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.