Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 1

I just wanted to let everyone know that I survived my first day back to work! Not only did I survive, but it was a rather productive day. I set up my desks and cleaned out all the stuff I had jammed into my file cabinets at the end of last year. I also cleaned out my own desk - also stuffed full of junk at the end of last year. Everything is now nice and clean.

I didn't get to bring in any of the stuff that was in my car (everything I brought home with me). And I went to the store in the middle of the day to get some other stuff I realized I needed, like tape to put my posters up. By the time I made it back after going to the store it was around 3:30. I started on a project that I realized I could be finishing at home. So I packed up. But on the way home I realized there were several stops it would be wise of me to make so I didn't have to do them tomorrow. After making those stops I finally got home around 5:15. So it was a slightly longer day than I had originally planned on, but productive nonetheless.

On my way home I picked up such important items as fabric to cover my bulletin board and an organizer for our mail (which is already out of control, but we're about to add Jennie's stuff to that). Sadly when I got home there wasn't enough time for anything good to thaw out so we ended up having hot dogs and mac n cheese for dinner. I guess I shouldn't say "sadly" since I do like hot dogs and mac.

Speaking of picking up things... here's something I couldn't find: a Maryland flag. Not even the teacher store had them! Sad. I wanted one to put in my classroom and maybe one for home. Our living room has taken on a sort of "coastal" motif, so I thought I'd go with Maryland coastal / Annapolis and toss in little Maryland elements like the flag. I have a little fall arrangement of black-eyed susans which will also look really cute when I get them out (not quite time yet!). Anyway, I had to go online to search for Maryland flags and found them here for $1.60, in case anyone else needs a Maryland flag. They have all different sizes and materials. I just wanted a little stick-flag (hence, $1.60).

Well that's my exciting news for today. If you'd like to know what I'll be up to tomorrow it will probably involve putting up posters, my bulletin board, and writing up a syllabus. Possibly copying some first assignments, but I'm not sure yet.

Have a good one!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Other Beginning's End

So this is it. Today was my last day of summer break. It very much feels like an end, but at the same time it is very much a beginning. As much as it flips my tummy to think of summer as "ending," I am feeling optimistic about the coming school year. My kiddos should be nice. I'm teaching stuff I've taught before. I will have some adjusting to do for the GT types, but adjusting is a vast improvement over inventing, which is what I did non-stop last year. I will also have to find time for my internship hours and hope that they don't overtake all planning time I'll need for those GT adjustments... and the grading. Nonetheless, I'm feeling optimistic that it will all work out.

I already mapped out how I want to arrange my desks, the design of my bulletin board, rearrangement of some posters, and a few new systems put in place. I'm hoping that I don't have a lot of furniture to move. Last summer our school was painted, so all furniture was piled into corners of the classrooms. This summer we housed summer school, so I'm hoping my classroom is still somewhat in the shape of a classroom. I don't mind moving desks and chairs, but file cabinets are a bit much for little ole me. This week I should be able to get a lot done in terms of lesson planning and copies made. Our administrators are really great about giving us a lot of work time during pre-service week. At my last school, we sat in meetings and trainings non-stop for the entire first week. We got maybe an hour at the end of each day at 1 or 2:00 to work in our rooms. So you know for teachers that meant we were there working until 6pm. Tomorrow I'm completely free from 11am through the rest of the day.

Also beginning this fall, we are making a few changes around the Beck household. Up to this point we haven't really operated on much of a planned budget and have just kind of bought things as needed and grocery shopped based on what we felt like that day. However, we've decided that it's time to start paying closer attention. We came to the realization that we should have more money than we do and we're gonna find it! Here are some mistakes I think we were making...
  • Ignoring sales
  • Not planning ahead
  • Letting good coupons expire
  • Getting lunch and dinner "out" since we hadn't planned well enough
We really aren't wasteful spenders in that we don't go out buying frivolous things just for the fun of it. Neither of us really spends much on things for fun. However, we have spent too much out of necessity that wasn't really necessity. So here are some of my proposed changes...
  • Re-organize coupons by expiration dates
  • Shop based on sales and make meals from that
  • Plan ahead to make sure we have things to pack for lunches, and know what we're making for dinner
Now I've heard of people who are practically professionals at thrift shopping for groceries. I am definitely interested in learning more. For example, I don't know if my idea of making meals based on sale items is sensible or not. Is it better to pick out dinner recipes at the beginning of the week and just shop for what they call for? Or am I doing ok by just buying what's on sale? Don't get me wrong, I'm not buying things just because they're on sale. I'm still only getting things I know we like and will use. I'll try new things, but I wouldn't get something goofy and obscure just because it was a bargain. I'm also willing to still buy my fresh fruits and veggies because we do use them often. I can't get by on Pop-Tarts, Easy Mac and rice just because they're cheap.

So I'm looking for any and all feedback and advice on the meal-planning / grocery shopping front. Do you have a system? Do tell!

If you'd like to know though, today I did my first grocery shopping trip. My goal was to get us breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week for very very close to $100. Overall through sales and 3 coupons (3, haha) I saved $42 and some change. My total came to $101! I was kind of proud. There were some good sales, so I felt like I got a lot for my money. We'll see if I can keep it up!

Since it's back to reality tomorrow, I can't make any promises as to when I'll be back. All I can say is that I hope I find this year much more relaxed than the last ;] This week itself shouldn't be too bad. Next week the little cherubs return and that always means more work for me. But I can honestly say I'm excited to meet them and get the year underway.

Before I go... three positive events!
  1. Amberly is having a GIRL! We are SOOO excited :]
  2. My friend Andy from way back in high school just got a new job and will be moving his family to Texas in the next month or so. I have to record this as a positive event or I will get all selfish and cry about it. I'll miss them something awful, but I know it's a great opportunity for them, and it will give me the excuse I've been looking for to visit Texas!!
  3. I have had an incredibly fun summer (fast as it was) ;]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beach Weekend

We watch the season pull up its own stakes
Catch the last weekend of the last week
Before the gold and the glimmer have been replaced
Another sun-soaked season fades away...

That's right friends. We're back from our last little summer get-away. It was a nice relaxing weekend where we simply sat around on the beach listening to crashing waves and enjoyed each others' company. It really was the perfect summer send-off. It was bittersweet, yes, because it means summer is almost over, but we definitely enjoyed ourselves. The place we stayed at (Braemar Towers) was actually pretty nice. We had an ocean-view room with two balconies - one off the living room and the second off of the bedroom Josh and I stayed in. The one off of our room overlooked Coastal Highway (not the most scenic landscape), but the straight westward view made for pretty sunset watching!

Have a looksie at the photos....

Josh's little cousin, Taryn! We adore her :]

Taryn and "her Joshie" going to sleep for naptime on the beach

View of the beach from our balcony

A pretty sunset. It was much more vivid in person but my camera just wouldn't capture the bright redness of the sun. Sorry, friends.

One of my favorite pictures ever of Josh and I :]

Taryn and "her Emmie"

She's such a little character :]

Joshie and Taryn watching a movie - she had never seen Muppets!!

Look at that face - she was totally taken in by Kermit and Fozzie


And there's that. A good time was had by all (I think). We arrived Friday and it was just us and Josh's parents and Jennie and Taryn. Then Saturday morning Nathan, Erin, Connor and Kelly came down. They stayed until about mid-day on Sunday and then went back home. Michael joined us Sunday night and then we all headed out around 1:30 on Monday afternoon.

I'm now trying to enjoy my last few days of summer break. I really can't believe this is it already. But, I guess time flies when you're having fun. I'm slowly accepting the fact that school is about to start again soon. It's very hard to think about at first, but it's starting to sink in.

Yesterday I spent the day being incredibly productive. I FINALLY got my student loan figured out! Can you believe it!? It was a little confusing, but overall pretty painless. I also got my TB test done for the upcoming internship and then got my fingerprints taken care of this morning. Today also included helping Jennie paint her bedroom (did I mention she's moving in with us?), and finishing my final exam for that play therapy class I took last week. I also made a really good dinner - even if the house did fill with smoke... oh well :]

Let me close with 3 positive events!
  1. The beach trip was a wonderful success!
  2. The student loan is taken care of!
  3. I had TWO very productive days in a row!

I'd also like to end with a little song that I learned while at the beach (and have been singing ever since).

Have you ever been down the water spout
to the very bottom of the water system?
There you'll find a little alligator
who goes by the name of Alfred, if you do.
He's mine.
I lost him.
I threw him down the water spout
and now I'm feeling lonely 'cause he's gone.
I miss him.

The end.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From JHU Once More

Howdy readers! I'm posting from JHU once again except this time it's not during a break. That's right, I am posting this baby directly from the classroom. Hm, several things can be deducted from that fact. 1) I have access to a computer during class 2) I am off-task 3) This class is boring enough that I have exhausted all other interesting web-based options and have decided to go for it and write a blog post! For your reading pleasure, of course.

Well I guess the most exciting thing going on with us right now is that we're getting ready for a weekend at the beach! I know, we just got home from a cruise a few weeks ago. However, Josh's parents got the idea to go away for a weekend at the beach and invited anyone who wanted to go. So we said we were IN! They reserved a condo on 131st street, so we won't be right in the middle of the OC mess, but it will still feel like a nice weekend away. Jennie is going and Connor might be, so it should be a fun little crowd. We're leaving tomorrow evening and coming back on Monday, so it's actually a slightly extended weekend away. I'm looking forward to it.

Next week will be my last week before returning to work. Can you believe the summer is almost over? I guess the season itself will continue for several more weeks, but the summer "break" part of summer is rapidly coming to a close. This was definitely the fastest summer my memory can recall. I think taking three classes may have had something to do with it... just a hunch. Although I am not yet registered for my internship this fall (still waiting on that student loan), I am very much looking forward to having class only ONE night per week, AND knowing that in May I will be finished with my graduate work forever! No more classes! No more papers or homework or exams or student loans! Most importantly - more time with my husband :D I am so excited!

In fact, while we're at it, let me go ahead and tell you why I AM looking forward to this fall:
  • Class once a week instead of twice
  • My fall purse! (it's purple, and I actually was so excited about it that I've already switched over to it. I couldn't hold off until Labor day!)
  • Fall clothes
  • Having all honors & GT students
  • Football season (first Ravens game is TONIGHT!)
  • New things I want to try with my students this year
  • Josh's sister Jennie moving in with us!
  • Fighting with my friend Leighanne about football teams (she made me say that)
Ok, I'm done with that list for now. I'm sure I'll think of more things later! But my sweet teacher has turned off the video and started lecturing again which means I have to tune back in. Who ever thought a class in Play Therapy could be so ultra boring??? Proof that the teacher makes a difference.

Really quickly before I go though... I want to include 3 events for my positive events log!
  1. My in-laws invited us to the beach for the weekend!
  2. Evan started saying "Mimi" and "Josh"!!!!!
  3. I have completed TWO graduate classes in the past 2 weeks. Go me :]
Don't forget to include your positive events log in YOUR blog posts!! I probably won't be back on until next week when we get back from the beach. But, hang in there, I'll be posting pictures! I hope everyone has a GREAT weekend!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009


Honestly, today rivaled that Friday that was the last day of school. It was just a really great day. Maybe not as great as the last day of school, but close. It was the last day of my group therapy class, so there's always a certain amount of relief and light-heartedness that comes with being done with a class you're taking. Plus since it was the last day there was little instruction going on. Groups were just presenting their projects we've been working on all week. If you haven't picked up, this is a 5-day class. So Monday we began and today was the end.

On Monday we were randomly placed in groups and given the task of designing a counseling group that we would be the "facilitators" of. I use quotes because we weren't actually going to run the group, it was just a proposal. My group (5 girls, including me) chose to focus our project on the "Sandwich Generation." For anyone that's never heard of this, the sandwich generation is people who are of the age where they are caring for both their own children and their aging parents. So we worked really hard this week and each person took on a part of the paper that they would be responsible for. I volunteered to be the editor and put everything together nicely at the end. Today everyone was presenting. As it turned out, our group presented last (there were only three groups). So we all did a great job sitting there in front of the class talking about our program and all the sessions and activities we had planned for these sandwich people and why it was important to have a group to support them, etc, etc... At the end, our professor (one of those guys who obviously commands a lot of respect within the profession) says to the class that he wants to make a suggestion to my group. He hadn't made any suggestions to the other groups so we all started exchanging glances like - "oh no, what did we do wrong or forget?!" He even told the other groups to pay attention to his suggestion and why he was making it. It actually felt kind of embarrassing. But then he tells us he thinks we should submit our work for publication. I couldn't believe it! It was such an unexpected compliment. I'm sure my mouth hung open at some point. He said the reason was that there is already a lot of research on the other two groups' topics (adolescents with social issues, and grief/loss), but that there is very little out there on this "Sandwich Generation." He also recommended that we submit it to the Maryland Counseling Association to present it at their annual conference in the spring. Ahhhhhh! I can't take much of the credit because I was only the editor, everyone else did the research and wrote the body of the paper, but I couldn't help but be totally flattered. We were of course all very excited and all agreed that we wanted to do it. So some people are going to spruce up their work a little bit and then we're going to submit it! How can you not be in a great mood after that?!

To get a little more specific for a minute, I also want to share something that came up while we were collaborating on this paper that I thought was particularly inspiring. One of the girls had taken a course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and as it's title suggests this type of stress reduction is based on being present and aware. One of the tools that is used in MBSR is something called a positive events log. I tried doing something similar to this with my blog a long time ago when I was still teaching at Banneker and was basically miserable. But what it is is simply a place to keep a record of positive events in your life so that they don't just kind of blur and disappear into the shadows of all the negativity. It's so easy to focus on what stinks or is unfair or annoying and completely overlook everything that is amazing around you on a daily basis. So I felt inspired to start and keep a positive events log, and I decided that my blog would (once again) be the perfect place. I think from here out I'd like to begin each blog posting with at least three positive events from that day or week - and maybe (hopefully) more! I just feel like it's so important in life to take time to acknowledge the positive. Some call this counting blessings, which I am a big believer in. But having a forum for it, like a blog, I think will almost force me to really examine life critically and pluck out some of the tiniest positives (knowing that some days there will seem like there are none). Anyway, that inspired me and I think in a way that moment with my group was a little bit of a turning point for me in that I want to start this positive events log and hope that it will help change my perspective on every day life. Of course, I encourage you to start one as well. Like I said, blogs are a good place. Or you could just keep a little notebook or journal handy and note things down as they happen in your day. Maybe that little tid-bit will help you to change your perspective or focus for the better as well :]

Ok, so as if all this wasn't super fun and warm and fuzzy enough... today is 8.7.9. It's a special day in our house. The original special day was 8.7.6 - the day Josh proposed! It was such a fun day, and I won't run you through the whole story again, but it holds so many happy memories and emotions for me that I can't help but reflect on it and get sucked into all those feelings again. I relived that day multiple times today and know that I must have been staring into space grinning like an idiot a time or two during class today. What can I say, I'm in love! So to celebrate we're going out to a nice dinner at PF Chang's in Towson. As we speak Josh is readying himself to walk out the door, so I should probably do the same.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! And let me know if you start a positive events log! I'd love to hear your thoughts and how it works out for you :]