get on our way.  I tell the parents that I will return with the kiddos, and hopefully, our missing chaperone will arrive while I'm gone.  I get my class, and three of my kids are missing.  The lunch monitor says one went to the restroom, and the other two, the twins, went with their grandfather already.  I am already freaking out a little bit.  There are 11 kids in my class.  THREE are missing--more than 25%.  We assume they are somewhere in the building.  I take the rest of my class to the chaperones, tell my mentor teacher that I am going to find the missing children and chaperone, and that I will drive myself to the pumpkin farm once I figure things out.  We should have left twenty minutes ago.

I look all over the school for them.  The secretary determines that the grandfather's car is not in the parking lot--he must have left for the field trip already with the twins.  We try calling him.  We think he's driving the car, so he does not answer his cell phone.  I leave three voicemails for him to call me as soon as possible.  I continue to look ALL OVER THE SCHOOL for the other little girl.  She was a "hider"--she would get upset about something and hide anywhere.  She would hide inside lockers (not necessarily her own) or climb on top of the toilet in a stall so you couldn't see her feet.  I looked everywhere.

Finally, the secretary tells me to go.  She will continue searching and if she finds the little girl, she will let me know.

I drive there and thankfully, do not get lost.  When I pull in the parking lot, somehow the rest of the school is still unloading (I have no idea how fast I had to have driven...  I was searching for at least 15-20 minutes).  I see the twins.  I see the missing little girl.  I see a man I guess must be the twins' grandfather.  I get out, call the secretary and then go to talk to my mentor teacher.  She has the twins' older sister in her class, so she tells me she will talk to the grandfather about not letting anyone know that he was taking the children.

I pay for myself twice for the field trip.  Kids fall in the mud.  I bought apple butter.

I eventually get to talk to the grandfather myself--I introduce myself as Mrs. B, the kindergarten teacher.  We have a five minute conversation about the twins.  And later, I hear him ask the twins who their teacher is.

The next field trip, the twins did not go.  The missing little girl was always in my group of students--which was only her.

And why am I thinking about this today?  We went on our first first grade field trip today to a nature reserve.  And it was the EASIEST, LEAST STRESSFUL field trip ever.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

a real teacher.

What am I excited about today?  My new schedule cards!  The first week of school, my first graders started to make me nuts asking me six times a day, "How many things do we have to do before it's time to go home!?"  My solution to that was to start writing the schedule on the board.  My intent all of August was to make some fancy schmancy schedule cards to put into a mini pocket chart (I collect them from Target's dollar bin when they get marked down to $.30), but that never happened.

This week, I thought...  why don't I just make some cards, stick some magnets on the back and put them on the white board?  So in all of the free time I had at home and school, I created these.  I designed them in Publisher Tuesday night, printed them out Wednesday morning, cut them out Wednesday at lunch and laminated them during my prep period.  I may not have accomplished writing many lesson plans yesterday, but these cards are great!

We used them today for the first time--we moved a star post-it down the schedule as we completed things.  The kids LOVED it.  We needed to adjust the schedule some when my computer dropped the network key unexpectedly as I was setting up for math (and therefore, had no access to the video to introduce the new topic or any other online curriculum materials), and all we did was move some cards around on the board.  The class didn't question it the rest of the day because they could see what we were doing so easily.  I loved it--all I had to do to get it ready for tomorrow were some minor changes.

And in other news...  it only took until my second year of teaching, but I was officially given apples by a student.  I guess I'm really a teacher now.