Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Crazy Week

Well, if you couldn't tell by my lack of posting, it was a LONG first week. Mostly the lesson planning is taking up all of my time. I'm using every free second I have to plan lessons. I've been at work until 4 and sometimes 5:00 every day last week. Starting over with new curriculum and no lessons has been tough. I have been able to use a few more of my co-worker's lessons that he generously donated to me. So that's helping. I just don't have enough resources (just my content outline and the textbook) to make any really creative lessons on my own right now. Maybe over the next few years if I'm still teaching the same subjects. Over all I can't complain though. It has gone really well. I have my first observation this coming Friday so I especially need to have a good lesson planned. I've been working on that this morning and will be again tomorrow.

Yesterday we had a cookout at Josh's parents house. Most of his family was there. It was fun. Later on we had Ben's 24th birthday party that Jenna threw for him. Um, I did not use my best discretion and partied a little harder than I had in a long time.... ok, I'll be honest: I played flip-cup with rum & coke. Yikes. But we did have an awesome time. Apparently there are photos of me that I'm not going to like (making the rock-band face, what was I thinking? proof of my non-existent inhibitions). Josh made me a nice breakfast this morning and now we're getting ready to go out to dinner to celebrate Ben's birthday with everyone. It should be more fun and shenanigans :o) I think tomorrow will just be a day of rest (and a little bit of work).

As soon as I get all this lesson planning under control (aka- I get more than 1 day ahead of what I'm teaching) I'll be able to post more. But in the mean time I'll try to post at least once a week, probably on the weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Highlights (so far)

I apologize for the brevity. There is SO much work to do and I really shouldn't be using this time to blog... but I know you miss me :o)

  • Kiddos so far have been really nice. The freshman are great because they're new and don't know what's up yet. Plus they're honors so they're interested in doing well. There are lots of very nice girls in those three classes. And the juniors are cool because they're just laid back. We talk and joke and get off task from time to time but they're also great about doing what I ask and getting the work done.
  • l've been offered a lot of lesson plans as I may have mentioned, but I've discovered that it's not possible to teach entirely from someone else's. People apparently don't actually write "plans" anymore, therefore too much time is spent trying to figure out how they used the handouts and activities in their arsenal. I've decided to just make my own which is challenging when teaching 2 subjects because it's double the work. Lots of textbook reading and investigating. And we're only in a week of review! This has taken over my life.
  • Had some fun technical difficulties this week too. All the new staff laptops were programmed incorrectly so we couldn't install printers or updates. They finally fixed that after a lot of struggling with printers, multiple computers and a fried flash-drive that I had been relying on.
  • My fall grad classes start tonight. I have no idea when I'll have time for school work in addition to work work :o( I'm scared. I think it will honestly be harder than last fall when I was teaching, starting grad school, and getting married.
  • I think I qualify for Bachelor's +30 pay!

Thanks for listening. I will try so hard to take some time for this in between everything else. I know I'll hit my stride and get a routine down, but right now it's just plain crazy :o)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Update + Monday

Saturday: As you know, my parents are divorced and my mother is re-married. My stepdad has two sons, Ricky and Chris. You may not know that my mom and her husband met each other in 1991. In that year our ages were~ Ricky 13, Amberly 11, Me and Chris 9, Ben 7. Ok, we were little KIDS. Saturday was Ricky's 30th birthday. Of course we had to celebrate! So Ben, Jenna, Josh and I met Ricky and Annie (his wife) and some of their friends at Cancun Cantina for drinks. We had a fabulous time even though Josh and I completely abstained from carbohydrated beverages. I was pretty proud of us for that. Anyway, there are a whole boat load of great pictures of us from that night but they are all on Jenna's camera. I had mine but didn't want to make everyone take the same picture twice -- that's a pain. So I'll be sure and post those asap when I get them from Jenna. And as I always, I will post the whole shebang on Picasa (and probably some on Facebook too).

Sunday: We had a mostly lazy Sunday. Ben and Jenna had stayed the night with us so I made a big South Beach breakfast of cheesy eggs and turkey bacon. [By the way, Josh and I decided to stay on the strict phase of the diet for one more week. We had both only lost 7 pounds at the end of week 2 and decided we would make up for our cheating (remember the s'mores?) by staying strict for one more week. ] After Ben and Jenna left I finally painted the third bathroom a pale turquoise. It looks much better in person than it does in the photos. Later that afternoon I decided to drive up to Eldersburg to my mom's to have dinner with her and Amberly and the kids. Josh was very busy cleaning and organizing the basement so he decided to keep at it to get the stuff done. At my mom's she and I and Amberly had the funniest conversation with Leo. It was all about what he was going to be when he grew up. First he talked about a police officer (like his dad) and wanted to know if he could wear a police hat. He was very excited about that. When he asked, "what do guns do?" I promptly said, "Or you could be a scientist!" His response? "What's that?!" The conversation went on. He was totally into being a trash man also and announced to Ben and Jenna when they got there that that's what he was going to be when he got big. He really had us cracking up.

Monday: Today was a big day, as you know. I reported for work officially at my new school. Since it would be a lot to tell you about the WHOLE day, here are the highlights:
  • Our principal started the day by saying: I know you only want 2 things today, breakfast and time in your classrooms, so I'll keep this short. A truly understanding principal who cares more about the needs of his teachers than hearing himself jabber on all day long. Meetings only lasted until 10:30! The rest of the day I got to spend in my classroom. As a result, it's totally set up!
  • Everyone was incredibly helpful. People donated shelves and furniture to me since I had nothing. I got an old random coffee table that I used to create a reading corner in the back of my room... so cute! Others offered me all of their lesson plans since I'm starting fresh this year, not to mention help with any question or concern, and plenty of good advice.
  • OMG, my schedule. The school operates on 50-minute classes except 4th period which is 2 hours and has all the lunch shifts in it. My planning is the 2-hour block - holler! I also have one of my World History classes in the morning and one in the afternoon to break up the monotony. It's going to be sweet.
  • And anyone who has ever dealt with custodial staff can appreciate this -- my custodian is nice! The woman at Banneker was not friendly and would never look up when you walked by her or anything. I may have blogged before about how I used to run when heard her trash-can rolling down the hall at the end of the day so I didn't have to deal with the awkward silence/small talk while she cleaned my room.

So anyway, as I predicted, I'm more excited today than I was before. Tomorrow is going to be a little more meeting-intensive because I have to go through a new teacher "training camp" but I bet I'll still come home excited :o)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

The time has come to bid my summer break farewell. Yes the warm weather is still here, and summer activities still fill the calendar, but alas I am returning to work on Monday. Please don't think I'm complaining, people LOVE to remind me that I'm luckier than most to have summers off. Trust me, I know. But there is a totally different feeling at this time of year for teachers than for anyone else.

Surprisingly after all the interviews and the heartbreaks this summer I am honestly excited to get this new job started. I've gotten little tastes over the past week but I know as I meet the other staff members -- in particular the ones I'll be working directly with -- I'm only going to feel more and more excited. I haven't felt this way since I was beginning my job at Banneker 3 years ago. I feel like I've learned a lot and grown a lot in that time. I've always started the school year with a new plan and new ideas that I couldn't wait to put into place. But in Montgomery county there were always other factors defeating me. For example- students who had failed all major academic subjects for all four quarters were promoted to the next grade level. Why would that student ever do his or her work? Also, any attempt at an assignment could earn no less than 50% credit. So students wouldn't try any harder than that.

Here are some things I'm excited about at my new school:
1. Teaching older students! I'm really looking forward to students who are a little bit older and a little bit more responsible. There will always be babies and clowns and others who make themselves annoying, but at least 9th and 11th graders are thinking about college and know that the classes really count for something so they generally take it a little more seriously.
2. Teaching 2 subjects I love! I've always adored US History (ever since the days of this Mr. Barnes fellow back at LHS) and can't wait to study it in more depth. I'm also teaching modern world history which I also really like. World War II is one of my favorite times in history. When you're interested in what you're teaching, that's when your lessons become creative and fun.
3. Working with an enthusiastic faculty! Every person I've been introduced to at this school has said to me, "Oh, you're going to love it here." I've been told that this staff is very young and they love to do social things together outside of school. There were some young people on the staff at Banneker, but only one or two were really good friends who I'd hang out with outside of work. And most people there hated the place. That made it really hard to have any school spirit or pride in my work. It's really hard to stay enthusiastic when everyone around you is constantly complaining. Don't get me wrong, they were totally justified, I'm just saying that it will be nice to be in a school where there's not so much to complain about :o)
4. A new way of teaching! I have been reading this book called The First Days of School by Harry Wong (he was the guest speaker on the first say of NTO this week). It's really intended for first-year teachers, but so many of his tips and tricks could be helpful to anyone. So I've been reading through it and picking out things I want to try. I'm really looking forward to implementing some of the strategies to see much they help both me and the students.
5. Tons of professional autonomy! My curriculum guide is basically an outline of topics with key objectives to meet and an assessment for each unit. We were told to create lessons as we wish, create assessments as we wish, use the assessment in the guide as part of our grades as we wish... we're professionals, we know what's best for our own students. This is revolutionary compared to Montgomery county. There, every lesson is scripted down to what you're supposed to say. I used to use it loosely as a guide and create some of my own activities in addition to using some from the book. But then we were told that we had to have the exact same lessons worth the exact same points as the person teaching on the other team. Since my counterpart on the other team was a more experienced teacher than myself, I wasn't going to tell her she had to do my activities because I wanted to use them. Thankfully she did not do that to me either. As a result, we just strictly followed the curriculum guide day-t0-day.

I'm sure you remember that I was originally not interested in this job at all and admittedly I was disappointed when I was offered it. But now I have all of these things to look forward to. How about that? I'd bet you're even excited for me :o) Unfortunately I'm still not looking forward to starting classes at 7:25 which pretty much means getting up at 5:30 to leave by 6:30. Yes, the day is over at 2:10 but I'll be falling asleep by 8, so it won't matter!

One last update: Ben and Jenna have chosen Turf Valley as their wedding location and will be tying the knot on May 29, 2009! <3

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I have spent the past 2 days (yesterday and today) in Howard County's New Teacher Orientation. I'm not a first-year teacher, but I am new to the county, so they ask us to go also. It's voluntary but you get $50 a day for going, not too shabby. It's been interesting to say the least. You've been to orientations before, they start you off with breakfast, give you a little schedule and then you move around from lecture to lecture throughout the day.

Well, yesterday was neat because it was a guest speaker first thing in the morning. He was quite interesting which almost kept me awake. He was talking about classroom management and how you have to establish procedures and that will solve all of your problems. He made some interesting points, but there's always a kid (or 10) that "just don't wanna" and they're not going to cooperate with any of your procedures. After that guy, we broke off by subject area into classrooms. This part was a little tougher for me. The first thing we did was go around the room and introduce ourselves with our name, where/what we'd be teaching, and where we were coming from. Sadly, this meant I was introduced to all of the people who got the other jobs I had interviewed for, including two that I really would have liked to have. The challenge was sitting there for an hour and a half not staring darts through them wondering what was so special about them that I didn't have. A real struggle, I'm not gonna lie. But I've come to grips with it. The girl who got the job I reeeeeeally wanted (and was all but told I had by the HR guy) had been a government teacher, and because government is a course assessed by the HSAs (No Child Left Behind), I'm sure they felt more comfortable with her than they did with me who was coming from teaching 6th grade for the past three years. I'm ok with that.

Anyway, today was mostly spent in that same room with all the new social studies folk. It was neat because I found out the girl sitting across from me was my friend Phil's intern last year, so we had something to talk about. I also chatted a little during a break with the social studies coordinator for the whole county (he was running our little seminar). He mentioned that myself and another girl were former HC interns who taught in Montgomery county and returned to Howard. Apparently that's a common happening. I explained a little about why I made the move and part of that was because I felt like he knew me better than anyone in MC's central office. And he started spouting off what he knew about me - where I student taught, my maiden name, the fact that I was a judge for their "History Day" competition 4 years ago! I was amazed and thrilled.

Tomorrow is our third and last day of this training. The afternoon is scheduled to be terribly boring, but of course there's a mandatory seminar at the end of the day for which you have to sign a paper to indicate you have been through it. Blah. Friday is my last official day of summer break. Go ahead, you can shed a tear for me. It is that sad.

Monday, August 11, 2008

There's a First Time for Everything!

This weekend was my first real camping trip. I know, gasp in horror. Question my American citizenship. I've heard it all. But seriously, before this weekend, the only camping I'd ever done was in my uncle's backyard a few years ago over 4th of July weekend. It really only consisted of sleeping in a tent. We ate and bathroomed and showered in the house. The point was, it was cheaper and easier than finding a hotel room.

So this weekend our friends the Cookes invited us to camp with them at Cunningham Falls in Thurmont. It was an incredibly fun time and a great first camping experience. I have to say I really learned a lot from this trip. And lucky you, I've decided to share some of those lessons with you.

Lesson #1 - If it looks easy in a magazine, it probably isnt.
Since you may recall that Josh and I are doing the South Beach diet, we had to choose our food carefully for the trip. So I spent a good part of Friday preparing some delicious kabobs for one of our dinners. I based my kabobs on a recipe in a magazine. Since this was the first time I was using the recipe I didn't really know what to expect. In general the kabobs were simple to make. You chop up some different veggies and some chicken, and poke them onto a skewer, right? Well not so if one of the things you're chopping is corn on the cob. It looked so nice in the picture, but in reality, trying to cut a corn cob is like chopping down a sequoia. I don't recommend it.

Lesson #2 - S'mores don't hurt anyone.
One thing we said we wouldn't hold ourselves back from this weekend was real campfire s'mores. And we didn't. I think we both had two each night. They might have been the best food I've ever tasted. Not having had any sugar for an entire week, the taste of a gooey melted marshmallow with gooey melted chocolate sandwiched on a graham cracker was more than I had hoped for. It was perfection and worth every calorie. Come to find out, when we got home, Josh had still lost a few ounces, and I was just the same :o) By the way, we're back to being strict this week and then will be able to start having whole grains and berries on Friday... wahoo! They never sounded so good.

Lesson #3 - If the map doesn't show how far it is, you should drive instead of walk.
Alright, so this one sounds like a no-brainer, but it's kind of funny anyway and brings me to some pictures. We woke up Saturday morning and wanted to hike to the falls. We had a map of the grounds but the falls weren't quite on it. Nevertheless we set off into the woods following trees marked with yellow spray-paint. This was not your average beaten path. We're talking about watching your every step for giant rocks and logs on a path that was sometimes not much wider than your two feet. It was at least a 30 minute hike over to the falls.... downhill all the way. You know what that means. Here's a photo from the hike:

You can see the huge rocks and logs, and the skinny little path behind Josh. Fortunately we had perfect weather for this activity. The breeze was chilly if you were sitting still and kept you just cool enough for exerting yourself on a nice hike. Doesn't he look like a man in his element?

We got to the falls and there were tons of people everywhere. They became the challenge instead of balancing yourself on rocks to get across the stream. The falls were not as impressive as I had imagined, barely falls at all, but we took a few pictures nonetheless. After all, we'd hiked all the way there.

Josh and I facing the falls, so they aren't visible in this side-view shot of ourselves. But there we are being cute.

In this picture the falls is behind us, but you can't really tell because like I
said, they're barely falls at all. Plus we're in the shade and the falls
are in the sun.

Here we are at the top of the falls sitting beside the water as it gently rushed over the rocks.

Lesson #4
- I'm not in shape.
After our hike to (and up) the falls, my quads were begging for mercy. I actually wasn't too bad off though. I could feel it, especially on the way back down the falls, but I wasn't gasping for breath or anything. That is, until we started our uphill hike back to camp. It's not just like walking an incline, think really steep stairs. One giant step up after another, onto rocks, over logs, you name it. There were moments I thought they'd just have to go on without me and leave me there to die. It was somewhat embarassing, especially considering the fastest of us was Laura who is in her second trimester of pregnancy (she did not climb up the falls).

Lesson #5 - Camp is quietest during the day.
After our adventure at the falls, we returned to camp around 11:30 am. Laura was beat, so she went in the tent for a nap. Andy and I read magazines, and Josh dozed off listening to his ipod. After a bit, Andy went into the tent and crashed too. I stuck it out as the only one awake for a little while, and around 1:00 figured I might as well catch an afternoon snooze myself. Truth is, I slept better those three hours than any other time that weekend. It never occurred to me that campgrounds would be a bunch of little driveways with hundreds of people all around you. You hear them at all hours of the night talking, laughing, playing music, and walking to the bathroom. During the day however, people are away from camp doing activities making the campgrounds very quiet. We slept until 4:00 when we decided it was time to go fishing...

This is the very pretty lake where we found the most perfect little spot at the edge of the woods to go fishing.

Josh found an awesome rock to fish from -- and looked good sitting there, so I took his picture :o)

Laura and I perched ourselves on what honestly looked like "Pride Rock" except it wasn't hanging over a cliff. We sat there and talked about many girlie things.

You can't really tell in this one, but Josh is making a sad face because he didn't catch any fish and it was time to go back to camp for dinner.

Andy caught something small but decided to "kiss and release" :o)

Lesson #6 - How to make foil-pack meals.
We returned to camp after fishing and we were ready for dinner since we had napped through lunch time. Laura pulled out all the ingredients and we just started throwing delicious things onto sheets of foil. We closed them up and threw them over the fire. In a short bit we had some amazing dinner. I couldn't believe something so good could come out of so little meal preparation. It was fantastic and I loved it. As it got dark we played games and then made s'mores. The boys had a fun time building the biggest fire they could to use the rest of the firewood. It was so nice and toasty. Downside: everything smells like campfire.

On Sunday morning we didn't really have a plan, but were all woken up around 7:15 by some children riding very rattly razor scooters down the gravel road. Since they couldn't get too far from their campsite, they just rode up and down the street right in front of our site. It wasn't worth it to go back to sleep. We just got up and started putting things in cars. Before we knew it everything was packed up. We decided to just hit the road and were home by 9:30 am. This worked out great because we had Lacy's birthday party in the afternoon and were grateful for the time to unload our car and take real showers before heading to a family function.

Today I pretty much just did laundry and some online shopping. I need new posters for my new classroom :o) Yes, I am getting excited. Tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday I have new teacher orientation. I'm not excited about it, but feel obligated to go. It will be an extra $150 to get the school year started. I will let you know how it goes. Oooh, and speaking of that... Friday was the end of week 1 of our diet, and even though we indulged a little over the weekend, when I weighed myself this morning I was down 5 lbs. Here's to hoping for five more by the end of week 2!

If you'd like to see more pictures from our weekend, you can always check my picasa page:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Improving Home Improvements

Josh and I have a long list of things we want to do to our house. First and foremostly (?) we need new floors in the whole place. I've counted and there are 9 different floor coverings in our three-level townhouse. Have a look:

#1 - Hardwood in the entry way. This is a bad idea because hard wood is easily damaged by water, etc. As a result, it's in terrible condition. Eventually I'd like this to be ceramic tile... indestructible.

#2 - Wood laminate in the living room and dining room. The only floor in the house that I like.

#3 - Dark green marbley vinyl in the kitchen. It looks like Saddam's palace.

#4 - Vinyl in the main-level powder room.

#5 - What I think was white carpet that is now grayish tan, stained, and needs to be re-stretched. This is on our stairs, hallway and bedrooms. I pray for the day this gets replaced.

#6 - Yet another vinyl in our bathroom. Hope to replace with ceramic.

#7 - Our third type of vinyl in the main bathroom upstairs.

#8 & #9 - This is not a split-screen shot. This is an actual seam where two different kinds, not just colors, but kinds of carpet meet in our basement. One half is traditional texture, dark green. The other half is beige berber. WHY?

But alas, everything takes time and replacing floors is pricey. We do plan to redo the floor on our entire main level next spring in a dark chocolatey wood. So other than floors, paint is always a quick way to spruce up a space. We have 2 and 1/2 bathrooms and all are pretty small as mentioned in a previous post. So we decided to paint them to brighten them up. Only the main-level powder room and the master bath got finished, but we did start all three :o) The pictures are below, I am thrilled with both. I think the third bathroom will be a pale yellow or possibly a pale turquoise. What do you think?

This is our powder room in pale green. You can tell it's a small space, but the contrast of the white toilet makes the color easier to see.

Close up of the sink which also shows the contrast and how nicely the color goes with our fixtures :o)

This is our master bath in pale purple. Our shower curtain is navy blue and is a perfect accent with the white and deep purple towels.

The squares on this rug were very blue before we painted, now the appear to match the paint perfectly!

So that's where we are for now. I just need to get that third one done and I'd also really like to do our bedroom. All things in time I guess. Maybe I should be putting money away for our floor, or the furniture we're going to need in the spring when Ben & Jenna get married and need theirs back!

Aaaaaanyway, I'll leave it at that for now and post more later. :o)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Making Progress

Well, there's not a lot of fabulousness going on here, but I figured, hey why not. So we're at day 5 of the South Beach diet. No one has cheated yet!! We're doing awesome. I won't say it isn' t tough. The cravings exist, but there are ways around it. I had a sugar-free latte from starbucks the other night and it wasn't bad. I've also allowed myself a diet soda here and there (you like that? "here and there"'s only been 5 days) if I've really felt the need. I also bought decaf coffee to have in the evenings after dinner. Since the advent of Starbucks, coffee to me is now a dessert, so I make myself a cup of coffee, dump a splenda in there and I'm in business. One of the best things about this plan is that you're almost always full. The food you can eat is so substantial that you don't walk around thinking about snacking or just wanting "something." I feel like I actually eat a lot less at each meal because the food is so filling. We're supposed to carefully have morning and afternoon snacks even if we aren't hungry, but I'm not sticking to that really. Hopefully it won't sabotage me in the long run! I haven't checked my progress, I'm too afraid it will say I gained a pound or something and then I'll be terribly discouraged. Josh on the other hand checked his weight the first day (like in the morning before we started the diet) and was already down 5 pounds. Figures. Men lose weight just THINKING about a diet! Why does God want women so round?? Anyway, I think we're off to a good start, though neither of us can wait for a fresh fruit smoothie on the 15th!

In other news.... we are dog-sitting my sister's dog this week while she's at the beach. It has been an interesting dynamic with 2 dogs instead of one, but they've actually been really good together. We've also been painting our three bathrooms. Originally we just wanted to paint them white because they're all kind of smallish and we thought white would help brighten them up a little. I used the white in the 2 bathrooms upstairs and didn't like the way it turned out. It wasn't a mixed white, just a plain satin white right off the shelf. I was careful to make sure it wasn't red-base, or blue-base or anything that had to be mixed. But nonetheless it came out a very harsh color. Next to the white bathtub tiles and the white toilet, it actually has a bit of a purplish cast. I would compare it to a flourescent lightbulb. You know how they're just different? Anyway, I decided I wasn't painting the main-level powder room that color, so I picked a nice green for in there. It turned out gorgeous and exactly how I hoped. After that we decided to do colors in the upstairs bathrooms too... yay! The master bathroom is a pale purple, and I'm undecided about the main bath. I'm thinking pale yellow for some brightness because it is a pretty small space. None of the bathrooms are put back together at this point so I'm not going to post pictures yet. But I will when we get the mirrors and rugs all back in place.

Aaaaaand with that, I actually need to go do my touch-ups in the master bathroom so it can be reassembled tonight. I only have an hour and a half, and then I'm meeting Jenna to check out Turf Valley as a possible wedding venue! SO exciting! :o)

ALSO.... what do you think of the re-decorated blog?? Let me know!