Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Almost Made it!

At the end of the school year, I swore that I would avoid school during the ENTIRE month of July. Well, faced with a number of appointments next week, I decided it was time to go in and begin to plug away, bit by bit, at my classroom. I spent Monday and Tuesday in the classroom, planning a new set up for the classroom and unpacking a little here and a little there.

Here's what I started with on Monday: 

Look how clean and shiny those floors are! 

We have to pack everything up at the end of each school year, so even though I didn't move this year, I still have a ton of unpacking to do. I hate the idea of packing and unpacking every year, but it does force to me to clean things out, which I like. I found hand sanitizer under my sink yesterday that had expired in 2007, which means that it's been sitting in that classroom for many more years than I have been there since I only arrived last year. Adios expired hand sanitizer! 

I don't know why, but for me, the bulletin boards are always the first thing that I must do. I feel a terrible anxiety with unfinished bulletin boards. Needless to say, Monday's focus was unpacking, which meant that Tuesday's focus was, you guessed it, BULLETIN BOARDS!

After 8 years of teaching, I have an extensive list of bulletin board trim. This should stop me from purchasing new ones each year, but it doesn't! Since I'm doing an owl theme this year, I just HAD to have some owl border. Then I wanted new Dots on Turquoise Paisley Borders. Oh, and then I found this really cute border for my other board...

Five new bulletin board trims, plus the other 30+ sets that I already had, and I swear, the decision process was grueling! Since I don't like to have the same colors year after year, but wanted to stick to my theme in blues and greens, that meant buying new fadeless bulletin board paper. I don't change my paper during the year and fadeless paper seriously does not fade so I think it's worth the investment. In fact, when I went to take my awesome teal paper from last year down I realized that it still looked pretty awesome, so I just changed out the borders. I put five different borders up before I finally came to a decision. Boards decorated...check! Deciding what to put on them is a decision for another day...

Since I made a day of it, I also began to reorganize my classroom library, and as I was working on it and staring at the wall space above my ottomans, I had an epiphany! The open space would be PERFECT for my new owl posters. I can't begin to explain just how excited I was when this idea popped in to my head! I grabbed my command strips and got to work. I am thrilled with the results! See what you think:

 Whooooooo's ready to read? 

After a couple of days in the classroom, I feel a bit less anxious about the upcoming year. I have a LOOOONG way to go, but at least I left yesterday with a sense of accomplishment and a really cute reading area!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Did I Just Leave The Dollar Tree With That Many Bags?

Ok, let's get back to talking about school stuff. I bought at a lot of items for the upcoming school year at the end of last year, as a way to not end up in August panic mode. However, no matter how prepared you think you are, I am sure that all of my fellow teachers know that there will still be a list of items you need. If you are like me, this means 50 post-its in random places, each with one item that you think of as you are watching TV, working out, etc. Oh, the post-it notes that we find around the house. My husband loves it  It drives my husband crazy!

Anyway, as I was feeling ahead of the game, I figured I'd take a trip to The Dollar Tree to pick up a few items that are still on my list (the one that I made from my stack of I grabbed a basket and began my shopping. I mean, how much can you fit in a basket, right?

How about THIS MUCH?

Yes, ladies and gentleman, for the first time in my life, I spent over $50 at The Dollar Tree! Thank goodness for TpT earnings!

I'm sure you are there a NEED for each of these? The always correct answer would be YES! I am going to break my purchases down below in hopes that you might see something that you NEED as well and then you can be savvy and grab it from The Dollar Tree too! Are you ready for my breakdown and justifications? Here we go: 

Super Blow Pops 4-Packs
These are a part of my birthday gift for each student throughout the year. You can read about my birthday rewards here:

Computer Paper (40-packs) for Homework Superstar Rewards, Birthdays, and whatever else may come up. Office Depot charges $6.99 for a pack of 100. Though these are a bit thinner, I still consider them to be a great deal and I should be set for the year, maybe even next year too!

If you were to use your inferencing skills, you might think I make my students brush after every meal all year long. However, this is for our first week Toothpaste Activity. Students work in groups to squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out as fast as they can on to the paper plate. Then, the next task is to take the toothpicks and try to get as much toothpaste as possible back in. I maybe give them 10-15 minutes before they realize that they aren't getting it back in. That's when we have a discussion about words. I let them have an open discussion about words or phrases that have been said to them that have hurt them. I write all of the acceptable words and phrases on the board (and if an inappropriate one comes up, I don't freak out, I just tell them that the word is so hurtful that I can't even write it on the board). Then I take a step away from the board and say, "Students, these are toothpaste words. When I asked you to squeeze the toothpaste, it was like the words that sometimes come out of your mouth, some of which are hurtful. Then I asked you to put those words back in and what happened?" Students will recognize that they can't take the words back and a discussion begins about how carefully we should choose our words, even when we are angry. This is an amazing lesson, and my students referred back to it often. You can grab a print out of the directions and a reflections sheet here: 

Squeeze toys! 

Gosh, these are so fun! My students loved them last year. In my class, these are used to identify the person in the group who is sharing. The only person that is talking is the one holding the toy, and they pass it around until everyone has held it and shared. Great for group discussions. Bonus points because they look forward to discussions because they get to touch the toy. They do get a little icky after a year, which is why I got these replacements. I love the caterpillars and wish they had more than just those two!

Mini Tote Bags in packs of 2!

I have a strict policy on signing out books from my library overnight. I keep a separate sign out sheet and everything. My biggest concern is that the students don't ruin or lose my books. I am going to decorate these and call them the book overnight bags. I'm even contemplating adding something else to the bag, like a little bear or something. I'll post them when they are ready for use! 


Smarties are part of my Welcome Bag, which you can read all about here: Welcome Back Bag. They are also great for use with test motivator notes. In other words, I like to have them on hand at all times. Why pay $3 for a large bag at Walgreens when I get can get the same amount in two bags for $1 each? 

The snack stock

Seasoned teachers will probably know right away why I bought these. There are always going to be kids who skipped breakfast and then feel sick around 9am because their bellies are empty. Instead of sending them to the nurse, give them a pack of crackers. Problem solved, no learning time missed. You're welcome new teachers!

The basics: bright, neon colored index cards and colorful eraser caps. Items teachers can never get enough of! Enough said on that!

Stickers, stickers, stickers! In my Coupon Reward Post, I talked about a great rewards system that I use where students earn tickets that can be used for different items. I've decided that sticker sets can easily be worth 40 tickets. I love that I found stickers that will appeal to boys and girls. I also love that I can still find Lisa Frank stickers. What a throwback to my youth! 

Sets of 2 Posters! That's right, TWO!
These posters were a great find in the teacher section (yes, The Dollar Tree has a teacher section) since I am going with an owl theme and I am going to be teaching science this year! Score for Mrs. O! 

Now you know why I left The Dollar Store with more bags than ever before. I might have spent more than $50, but I came out with so many wonderful items, I felt overcome with joy for only spending $1 on each item I needed had a reason found a reason to purchase! If you aren't hitting up your local Dollar Tree, you are probably missing out, and spending way more money than you need to! 

I know it's still July, but the store ads are out, and I'm getting up early to find the best deals on scissors and pencil sharpeners. I think I'm officially in back to school mode! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hershey Travels

Now that I've filled you in on our honeymoon travels, it's time I filled you in on our family trip. This year we decided to go to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Growing up in New York, I had always wanted to visit, but our vacations were filled with amazing trips all over the Adirondacks, so we never quite made it there.

Since we live in Virginia, and our families still live in New York & New Jersey, we thought Pennsylvania would be a perfect place to go (though we definitely took the longer end of that drive). We tried to squeeze in a quick Phillies game, but it got rained out, so we didn't get to check that ballpark off of our list as planned. Anyway, we spent three wonderful days & nights there with my husband's parents, my stepson, and my nieces. I'm a huge fan of amusement parks and I will definitely say that Hersheypark was one of the best that I have been too. We spent two days in the park and we still didn't get on half of the rides. I'd go back in a heartbeat, especially since I still have some coasters to test out there! 

On the third day, we spent the day at Chocolate World, where we did chocolate tastings, saw a 4-D movie, rode through a fake factory (they don't do the real one anymore), made our own chocolate bars (for $15 each...ouch!), and took a trolley ride through the area, learning about Mr. Hershey, who was quite generous with his money, by the way! It was a chocolatey good time for everyone :-) We were definitely wiped out at the end of our third day and slept like babies each night. Driving back the fourth day, it felt like the longest 7 hours in a car EVER, but it was totally worth it for a great time and great memories with my husband's family.

Highlights of the trip include: 

  • Getting my 8 and 13 year old nieces and my 8 year old stepson to not only ride roller coasters, but also ride upside down roller coasters. I was so proud of all three kids for conquering their fears. 

  • Riding Skyrush, a roller coaster that is 200 feet high, going 75 miles an hour with five zero-G air time! Only my husband and I were brave enough to ride that one and I almost had a panic attack when I realized just how steep it was, but I overcame my fear too! 
You'd panic a little too, wouldn't you?

  • The peanut butter chocolate shake at Hershey's Chocolate World. Yum times infinity! 

Reese's is my favorite! 

The best part of our trip was seeing the constant smiles of my in-laws as they enjoyed everyones company. My husband has an amazing family and I am lucky to be a part of it and to be surrounded by such amazing people! 

I'll get back to blogging about school soon, but I'm a teacher on summer vacation, so it seems only fair that I share my summer with all of my wonderful followers! I hope that you are all enjoying your time as much as I am!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Long, Overdue Honeymoon!

Warning: I'm stealing a post to gush about our awesome honeymoon. If you're looking for teaching talk, you will have to scroll to the next post :-) Gotta steal some blog time for what I enjoy most in the summer: me time!

It's been a whirlwind of a summer vacation so far. I can't believe that July is almost over. It's time I share our travels (and lots of pics) with you!

The week after school got our, we went on our long, way overdue honeymoon. We selected California because it had everything we were looking for. We started off day #1 with 20 hours of delay thanks to a not-so-wonderful airline known as United. Their delays took an entire day off of our trip. Nothing like planning to arrive at 10am and then arriving at 10pm. But, hey, we were there!

On day #2 we did the touristy stuff, riding the tour bus around San Francisco, which was really pretty. We couldn't understand a word the driver was saying, but we were happy to see the Golden Gate Bridge and some other areas we would've never otherwise visited. We went to Alcatraz in the afternoon, which was something that my husband had wanted to do, but I ended up really enjoying, such a nice surprise! It was really rather interesting and the ferry ride over gave fantastic views. Here's a few pics from day #2:

Here it is, the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge!

San Francisco Bay

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Entrance Sign

There's Al Capone's cell. 

From there, we spent day #3-#6 in Napa Valley. We did not actually stay in Napa, we stayed in Yountville, which is definitely what I will do the next time we go to. I fell in love with Yountville and St. Helena. This was the view from our Bella Vista Suite:

I spent the entire time pretending that this was my home, and that those were my vineyards....ah, a girl can dream, can't she? We spent a whole day visiting wineries and vineyards. We asked our driver to take us to places with exquisite views that would wow us, and boy oh boy, did they ever. Here's a few pictures from those wineries: 

The view from the top: Newton Vineyards

Vineyards at ZD Wines

Did you know that grapes get stressed out? They actually grow better under stress. Doesn't that sound just like a teacher?

Needless to say, we had a fantastic time in Napa. In fact, we wished we had extended that part of the stay a bit longer, but we had to get back to San Francisco to get some baseball in! My husband and I are huge baseball fans, though we love rivalry teams. We were both brought up in families who love baseball, so the tradition passed on down to us. It is our goal to see all of the stadiums together in our lifetime so this trip included two trips, one to Oakland to see an A's game, and one to San Francisco to see a Giants game at the gorgeous AT&T Park. 

Oakland A's - O.Co.

AT&T Park - Definitely the prettiest park I've been to yet!

AT&T Park in San Francisco

As you can see, we had an amazing time. It was a bit hectic at times, and San Francisco was a bit overwhelming considering it was the week of July 4th, but we had a really fantastic time. After years of deployments, moves, and job changes, we finally took a honeymoon that fit "us" and I wouldn't change a thing...except maybe that 20 hours of travel! 

Hope you enjoyed a little peek into our amazing time! I'll share some hilarious pictures from our trip to Hershey, PA soon too! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Belated July Currently

I'll blame my delay on three weeks of travel. A pretty valid excuse to be late to the linky, right?

As always, I'm linking up with Farley for the July Currently

We've just returned from a few weeks of traveling, with a couple of down days in between. I don't know how two people produce so much laundry, but we have tons of it! I'm running out of drying rack space! In between, I can't get enough of this Restaurant Impossible show. I have a hard time finding any food related show I don't love, and when you add in some type of makeover, well, I just can't resist! 

All that travel took a lot out of me! I need July to last a little longer to recuperate from all this travel! It's time for me to take a vacation after my vacation :-) Next week is going to be all about me! I'm going to relax, and I've got a Dave Matthews Band show to attend (my 23rd to be exact). I need it! August is always go-time and it's slowly approaching! 

I'm excited about my decorative scheme, thinking about items I need to buy, and already wondering what my new students will be like, but I'm not letting it interfere with my vacation time just yet! I'm only thinking...the doing will come soon enough! 

I have had a toothache since May. Since school let out I've had three fillings and a root canal, and yet I am still in pain. I can't begin to express the amount of frustration I feel. I'm now on antibiotics. If it doesn't work, I'm ripping my teeth all out and getting!

Oh gosh, I am soooooooooo off track with my workouts. Let's just say that there is a certain amount of dust gathered on my membership card. Next week, I've got to get back in the groove. I've got a mini-marathon two days before our first day back and I need to lose this vacation weight and return to healthy! A trip to Hersheypark doesn't do much for the diet. My gosh those chocolate peanut butter shakes are yummy...

I have so many items that I need to get on TpT. I had thought I'd get so much more done over the summer, but I needed the me time even more, so now my list of items to list is even longer. I'm always concerned with the quality so even though I have thousands of items saved, it takes me at least a day to actually prepare them for TpT. 

Me time! I have had to force myself to take this month of July as a selfish time for me. I know how important it is to have this time, but sometimes it's hard not to spend lots of my spare time on teacher-related projects, probably even harder now that TpT exists. But I also know that this time will help me to feel rejuvenated and ready to go for the next school year. I always want to be the best me for my students. I've come to realize that it's important for all of us who teach to take time for us, not just during the summer but during the school year too. At one point during our trip to California I realized I hadn't thought about teaching for a whole week, and it felt pretty amazing to know I'd finally taken time for me! 

Now to return to that me time...I'll definitely tell you all more about my vacations soon. That is, if I ever finish this laundry!