January 26, 2013

Linking Up With Love

After coming across First Grade and Fabulous' link-up with Tessa from Tales Outside the Classroom, I decided to join in the linky fun!

 People I'm Loving

As ever, I'm loving my crazy kidlets. They are five and three, and they make every minute fun and unpredictable. It's hard to remember what I ever did with my time before I became a mom!

Every pirate/fireman needs to take a popsicle break once in awhile!

This girl sure can rock an Ariel nightgown!

Then, there's KShaf. He is, without a doubt, the most patient, kind, funny, gentle, generous, handsome man I've ever known, and for some crazy reason, he chose me to spend his life with. And to top it all off, he is an amazing father, too! (Click here to see a sweet pic of KShaf and Deedle.)

I'm incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing teachers. SpurDog and Femster make it fun to come to work every day. I'm ten years older than them, but they never make me feel old or out of touch (even though I am!). SpurDog is a constant inspiration to me, and her enthusiasm for teaching and her love for her students is contagious. If all second-year teachers were like her, life would be a dream!

Some Things I'm Loving

I am obsessed with Target. If they don't have it, I don't need it. End of story.
My new favorite preoccupation is Zenni Optical. I ordered two pairs of glasses online the other day, and the grand total was $25, including shipping! I figure that if they arrive and don't work for some reason (fit, prescription, whatever), I'm only out $25.

I can't get enough of Skinny Cow Fudge Bars, Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese, and Pretzel Crisps. Best. Things. Ever.

I am an exercise convert. I hadn''t exercised for the majority of my life, so when I decided to take up running at the age of 34, I wasn't convinced that I was going to stick with it (neither was KShaf!). Running has become one of my favorite things to do, and I can't wait until March 10th (Daylight Savings Time) rolls around so that I can go for regular runs!

Some Blogs/Websites I'm Loving

Iowa Girl Eats has completely changed the way I cook. I have tried at least a dozen of her recipes, and every single one has been a hit with the whole family. I made her Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta the other evening, and it was UH-mazing; I reheated it for dinner tonight, and it was just as good, the second time around!

A Cupcake for the Teacher is one of my favorite teaching blogs! She is super creative, and she always has the cutest craftivities. My students have been working on writing a penguin report, so we are planning to make this craftivity next week:

Graphics from the Pond has amazing graphics, and I find myself using them all the time (including her adorable freebies!) in a lot of the things I make for TPT. Check her out!

Lastly, I love that this linky party has forced me to slow down and focus on the positive things in my life. It's easy to get caught up in life's day-to-day challenges that I often forget to slow down and take note of all the remarkable things in my life.


Odd blog title, I know.

In preparing to be out of the building yesterday for a professional development meeting (that's where I was supposed to be, at least), I created a game of Whack-a-Mole for the sub to play with my students during Science. Even though I created it with the Houghton Mifflin first grade Science series in mind, it could be used to review natural resources with any grade, first through fifth. Click on any of the pictures below to head over to my TPT sto grab it!

Like I mentioned, I was scheduled to be at a meeting all day yesterday, but Deedle woke up acting funky. On a hunch, I took his temperature, and sure enough, he was running a fever (he was also complaining about his "mouth" hurting; it took me a little while to figure out that he was talking about his throat). So, I took Princess A to school, brought Deedle back home, and the two of us hunkered down under the comforter and napped for the next two hours. Right before we were supposed to pick Princess A up from school, D announced that he was going to throw up (thankfully, he made it to the toilet in the nick of time!). I took him to the doctor, and after looking in Deedle's mouth, Dr. C deduced that it was a virus, not strep (which I suspected). No sooner did we make it home than I noticed a suspicious rash all over his little legs. I was pretty confident that it was scarletina, so I called the doc right back (yes, I am that crazy parent). He told me to keep an eye on it, which I did, and by this morning, Deedle's fever was back up and the rash had spread. So, we headed back to the doc, he did a strep test, and it came back positive right away. Just goes to show...mother's instinct is usually spot-on!

January 24, 2013

Snow Day Fun!

Since today is technically a snow day, I created this document for my substitute to use as seatwork tomorrow while I am in a professional development meeting. Click below to grab it from Google Docs!

It amazes me how much fun two small children (and a Border Collie) can have in a half-inch of snow. All three were outside for almost an hour this morning. Princess A occupied herself by cleaning off my car (bonus for me!), Deedle pushed his dump trucks around in the snow, and Kin tried to herd the kids while simultaneously trying to convince them to throw his frisbee.

SpurDog's comment when she saw this pic? 
Belle is in serious need of some stockings...it's just too doggone cold to go without!

You Know You Live in Maryland When...

This much snow cancels school for the day:

Seriously?? Don't get me wrong...I am definitely not complaining. Grades were due this morning, I have sub plans to pull together for tomorrow (I'll be out for professional development), and I have about a million little projects to finish. So, bring on the half-inch of snow!

Gratuitous picture of my little cowgirl:

I especially love the Fudgesicle moustache she's rocking.

I'm off to take pics of the kidlets playing in the "snow!" 

January 22, 2013

Dr. King, Grades, and Taxes...Oh, My!

I was lucky enough to win A Cupcake for the Teacher's Martin Luther King craftivity pack last month, and I was so excited to put it to use in my classroom! I taught a writing lesson in which the students watched a Brain Pop video, and then used what they know about Ideas and Conventions (gotta love those good ol' 6+1 writing traits!) to write about their dreams for the future. They had some amazing ideas! During our Enrichment and Intervention block at the end of the day on Friday, I read Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King.

Then, I had the kiddos write four facts that they learned about Dr. King. Apparently, they were paying attention!

They were all a little preoccupied by the fact that Dr. King was assassinated. Almost every child mentioned it in their writing.

"Martin Luther King spoke an important message." Yes, he did!

Today, we had a teacher inservice/planning day. I'd like to say that I got a lot done, but my room was so stinkin' cold, I had trouble concentrating (it was a whopping 24 degrees today in Maryland)! I was able to get all of my plans for tomorrow done, but I wish I had spent some time working on my second quarter grades: they are due on Thursday morning, and I haven't started them yet. Oh, well...they always manage to get done, one way or the other!

It's the most wonderful time of the year: tax time (I know it's our money to begin with, but it always feels like Christmas when that big whopping check arrives in our checking account)! Even though KShaf has a degree in business, I always end up doing our family's taxes (sad, considering that I teach first graders basic addition and subtraction!). This year, I'm planning on using Tax Act's online tax software. I'll be so glad when they are signed, sealed, and delivered!

I'm off to make some more mod podged clothespins to hang my students' work in the classroom. With all the cute things I've found on TPT or made, my classroom feels like it's a constant work in progress this year.

January 20, 2013

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Check out the black-and-purple pride in our house!

The kids got to wear their Ravens gear to school on Friday.
Too cute!

I just finished putting together what KShaf calls a "tidbit tray:" chicken bites (regular and buffalo-style), veggies and dip, fresh fruit, and KShaf's favorite game food, Totino's Pizza Rolls. The four of us are tailgating (in our kitchen) before the Ravens/Patriots game that's coming on in an hour.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to give you the ten-cent tour of my classroom. But for now, I'm ready to settle in for a night of family and football!

January 16, 2013

I'm SNOW Excited!

You'd think that after barely making it back to Maryland in one piece over the winter break, I wouldn't be in the mood for snow again any time soon. Well, you'd be wrong! We are under a Winter Storm Watch on the Eastern Shore (cue dramatic music) until Friday morning, and I am so pumped, I could scream. See, it's been a slightly stressful week at work (I would love to get into the specifics of why it's been a rough week, but sadly, I can't), so a four-day weekend would be just grand right about now.

Even though it's been a stinky week at work, there have been some lovely things happening on the home front. First, the sticker chart continues to work wonders with my little darlings. Why the heck didn't I think of it sooner?

I came home on Monday evening to find my husband...cooking dinner for the family! The responsibility of preparing meals usually falls to me, so you can imagine my surprise when I found KShaf making garlic roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and fresh green beans...all accompanied by my favorite Pinot Grigio. He's a keeper, that husband of mine.

I ordered a new purse from the Thirty One Outlet sale the day after Christmas (when you're confined in a car for ten hours, there isn't much to do besides shop on your iPhone), and it just arrived on Monday. I love it!
I may have also gotten the matching wallet, too. 
I can't help it; I have an obsession with accessories!

I have been looking for a black and white case for my iPhone (I was on a hot pink and black kick; now, I've moved on to black and white). I found this on Amazon (for $6!):

I bought a black and white polka dot case, too. 
Clearly, I need an intervention!

I am planning to take some pics of my classroom in the next few days so I can take you on a virtual tour. There is so much to do during the day that I forget to take the time to take pictures! Hopefully, I'll have the chance tomorrow. 

Off to watch the American Idol season premiere! The auditions are my favorite...I love the crazies.

January 13, 2013

Are You a Bucket Filler?

I admit...I have always been a bucket dipper, not a bucket filler. Translation: I'm a glass-half-empty kind of gal, a pessimist, a downer, a cynic, etc. I would love to say that I believe that all people have an inherent goodness in them, but all too often, people let us down. I do, however, believe in the innocent goodness in little children. It is our job, as adults, to nurture this goodness and to teach children to be kind, giving, and loving toward one another.

For this reason, I decided to implement the "bucket filler" behavior management/character education technique in my classroom. What is a bucket filler, you ask? Check out the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, on You Tube. A bucket filler is a loving, caring person who says or does nice things that make others feel special. A bucket dipper, on the other hand, is someone who makes fun of someone else, says or does mean things, or ignores someone. I downloaded the cutest bucket filler posters from TPT, made a white envelope for each child (in place of buckets...I'm too cheap!), and I made the bucket filler slips below for my children to use to give one another compliments:

I am going to try my doggone best to be more of a filler and less of a dipper! How about you?

January 12, 2013

This Is Why I Teach

I will be the first to admit that before I had my own children, I was a tough teacher. I fought every battle with my students and their parents. I held my students to an incredibly high (perhaps unrealistic) standard. I was even accused of being a "non nurturer." Then, I had Princess A and Deedle. They completely changed the way I teach. As difficult as is it can be sometimes (and you all know what I'm talking about!), I look for a lovable quality in each of my students; I try to be a role model, but also a maternal figure (some of my students don't have that in their lives). I cultivate personal relationships with my children; I try to find out what interests and motivates them. When a situation arises with a parent, I think about how I, as a parent, would want the issue to be addressed. Princess A and Deedle have not only made me a better teacher, but a better person.

I had one of those this-is-why-I-teach moments yesterday. I have a student in my class this year who is a wonderful little boy, but he just isn't the affectionate type. He is not a hugger, nor does he tell me that he loves me every five minutes (like so many of my little firsties do). He is a hard worker, and he is very driven to perform well in school. But I feel like I've been missing a personal connection with him, no matter how hard I've tried to find one. The students were playing math games yesterday afternoon, and I took a quick break from playing with them to put some papers in the children's mailboxes. All of a sudden, I felt a little body barrel into me, and I looked down to find my sweet-yet-serious non-hugger with his arms wrapped tightly around my waist. At first, I thought he was upset and crying, so I pulled back a bit and asked him if he was OK. He replied, "Yes, Mrs. Shafer. I just love you so much!" I was so surprised that tears came to my eyes, and I hugged him right back. He made my day. Heck, he made my week!

I'll post later about writing process posters that I created, but right now, I have beds to make and a house to clean! Gotta love Saturdays.

January 8, 2013

The Wonders of a Behavior Chart and Writing Process Posters

That may be the world's longest blog post title ever.

I have been completely amazed by how successful the behavior charts have been that I started with my kidlets yesterday! Now, I know that it has only been two days (I'm not naive...I realize that we are in the honeymoon phase), but Princess A and Deedle have really responded to them! I made a HUGE deal about introducing them yesterday morning before school, and Deedle told his daycare provider about his "behave" chart as soon as he walked in her door. Last night, before bed, I had the kids choose stickers to add to their charts and they put them on their charts by themselves. I guess it's fair to say that they are invested in the process! In fact, when our loyal-but-completely-driven-by-instinct Border Collie, Kin, tried to herd Princess A tonight while we were having a dance party and nipped her back, Deedle immediately went to her, hugged and kissed her, and said, "I hope you feel better!" Aw! I am especially grateful that the charts are effective because KShaf has had to work for the past four nights. The kids have seen him for half an hour in the past 48 hours, and I'm not sure who is having a harder time with the separation: KShaf or the kids!. If I had to single parent two unmanageable kids for four straight days, I'd lose my mind!

My teammate, SpurDog, developed a writing lesson this week to assess the students' ability to write a descriptive piece. She introduced the writing process (using a combination of language from the Craft Plus and 6+1 Writing Traits writing programs), so I created a set of posters to support the lessons that SpurDog wrote. Click below to grab them in my TPT store!

Off to get a head-start on sub plans! I'll be out of the classroom on Thursday because I'm participating in our county-wide Courageous Conversations professional development.

January 6, 2013

Sudsy Sunday

KShaf and I usually try to grab a few extra winks of sleep on the weekends, since we are up during the week at 5:00 a.m. Lately, my lovely little ones have gotten themselves into some trouble on weekend mornings before KShaf and I are up and moving (I blogged about it here). This morning, I awoke to find that Princess A and Deedle had "helped" by "doing the dishes." Translation: they had taken all of the dishes out my cabinets, put them in the sink, and emptied half a bottle of dish detergent onto them. There were soap suds everywhere. The best part, however, came after I had finished cleaning up the mess and had turned the dishwasher on: the dishwasher literally started puking bubbles out of it and onto the kitchen floor. It was like something out of a comedy, and it probably would have been funny...if it hadn't happened in my kitchen.

So, I decided that between the early morning antics and the prepubescent snarkiness (she's five, for crying out loud!) that has been coming out my daughter's mouth recently, it is time to start using behavior charts with the children. I went on TPT (thank you, Molly!) and downloaded this:

Then, I made the following to accompany it:

I am headed (back) to Dollar Tree once the kids are down for their nap (and so help me, they had better sleep today!) to get fridge magnets or magnet tape (to hang the charts and behavior goals on the fridge) and small incentive stickers. 

If this plan doesn't work, I may have to send them to boarding school (kidding, kidding!).

Enjoy what's left of your weekend!

January 5, 2013

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

I made Iowa Girl Eats' recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole tonight for dinner. Holy deliciousness, Batman!  It was amazing! Added bonus: there are enough leftovers for KShaf to take for lunch for a few days this week.

 Notice the cheesy, tortilla chip awesomeness on top.

In other news, I got the idea on Friday that it was time to organize my math manipulatives. So, I took the kidlets with me to Dollar Tree on the way home from work (much to their annoyance; suffice it to say, there was a lot of loud whining involved), and I bought a dozen Gladware-esque tubs with lids. I looked for some labels on TPT that would suit my needs, but nothing was just right. I made my own, instead (click below to grab your own set from Google Docs). If you likey, let me know, and I'll make a set for you to meet your needs.

Once I get these bins together, I plan to take a hot shower, open a bottle of Ravenswood Merlot (one of my all-time fave wines, besides this one), and read to my heart's content. 

Happy Saturday!

January 3, 2013

Newest Preoccupation

Today was my first day back to work after the holiday break. I have to admit, I was really happy to see all those sweet, smiling faces this morning when they came into the classroom. I think I actually missed them!

I got a text from KShaf around 10:00 that Deedle was sick and needed to be picked up from school. I was immediately suspicious. He was pretty doggone sick over the holidays, but he had been feeling a lot better in the past few days (no fever whatsoever and a few infrequent coughing fits). KShaf agreed to go to the school and pick him up. When KShaf arrived, he asked Deedle if he was feeling sick. Deedle ducked his head (guiltily) and said, "No. I just wanted to go home and play." I knew the kid was slick, but I never thought he'd fake being sick (at least not at the tender age of three!). I think I experienced shame and pride simultaneously. Ah, parenthood.

I have been lucky enough to have numerous parents offer to volunteer in my classroom this year. When I first started teaching, I will admit that I didn't enjoy having parents in my classroom; I always felt like they were sizing me up and judging every move I made. The longer I've been teaching, however, the more I have realized that parent volunteers can be an enormous asset. My parent volunteers come in three times a day, three days a week. I have them work with the children on their high frequency word recognition and their addition fact recall. It has made a huge difference! But, I didn't like the way I had my volunteer materials organized. So, I spent the better part of my evening creating this (yes, it could have waited until the weekend, but when I get an idea in my head, I have to run with it):

 Now, all of my volunteers' materials are neatly organized! I have this three-drawer organizer on the desk outside my classroom door; parent volunteers barely even need to enter the room!

I am off to read my Kindle (one of my New Year's resolutions)!

January 2, 2013

What I Did on My Extra Day of Winter Break

My kids' daycare provider had to close today because a sewer line broke at her house over the holidays. So, I took a personal day. I had originally planned to send the kidlets to school today, but after listening to their juicy (sorry!) coughs at breakfast this morning, I decided to keep them home. What's one more day, right? After dropping my laptop and plans off at school, I took the kids to Walmart (I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but it was of dire importance that I get the kids out of the house before they drove me bananas!). I ended up getting a huge drawer organizer for my desk at home. I now have a place for all the junk that I need on an almost daily basis (White Out and rubber bands being at the top of the list, followed closely by my iPhone arm band and running headphones).

All of my running stuff now has its own little space...so easy to grab on my way out the door!

I found these adorable file folders at Walmart, too...3 for $1.00!

Since I had to go back to school at the end of the day to pick my laptop back up, we decided to head here for dinner. Their fried shrimp is the best I have ever had (believe me, I've taste-tested many a fried shrimp!), and really, any place that has a daily Happy "Teacher" Hour can't be bad! KShaf and I have resolved, though, that we are going to better about eating at home in the new year. I can't wait to see how long that lasts!

January 1, 2013

New Year's Day Fun and Linky Party!

We hadn't been outside all day, so KShaf and I thought it would be a great idea to bundle the kids up and take them down to the road to the park. Even Kin joined in the fun!

This picture was taken about five minutes before KShaf had to take Deedle back home because he couldn't stop coughing. Poor guy!

 Kin found a soccer ball while we were there. He ended up dragging it home with him!

Ms. M, over at www.teachingisagift.blogspot.com, asked me to join her linky party! I contributed the free holiday thank you notes that I wrote about in my previous post. Go check her out!


Last Minute Holiday Thank You Notes

If you're anything like me, you've waited until the last day of your winter break to write thank you notes to your students for the gifts you received. Head over to my TPT store to grab some that I made for free!

New Year's Resolutions

I'm new to this whole linky party thing, but after reading SpurDog's blog post the other day, I was inspired! I know I'm behind the eight-ball (seeing as how it's January 1st), but it's never too late to make resolutions.

I'm very lucky to work in a school system where technology is a huge priority. Every teacher has his/her own Mac laptop, and each classroom is equipped with several desktop computers, as well as a Smartboard. As a result, I've been forced to become tech-savvy! In the new year, though, I'd like to become more proficient with Adobe Photoshop; KShaf has taught me some of the tricks of the trade, but I know that there is a lot still to learn. Also, the idea of creating my own fonts intrigues me, so maybe that's something I'll teach myself to do.

I always considered myself to be a fairly organized person. Then, I had kids. I've had to "let go" of a lot of my controlling tendencies; I still try, however, to stay as organized as possible (without going overboard). One thing that really helps me in the classroom (and I got the idea from SpurDog, so, thanks!) is to use binder clips labeled with the following: "To Copy," "To File," "To Return," and "To Grade." I am able to transport my (gobs and gobs of) papers from school to home, and I am always able to find what I'm looking for. 

Professional Growth
This year, I've been asked by my administrator to serve in several professional development capacities. I am part of my school's CARE team, and I've been participating in my county's Courageous Conversations. This is an opportunity that has had both professional and personal impacts; I have found that, through these conversations, I have begun to look at race and its role in today's classroom in a different way. 

Down Time
Down time? What's that? School and home keep me incredibly busy, and as a result, down time is not something that is easy to come by! I usually end up turning on Bravo in the evening, thus allowing my brain to atrophy for awhile. In the new year, I am going to try to turn off the television and read books on my Kindle more! I just downloaded Last Night at Chateau Marmont, by Lauren Weisberger.

Last July, I started running (after getting a glimpse of my post-baby behind in the mirror), using the Couch to 5K app on my iPhone. I wasn't entirely sure that I'd be able to commit to it (exercise has never been a favorite activity of mine), but after convincing KShaf to buy me a new pair of running shoes, I kind of had to make a go of it (or KShaf would never let me live it down!). I started slowly and worked my way up to running two 5Ks last fall. In the new year, I'd like to try running a 10K, or (if I'm feeling really cocky) maybe even a half-marathon? The St. Michaels Running Festival is coming up in May, and in my opinion, any race that ends with beer is a race worth running.

Last night, we went here to eat with KShaf's friends. They had an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, and believe me when I say that we got our money's worth! Deedle ate scallops, oyster fritters, steamed shrimp, prime rib, snow crab legs, and crab imperial. He is going to be an expensive date one day! We came home, put the kids to bed, got our PJs on, and watched "A Few Good Men." I was asleep before 10:00, and KShaf wasn't far behind. Now, that's the way to end the year!

Happy 2013!