November 29, 2012

Finally...A Meal That Everyone Can Enjoy!

My family and I like to eat. A lot. We especially enjoy eating out. But, with the holidays approaching, I made up my mind that we need to eat at home more. So, I put extra effort into my meal planning and grocery list this past weekend, and I was really excited to cook some new meals, using recipes from Iowa Girl Eats. Some have gone over well with the fam, and others? Not so much. Tonight, though, I made Spaghetti and Meatball Soup. In case you can't tell from the picture below, it was a hit! I paired it with fresh bread and a green salad.

I haven't had the chance to run since the 5K last Friday. I feel like a bump on a log. It doesn't help that I am surrounded by holiday treats at work already (OK, fine, and it also doesn't help that I made a special trip to the grocery store on my way to school today to pick up three bags of holiday candy to put in the candy jar that I keep on my desk!).

As we start to incorporate Common Core in the Houghton Mifflin Language Arts curriculum that our county uses, I've started teaching a daily mini-lesson that I call "Foundational Skills." For the past few weeks, I've been working with my students on digraphs. Today, we played Digraph Jeopardy...they had so much fun that I let them play for almost thirty minutes (don't tell my principal)! 

Tomorrow night, while KShaf works late, I'll be baking chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting (per Princess A's request). I bought a Wilton frosting bag and piping tip, and I'm really excited to use them to frost the cupcakes. I'll take a picture when I've finished!

Funny...KShaf is so preoccupied with his new cell phone that arrived today that he hasn't noticed yet that I bought new throw rugs for the kitchen.

November 28, 2012

My Little Prize Fighter

This is what Deedle looked like two days after he slammed his face into the floor. I'm not sure which is sadder: the ugly bruise on his nose, or the pathetic expression on his little face.

November 26, 2012


Deedle took his first trip to the ER last night (it's amazing, honestly, that it took this long...he is a rough-and-tumble little guy!). He was running around the house like a madman, trying to dodge KShaf, and he face-planted onto the hardwood floor. Lots of tears and blood followed, and it was quickly decided that we should take him to get it checked out (although KShaf pointed out that even if he had broken his nose, there isn't much that can be done about it). Two hours and an X-ray later, Deedle was home and snug in his bed. His nose isn't broken, but he looks like he was in a bar brawl (and lost).

Tonight, Deedle was sitting on KShaf's lap while I was making dinner. He was looking at the buttons on KShaf's shirt, and he innocently asked, "Daddy? Did God make your buttons?" Without missing a beat, KShaf replied, "No, Deedle. China did."

I will be out all day tomorrow, working on developing Common Core Math curriculum. Wheee!

November 25, 2012

Christmas Treats and Cowgirl Cookies

I am so loving this website! She has the cutest, easiest ideas for party-throwing and gift-giving. I am planning to make jars of Chex Mix to give as holiday gifts to bus drivers, teaching assistants, etc., and the labels I downloaded from Amanda's blog will make them perfect! (I think it's time to invest in a 2-inch hole punch, will be much easier!)

Princess A and I spent yesterday afternoon, assembling her birthday party favors. They turned out pretty cute! Plus, it was something she could help me with, which made it even more special.


So, I made the Cheesy Broccoli Fabuliciousness that I mentioned in my previous post for dinner last night. The votes are in: thumbs-up from KShaf, thumbs-down from the kidlets (I'm pretty sure they would have preferred anything over that meal). Personally, I thought it was great; it reminded me of the Lipton cheddar and broccoli rice packets that I used to eat by the dozen in college (but this was way healthier!). Ah, nostalgia.

I'm spending today getting loose ends tied up before I have get to return to work tomorrow. It seems weird to still have 3 1/2 weeks of school before Christmas Break; Thanksgiving was much too early this year for my liking.

I added some goodies to my TPT shop. Check it out!

Oh, and P.S. I stumbled across Ashley Hughes' site this weekend. She has the cutest graphics!

November 24, 2012

New Favorite Website!

I was starting to think I had lost my cooking groove. I've always enjoyed cooking, but with my work schedule and two small children, finding fast, healthy, kid-friendly (and KShaf-friendly) meal ideas has been a bit of a challenge.

So, I have to thank my sister for introducing me to Iowa Girl Eats. She not only posts amazing recipes on her site, but she's also a runner, so her recipes are healthy, too! I'm planning to make these meals for dinner this week:
  • Spaghetti and Meatball Soup
  • Meatloaf Cupcakes (Say what?? These are mini-meatloaves baked in muffin tins, topped with mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum!)
  •  Lighter Sesame Chicken (Perhaps this meal will satisfy KShaf's Asian food craving, and we won't have to eat at the Chinese Buffet in town quite as often!)
  • Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Casserole (Comfort Food City)
 I'll let you know how these meals turn out!

November 23, 2012

Reindeer Food

I am so making these for my students this year:

Go to her website, and you can download the adorable tags for free!

An Evening at the Salon

This is what happens when you let your almost-five-year-old play "Ms. Michelle, the Hairdresser." Don't I look fab?

Running Fool

I ran the 5K in 35.08, which is ten minutes faster than the first 5K I ran a little more than a month ago. Woo hoo! Now, I'm off to take a shower and a nap!

What Crazy People Do On Vacation

So, apparently, when I have free time on my hands, I label. A lot. Check out what I spent my morning doing!

 The top shelf of Princess A's closet is now all lovely and organized.

I also labeled some of the kids' bins in the family room with the same kind of labels. I'm not sure what has gotten into me. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I'm going to have six small children and eight adults in my modest (OK, small) rancher-style home next weekend. I'm trying to get some control over the chaos.

Off to suit up for the 5K! I'll let you know how it goes!

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I woke up  at 4:45 this morning to a little voice, asking, "Mommy? Is it Turkey Day ? Can we go to Gram and Pop Pop's now?"

Last night, we went here for dinner. That's the last time we let Deedle choose where we go to eat (the boy has some expensive taste in food)! We enjoyed a pre-Thanksgiving meal of prime rib and lobster ravioli, followed by the most decadent brownie sundae I've ever had.

Over dinner, KShaf asked what I was planning to take to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. I told him maple sweet potatoes, green beans with pine nuts, and pumpkin pie bites. By the look on his face, you would have thought I'd said I'd be bringing pickled pig tongues and monkey toes. He was not amused that I wasn't planning to bring his favorite tried-and-true green bean casserole (the man is a sucker for any food that comes out of a box). So, this morning, after my failed attempt to make pumpkin pie bites (yummy, but so not cute), we trekked into town to the grocery store, bought a pumpkin pie, a blueberry pie, and the makings for KShaf's precious green bean casserole. Sheesh.

Happy Turkey Day! We're off to C-town!

November 21, 2012

Wanna See Something Cute?

Check out the adorable owl hat my friend, Kelly, made for Princess A. She absolutely adores it and insists on wearing it everywhere!

Odds and Ends

Is it really the day before Thanksgiving already? I'm just excited to be going somewhere for the holiday this year. In years past, our family has come to us (since we had young children and traveling wasn't the easiest thing to do!). As much as I enjoyed having the fam join us at our house, I'm looking forward to making a few dishes and taking them to my parents' house. It's much less stressful!

I just finished assembling my student's Spelling Notebooks. I like how they turned out, but I think that next year, I'll use scrapbooking dots instead of Mod Podge to adhere the labels to the notebooks. Live and learn!

My new favorite discovery? Graphics from the Pond! She creates the cutest clipart and borders, and she is kind enough to share many of them for free on TPT! The one below is from her. Cute!

We have an uninvited visitor. A black, white, and brown visitor with four legs. I called KShaf as I was leaving the track after running, and I asked where he was. "At Walmart," he replied. I said, "What are you getting there?" "Shotgun shells," he responded. Apparently, we have a very sickly raccoon on our property. Don't worry, Mom and Dad; KShaf is on the job, and Miko (lovingly named after the raccoon from Pocahontas by Princess A and Deedle) will be disposed of properly as soon as two little kids are down for their afternoon nap. 

November 20, 2012

Victories and Frustrations

Thanksgiving Break is here! Woo hoo!

And what am I doing on my first evening of vacation? Working on some things to add to TPT. I must be crazy. The first thing I created tonight is a set of posters explaining the "plural rules." I found a few on TPT that I liked, but I was too stinking cheap to buy any of them. So, instead, I downloaded tons of free borders and clipart, and I created my own. One of my frustrations is that my Adobe software is still not cooperating, so until I get that resolved, I can't post anything to TPT. Boo! But, here's a sneak peek!

UPDATE: Plurals Rules Posters are now available on TPT!

So, I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. 

Another of my frustrations is that I am having the most impossible time, figuring out how to add a TPT button to my blog. I have Googled until my fingers bled (not really...I can be a bit dramatic sometimes), but I haven't had any luck.

Enough work for tonight. I am off to drink some tea, eat a snack, and go to bed! I have plans to meet SpurDog and The Femster at the track tomorrow to run. We are running a 5K on Friday (my second), and since we'll actually be timed for this race, I don't want to be the last person to cross the finish line! I honestly didn't ever think that I'd enjoy running as much as I do. My lovely husband, KShaf, has been trying to get me to exercise for the entire ten years that we've been together. This past summer, I got a good look at myself in the mirror, and that's when I decided that it was time to make an effort to defrumpify (new favorite word) myself. I haven't lost a ton of weight, but I feel better about myself, and my clothes actually fit!

November 19, 2012

Ideas for Challenging Proficient Readers (and FREEBIE!)

My teammates and I are trying something new this year (well, new to us, at least!). At the beginning of the school year, we grouped our students for Language Arts homogeneously. We used the children's IRI levels from the end of last year (if they had one), DIBELS scores, and input from the Kindergarten team. So far, parents have been thrilled with the groupings, and they have been very supportive and encouraging!

I work with the group of students who are reading above grade level, which is great! Finding resources for these students, however, can be a challenge (we don't have any kind of Book Room in our building...bummer!). Once I administered the children's IRIs in October, I had a much better sense of the levels on which my students were reading. My highest "high flyers" are reading between a 23 and a 28 (between a 3rd and 5th grade reading level). So exciting! I set about finding reading material that is not only on their reading level, but that also interests them. I asked them to complete a reading survey to give me a better feel for their feelings about reading and the topics that interest them. If you'd like to grab a FREE copy of my reading survey, head over to my TPT store!
Once I had a good sense of the topics that interest my individual students, I went to our school Media Center to borrow books to use with those students in small groups. I also went to TPT to find a book study packet that I could use with my students. I was lucky enough to find this!

I am so excited to get to work with my "high flyers" tomorrow! I hope they enjoy the books I selected for them.

November 18, 2012

First Math Common Core Term Assessment...Sigh

Last week, the first grade team was asked to meet with a math consultant whose job it is to make the transition to Common Core smoother. While we have been administering assessments at the end of each unit, she suggested that a term assessment be given at the end of each marking period. Thankfully, another local county has already developed the assessment; it is up to us, however, to create a review and study guide. So, I have spent the better part of my Sunday afternoon developing a Smart Board review and accompanying study guide. I have a renewed appreciation for the amount of time, work, and energy that SpurDog put into all of the lessons and accompanying activities that she created for the first term. I feel like I have birthed another child!

As soon as my school's computer tech is able to remedy whatever is going on with my Adobe software, I will be posting what I created to TPT. Until then, here is a sneak peek!

UPDATE: Term 1 Resources are available on TPT!

This is the first page of the 24 page (!!) Smart Board lesson I created.

 This is one of the activities for our small group rotations.

This is the second small group activity.

Now, I'm off to create a study guide and assessment for the science unit we are finishing about where living things live.

Broadway Princess

Princess A and I spent a good part of our morning, rocking out to "Hairspray." Now we're on to "Grease."

November 17, 2012

Oh, To Be Three Years Old

Just a sweet pic of Deedle, taking a snooze in the backseat of Daddy's truck. He's wearing his new favorite "camel" (camo) hat and mittens.

This is the quietest he has been in weeks.

Tis the Season...for Spelling

We use the Houghton Mifflin reading series in our county. There are a lot of things that I have come to love about it, including the structure of the lessons. With the advent of Common Core, however, we have more freedom to pick and choose what we teach from the Houghton Mifflin series than we ever did before.

With that said, we still teach spelling, beginning in Theme 3. I have found it really useful to have the children use a Spelling Notebook in which to complete their nightly spelling homework. If you'd like the Spelling Packet that I've put together at TPT, click below!

A Very Cowgirl Birthday

My daughter will be turning 5 on December 2. Egads! Where has the time gone? I typically go into complete denial around this time of year. I just have the hardest time believing that my little baby can possibly be getting so big!

Well, my little girl has decided that rather than go the traditional Disney Princess route, this year, she would like to have a cowgirl-themed birthday party. She has been smitten with horses since before she could walk. It doesn't hurt that her grandmother has what can only be described as a small petting zoo. At last count, Grandma had at least eight horses, five ponies, a donkey, several llamas, a flock (?) of guinea hens, a few dozen chickens and roosters, a handful of dogs, and a partridge in a pear tree (I'm kidding about that last one). Princess A talks constantly about visiting Grandma, even though she lives six hours away, and we usually only get to see her a few times each year.

So, I've spent the past few days on Pinterest, trying to get some ideas for Princess A's party. I used Evite to send out this adorable invitation to a few of her closest friends. Thank goodness for Oriental Trading Company...I was able to get almost everything else I needed from there (including flatware, balloons, streamers, and cupcake toppers!). 

I also got kits for the girls to make cowgirl necklaces (not sure what Princess A's male guests will be making, but oh, well!). I will be preparing a gourmet feast of hotdogs, pretzels, veggies and "ranch" dip, fruit and cream cheese dip, and pink lemonade. For favors, I found a link to Bakerella's recipe for Cowgirl Cookie Mix. I'll be sending these home with the kiddos as favors:

And as we speak, my husband is researching local horse farms that will rent ponies for birthday parties. Seriously?? That man will do just about anything for his little girl. Honestly, though, Princess A will be totally surprised, and I'm sure she will never, ever forget her 5th birthday.

I'm Officially a Blogger!

I'd like to say that I'm new to this blogging thing. But, that's not entirely true. About a million years ago, my Biffle (who is a writer) convinced me to start a personal blog. I kept up with it for a little while, but quite honestly, my personal life is just not interesting enough to justify having a blog. I am a married mother of two young children. I have a 3 year-old son and an almost 5 year-old daughter, and my family and I live in a beautiful town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

My professional life, however? That's a different story! My husband and I met at work ten years ago, and we have both been working for the local public school system since. Our two little ones actually attend the elementary school where we first met. In fact, my son's preschool classroom is my old first grade classroom. Cute, right? In the time that I have been teaching, I have taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. It's hard to say which grade has been my favorite to teach. Having my own children completely changed me as an educator. I will be the first to admit that I am a strict teacher, and I believe very strongly that effective classroom management is the key to successful teaching. With that said, since having my children, I have become much more nurturing toward my students, sympathetic, and understanding of parents' situations. Most importantly, I have far more patience now than I did when I was 23 years old! 

On to my present professional situation: I currently teach first grade at one of the smaller, outlying schools in our county. I am one of three teachers on our team. Thankfully, I am blessed to work with an amazing teammate. SpurDog (don't ask how that name came about!) is an exceptional educator; she is a second-year teacher with endless enthusiasm and creativity. Also, she is just as obsessive-compulsively organized as I like to think I am (having small children has really forced me to let go of some of my nuttiness). I am so lucky to work with her!

So, I've created this blog for several reasons. First, it is a great way to document some of the great things (and the not-so-great things, too!) that we've been doing in our classrooms. I'm also looking forward to sharing all of the neat things that we have been creating to meet the new Common Core Standards. 

When I get a free minute, I'll share the Spelling Notebook packet that I've put together as we begin assigning nightly spelling homework.