Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't Stop Believin!

I promise I will deliver on my promise of pictures!

It was an incredibly busy weekend. Josh's aunt and uncle were in town with their three boys from North Carolina. So while they were here we had a family event planned for each day/night. Of course, I have pictures :] A quick rundown of the weekend (if you care, which I know you do or you wouldn't be here).....

  • Thursday night was girls night. Sharon, Tara (aunt), Jennie, Kelly and myself went out for dinner, a movie and drinks. We did local pizza/subs for dinner, saw The Proposal which was an excellent little romantic comedy, and then went up to the Green Turtle in Westminster for drinks and listened to a live band whom I hoped I hadn't gone to high school with.
  • Friday was adults only night. We had dinner in Columbia at Famous Dave's, and then went into town for drinks at DuClaw in Fells Point. It was a lot of fun.
  • Saturday was Connor's graduation party so the Beck house was full of lots of people - family and friends. Some people we knew, some we didn't. It ended up being an all day event, but it was fun nonetheless. We mostly kept to the 4 Beck siblings and their significants, but allowed a few others to socialize with us from time to time.
  • Sunday was the day Josh's aunt and uncle were leaving to go home so no big event was planned. But I did have to go see my dad in the morning and then Josh and I made plans to go see Transformers 2 again with Ben and Jenna. Not that it wasn't good the first time, but we apparently had arrived too late (an hour before show time) and the entire theater was full except for the very front row. I don't do well in any front row, much less IMAX at a movie like Transformers 2. So needless to say, I missed a lot the first time around.
That was our weekend. Yesterday I had to study for my final exam in class last night. I do still have a week left of class, but next week class time is reserved for presenting our research proposals. It's a big class, so it's going to take some time. Unfortunately, I'm kind of afraid that this will mean us staying until 9:20 for the first time during this session! The teacher is kind of strange (but nice, so I won't complain). So I spent a large part of yesterday laying out in the sun on the deck with my class notes and study guide going over what I needed to know for the final (I think they call this cramming). Then I let myself pick up the book... yes, Twilight, I'm hooked. And I can't really decide if the story is all that fabulous or if I just enjoy reading something mindless for fun. I haven't done that in a very long time. So I got started reading that and at the point when I thought I was totally roasted, dripping and ready to go inside, I would convince myself that I'd lay there for just one more chapter. So when I finally got inside and hadn't yet been to the grocery store like I promised my husband, I had to take a fast shower, pluck the splinter out of the bottom of my foot from going out on the deck barefooted, and then run to the store. When I got home I barely had time to throw a frozen pizza in the oven and eat before I had to leave for class. It's really amazing how fast time flies when you're not at work. And yet the work days can seem easily twice as long. Every time I look at the clock another hour or more has passed and I begin to think all those things I wanted to get done today just aren't going to happen. This is precisely how I haven't posted all those pictures I've been promising. So SO sorry about that. But I just watched a couple of tutorials on switching from PC to Mac, so hopefully I'll be all fluent and ready to rock with my bad self here soon. I do have lots of pictures loaded onto the computer, I just have to decide what I want to load where.

Anyway, if I continue to describe my to-do list I'll be here until kingdom come and none of the things on the list will be completed. For anyone who doesn't know a teacher (besides me), summers off do not consist of sitting around doing nothing. I'm writing papers, doing research, appealing to the university for my internship requirements, doctor appointments, and trying to squeeze in a little bit of time to actually relax.

Eight weeks never seemed so short.... and I'm only on day 2 of week 2. More to come soon, maybe this afternoon/evening. I promise! ;]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Busy Beeeee

How is this my third day of summer break and I have yet to crack open either my new book OR my new computer (which arrived yesterday!)???

I've been busy. And not just make things up to do, busy. Because if I wanted to do that I've got a computer and new book sitting here calling my name. The computer and ipod are literally in their boxes sitting on my kitchen table. Is that sad, or what?

Monday I was busy cleaning because I wasn't sure if our meeting with the realtors was taking place at OUR house or their office, and there was lots of straightening and tidying to be done. So we did tons of that and the meeting turned out to take place at their office. Isn't that always the way? S'ok though, we got a clean house out of it :] And I'll NEVER complain about that!

Yesterday I had my shoulder re-excision in the morning and then came home to some more chores and errands: run, lunch, Target, Giant, bank, wash the car, get clean, meeting with realtors, make dinner/watch Transformers 1 with Josh, make him dessert (homemade strawberry shortcake) for being an amazing husband, off to the midnight show of Transformers 2. It doesn't sound like much, but there was no downtime in there.

So, if you recall, this leaves me with writing my paper today because it's due tonight. Ew. I'm so done with this class. It's research and evaluation for counselors. Basically a class teaching you how to conduct a research study. You have to prepare a research proposal as if you were going to carry out a study. It's kind of dumb because school counselors don't do this kind of thing. So it's tough to sit through and care about a class that you'll never need. I will never put together and conduct a research study. I promise. But tonight's paper isn't long - a page or two I think - that is describing something about the study I'm "conducting." Then I have a week and a half to get my proposal written which is something like 10 pages. It's going to require a bunch of research I don't want to do. But then the class is over. Yay.

So unfortunately, you're still going to have to wait for pictures. But I'll keep promising them to keep you coming back! :] Haha, and eventually I will make good on the promise. I promise.

For now I have to take something over to my Joshua at work. I love it when I get an unexpected visit with him :]

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just Because I Can

So here's a change of pace for ya... I'm writing this post without anything real to report, but just because I can. It's been a long time since I sat down at 10:30 on a Monday night to write a random blog post just for the fun of it! I'll keep it quick though. I just want to mention a couple of things. Ready?

  • You will have to wait a little longer for all those pictures I've been promising. Although the kind salesman in the Apple store told us the computer would ship from PA, Josh told me last night he was pretty sure the tracking information said Cincinnati. However, when he checked today, no, in fact it is actually shipping from Shanghai CHINA. It's still scheduled to arrive on Wednesday though, so it shouldn't be too much longer.
  • Babysitting on Saturday was a breeze and so much fun. I've got a bunch of really cute pictures to share. Stay tuned.
  • Today I picked up a copy of Twilight from the library because when I checked online this morning it actually said "On shelf" at the library closest to our house. I was excited, so I called and they set it aside for me. I plan to start on it tomorrow. Josh suggested that I pick up the first two, just in case. However, I replied... "I think I'll stick with the first one and see how I like it. It's about vampires. I'm doing this out of pure curiosity at this point." Haha, so I'll let you know what I think. I was unable to dig Harry Potter so I'm hoping the slightly grown up nature of this story will hold my interest a little better. I really want to do some good reading this summer. I miss reading for fun!!!
  • Tomorrow morning I'm having my second re-excision on the other shoulder. Wish me luck! The scar from my last one is still painful and (I think) looks pretty yucky. So I'll be happy to get this one over with and hopefully feeling better before our cruise.
  • Tomorrow night we are meeting with our real estate agents to talk about our house and what we should be doing to prepare for a move in the next 2-3 years or so. I am excited to hear what they say, and will be sure to pass along the good advice for any homeowners who aren't in their "forever" house yet ;]
  • Also tomorrow night... we are going to the midnight show of Transformers 2! I am SO excited! I'll also let you know how awesome that is. Boy, you are lucky that you read this blog. I tell ya...
So that's the quick update. Hopefully I'll have pictures for you Wednesday. I also have a paper due Wednesday night, so I'll have to get that done sometime tomorrow between outpatient surgery, meetings and midnight movies! I suspect I will be working on it Wednesday as well.

Ok, time to check on my husband who is cleaning the basement and try to convince him to come upstairs to curl up with me! :]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Done and DONE!

That's it! I'm done! Hooraaaaaaay!

I know you're so happy for me because you no longer have to read long complaining blog posts about my job! So I am happy for you as well.

Today wasn't bad as work days go -- how could it be, right? The real work was to be done after the kids left anyway. For anyone who doesn't know a teacher (besides me), at the end of the year the administration gives you this list of things you need to do and/or hand in. It identifies who you need to see about it and then has a place for them to sign off that you did it. So everyone rushes around like crazy lining up outside offices trying to get these papers signed off during the last few days of school, but mostly on THE last day because some things you just can't do until then. My idea was to get all of my stuff done and together, then take it all out with me to get my signatures at once. THEN I'd come back and pack up my classroom. So that's what I did, and it seemed to work out just fine. However, I didn't leave the building until 4:00 despite the children leaving at 11:10! It was a lot of work and I felt very tired and grubby afterwards, but I don't have to work any more until August so I can't rightfully complain.

The FUN began as soon as I got home. First of all, my Joshua was already home :] I smile so big when I pull into our street and his car is there. He right away suggested going out to dinner and going to pick up my new computer. We had a gift card for Cheesecake Factory - YUM, and I've been waiting around for my student loan to go through (which it still hasn't) so I could purchase my own computer instead of relying on the one that Howard County gave me. If anything goes wrong with that baby, I'm pretty well up the creek. So I don't load a lot of my pictures or music on it for fear that they will somehow get lost. Anyway, these two things sounded just SPLENDID to me so I threw myself together real quick and we headed over to Columbia Mall.

We did dinner first and ate outside. It was such nice summer evening weather! I love summer evenings - my fav. So after dinner we went into the mall to go to the Apple store. Being the geniuses we are, we had forgotten that the new iphone was released today, so the store was under major security. You had to stand in line just to go in! Fortunately since we were shopping for a computer and not an iphone, we got in the short line. It didn't take long to get into the store, but once in there and talking to a sales guy, we realized that the specifications I'm looking for had to be ordered online. Bummer. The good news is... since I'm an educator, when I purchase my computer we get a FREE ipod touch! (This also applies if you are a student) I am SO stoked! Those things are fantastic. I think I'm mostly excited for the fact that they have mobile internet access so I don't have to pay for something like that on my phone service.

Despite that minor setback, I was having such a wonderful time just being out and carefree with my adorable husband that my mood was not hindered in the slightest. I decided I'd stop and get a coffee at Starbucks on the way out of the mall. I've discovered the flavored iced coffees -- so much less calories than latte, and SO cheap! They're $1.95 for either tall or grande, AND it costs nothing to add a shot of flavor!!! I'll be perfectly honest - they are delicious and refreshing. It's my new favorite Starbucks drink. On our way to Starbucks, I of course had to encounter two former students who shouted, "Miss Beck-a-roni!!!!!" from about 20-feet away and came at me with arms outstretched. *SIGH* A quick hug, hello, nice seein ya, and we were on our way. I didn't even bother introducing them to Josh. I'm sure they figured, and I didn't really want to engage in much conversation anyway. Joy. This is precisely why I avoid the dang mall on Friday nights!

We got through Starbucks and stopped back over to the Cheesecake Factory to pick up -- you guessed it -- cheesecake :] to have for dessert at home. Josh actually got some kind of brownie sundae thing and I got kahlua coco coffee cheesecake... delish. And now here we are back at home. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect evening to kick off my summer break.

As previously mentioned - tomorrow we're babysitting then hitting the town with our friends the Herdmans, and Sunday we're hanging out with our dads (in some t.b.d. capacity). I may not do my super photo upload on Monday since I'll have a new computer on its way (it only ships from PA, so it should be here in a few days). So that will free up my Monday just a little more. One of the other things on my to-do list for that day is to hit up the library so I can finally figure out what all this Twilight hysteria is about (and also so I can feel accepted in female social circles).

Have a great weekend! And happy summer! :]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Wors-- "Most Challenging" of Times...

As my school year draws to an end, I looked back over the past 9 months (because that's what they teach teachers to do, "reflect"), and realized that this was both my best and, I don't want to say worst, but definitely most challenging school year.

I say most challenging because we all know that with great freedom, comes great responsibility. In Howard county they give you great freedom with your lesson planning. In fact, all they "require" or give you is a list of topics and objectives. So here's what you need to cover, this is what we want the kids to know or be able to do after studying the topics. The responsibility piece of that is writing a gazillion lessons. You've heard my complaints about that over the course of this school year. It was definitely a challenge that I was not prepared for. As a result, this was my most challenging school year so far (out of 4, haha, but still). It seemed to take forever, I was miserable many times for feeling overwhelmed by the workload, and I can't say I'm not a little burned out on creative lesson ideas. I know for a fact that there were some peaks and valleys in my creativity and I'm sure the kids noticed periods where we seemed to do some of the same activities over and over again. With life happening at the same time, it became really hard to sit and create two fabulous lessons every single day. Not to mention that a lot of fabulous lessons require significant planning ahead in order to have materials and equipment ready. Those things just didn't happen for me this year. So I am more relieved than I've ever been that this school year is over because I am finally out from under what felt like a never-ending dark cloud. I really can't describe the stress of having lesson plans hanging over my head 24-7 for 9 months straight.

At the same time, despite all of my many complaints, this has been by far my FAVORITE school year. Oakland Mills is a wonderful school. Some of the teachers there have their complaints, and I'm not saying they aren't valid complaints, but I guess there's a lot to be said for perspective. I just know that coming from Banneker Middle School, Oakland Mills is a dream. There are problem students, there are issues that still need to be addressed, it's not the prettiest building in the richest neighborhood, or any of that. But it is a good school. The administrators care. The teachers care. Many of the students care. Kids are involved, they have pride in the school, and a lot of them are incredibly talented. I attended graduation a few weeks back and in the program they printed each graduate and what their next step would be (either what school they were attending, if they were going into military service or a work field). There were students who are attending ivy league colleges, one girl is going to Harvard. So despite being referred to as a "ghetto" school and people thinking we've got nothing but throw-away kids at OM, we've actually got a lot to be proud of. Maybe I just got lucky, but my students this year were great. There were a few that I could have done without, but overall I had a lot of fun with them. That is something I could not say at Banneker. The lessons were the easy part, it was the kids and lack of administrative support that stressed me out to the point of dreading each day and NOT looking forward to another year.

So, as happy as I'm for the year to be over with, at least I can say I'm looking forward to next year. I have a lot of new ideas that I want to try. I've already started thinking about ways I want to add to and change my lessons - and I really feel like next year I'll have the opportunity to do that without the pressure of creating something from scratch every day. I guess what I can say I learned this year was first, what a real first year of teaching is like, but second and more importantly that it's true what they say: "There's no place like hOMe"

Ok, I'll spare you any more of that mushiness :] We have a big fun weekend coming up: we're babysitting Josh's cousin on Saturday, then going out to Howl at the Moon (our FAVORITE bar in Baltimore) with Phil & Daniella that night, and Sunday of course will be spent with the dads. Are you ready for a big photo post on Monday??? I hope so!

One more thing before I go.... If you use an iGoogle homepage (which you should), I highly recommend a gadget called "Turtle." I've included a photo below. It's two turtles swimming around and when you click your mouse it puts down food for them! SO CUTE. They will swim toward your cursor waiting for food and chase down any food that you leave for them. I've had a good time making them race to get to one piece of food. It's endless entertainment!

My only question is -- what to name my turtles????

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For The Record...

I am officially finished planning lessons for this school year!

Isn't that exciting?!? I can't explain how happy that makes me! I have planned my last plan! Today was the last bit of "instruction" I had to give. Tomorrow begins half-days which consist of nothing but exams. Students come in and take two 90-minute exams and then go home. It is heaven (you may recall my blog post from January in which I called midterm exam week one of the easiest weeks ever). I no longer have to entertain and educate these children. I'll simply start the exam by answering any questions students have, and then let them at it. Both exams I'm giving are only 50 multiple choice questions so they will definitely not take even the slowest student 90 minutes to complete, but that is no matter. The point is, I don' t have to execute a lesson!

Oh, happy day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Update

This photo sums up our weekend nicely. We had a lot of company and drank a lot of mojitos and polished off that bottle of coconut rum :]

  • Thursday night Jennie and Michael came over. They had some birthday goodies for me (yay!). So we had dinner together and drank mojitos. We also told a lot of funny stories. We don't get to see those kids often enough.
  • Friday night we hosted "Wye Life: Revisited" which is a gathering of Josh's college roommates. They started a tradition back in the college days of having a Thanksgiving dinner together which has continued beyond college. This past year we hosted the Thanksgiving dinner and it turned out to just be the roommates and their significant others. We had so much fun that we decided it would be nice to get that group together again before Thanksgiving. So we hosted a cookout on Friday night with them. It was also a lot of fun. We had so much food, sat out on the deck all night and just chatted and laughed and told stories. Again, we drank a lot of mojitos :]
  • Saturday I attended Samantha Knapstein's wedding shower. That was a blast. I meant to bring some leftover mojito makings to that party but forgot. It wasn't a problem, however. Between margaritas, sangria, and their mojitos, no one went thirsty :] That's just how the Knapsteins roll! During the shower, Ben and Connor went to my house to hang out with Josh (Kelly was seeing a play with Sharon). So after the shower, I brought Jenna and Kelly back to my house and the six of us all hung out for the rest of the night. We had some of the leftover cookout and wedding shower food aaaannnnddd.... drank a lot of mojitos ;]
Today, although I love them, I think I will break from mojitos. I need to go visit my dad and help him out this morning. And then we'll probably be hanging out at my mom's for dinner. Tomorrow begins my last work week before summer! I'm doing review activities on Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday-Friday are half days where the kids just come in, take 2 exams and then go home. Those days are the easiest particularly because there is no instruction involved. Both of my exams are 50 questions, multiple choice. The U.S. history one is made by the county so I had no say in that one, but you can bet when I wrote the world history one that I just patterned it the same way. Anything other than multiple choice takes eons to grade and I don't have extra time to grade these badboys.

I also have another paper due for my grad class this week (yes, I'm back at it twice a week for 6 weeks... though this will be week 3 already) so I can't promise you'll see a post from me before saaaayyy Thursday but I'm trying to climb back up on the wagon! Next Saturday we're babysitting Josh's cousin Taryn (if you haven't seen her video on facebook yet, "What does Sheppie say?" you should go watch it now. It's on my page). So I will definitely have some fun pictures and stories to post from that.

Time to go get myself ready for the day!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The End of the Tunnel (finally)

Ok, so once again I've left you believing I had fallen off the face of the earth. Hang in there, my friends... for summer is a mere week away! That's right, one week from tomorrow is the last day of school. Can I get a...


Sweet. Thanks. By the way, that is the actual sound I'll be making at 11:10 am next Friday (in case you were wondering).

So there have been A LOT of developments since I posted last. My brother got married, for one. I promise that the top of my to-do list for Monday June 22nd is to upload millions of pictures and post them in all the requisite places (blogger, picasa, facebook... any other suggestions?). My sister also announced to the world that she is expecting her FOURTH baby in December! I've known about this for a while but I can talk about it now that the dr. says it's safe to. Not only that, but we found out that one of my very best friends, Mary Beth is having a baby BOY at the end of October. In addition to all that, Josh and I have done a lot of talking and thinking and things of that nature. We've come to some important conclusions and made some pretty big decisions. It all started on the way to the grocery store one day. I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. We are NOT expecting a baby ;]

We ARE however, planning for the future which we hope will include children. You've no doubt read about our recent plans to re-do the flooring on our main level. We did get our new furniture, which looks even better than I had originally pictured. I'm in love. I'll post those pictures with all the rest. But we've decided not to re-do the floors. Well at least not ALL of them. The way we came to that conclusion was while driving to the grocery store we go through the neighborhood where I had originally discovered a house that I really really liked and pushed hard for us to buy. However, we didn't get the ball rolling with our real estate agents quickly enough and though we did get to see it once, when I decided I wanted to have another look, the house was no longer on the market. So I always think about it when we drive to the grocery store through that neighborhood. There are many things about that neighborhood that I like more than ours. I won't go into all of it, but the other day I said to Josh, "Is it ok if I still wish we lived in THIS neighborhood?" And he said, "Yea. Me too." You see where this is going. About 2 more minutes into that conversation we realized that we don't want to raise our kids in the house we live in now.

That of course is not the best realization to come to when the market is in the dumps and you've paid fractions of fractions of your mortgage. Ok, so we started thinking about what needed to be done if we want to be able to move from our house by the time we have say, a toddler, AND actually make a decent profit to put down on something new. The first thing we determined was that we aren't doing all-new floors on the main level. We'll leave the laminate in the living/dining room and replace the linoleum in the kitchen. This also eliminates the need to do anything to the cabinets - so, another project off the list. Instead, we'll focus on replacing the carpets upstairs and in the basement and painting. We'd also like to do new countertops in the kitchen eventually, but nothing fancy, just a different color to match with whatever new floor goes in there.

The next issue is salaries. Obviously we can't buy a bigger house unless we qualify for a mortgage that size. I'm working on my master's and beyond that the only way to increase my pay is with time or a Ph.D. (and don't count on that ever happening). So we had to look at Josh's options. He's definitely in the more lucrative field and he doesn't yet have a master's. So, he has talked to his current boss and she is willing to create a position for him that wouldn't mean an instant pay increase, but would offer a lot of opportunities in the future. One has something to do with project finance, and the other is corporate communications something-or-other that gets his hands into a variety of things which he could later choose to branch off into. All the while, we're looking into an MBA.

So, while all of this looks promising and points us in the right direction, for the time being we'll be right where we are. We'll probably also have to wait for the market to pick up again since we have little chance of making a profit on our house until it does. This unfortunately means all the other houses increase in price as well, but what can you do? I made the HUGE mistake of actually looking at some listings here in Columbia for 4 bedroom, 2.5 baths (I'm not moving into anything less - we're talking about the place where we'll raise our family). Some of the places were barely more than what we paid for our house. It was kind of depressing. I didn't find any that seemed PERFECT - thankfully. They all had something about them I wasn't crazy about, whether it was the schools or the God-forsaken heat pumps. I would never buy a house with a heat pump. But some of them were pretty impressive. Sadly, they'll probably be about $50,000 more expensive when the market improves and we have to hope we're making some more money by then.

So anyway, that's a brief (kind of) update. I am finally at the point in the school year where I'm just doing review activities with the kids to get ready for their final exams. Exams start on Wednesday next week. So I don't have the extensive lesson plans to work on every night. This freed me up not only to write this lovely blog post, but also to entertain Jennie and Michael for dinner tonight! I'm so excited! I'm off to make a pitcher of mojitos!

Hope all is well ;] Stay tuned for lots of posts and pictures, things around here are about to pick up!