December 31, 2010

Best Moment of 2010

I dyed my hair this week   Don't worry, it's still my natural color; I just do it to cover my grays.  Yes, at 28 years old, I have grays.  What can I say?  I am my father's daughter.  It's nothing a $2.99 bottle of hair dye can't manage.

I gave myself a pedicure yesterday and did a pretty good job... it only took me about 90 minutes.  OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark Suede, if you are wondering about the color of choice.  I highly recommend it.  

I went to the nail salon for a manicure last night because I cannot, for the life of me, paint my right hand with any color darker than clear.

While I was there, I also got my eyebrows waxed, which I have to say I really preferred over my threading experience.  It's faster, cheaper, and far less painful.  Also, I didn't walk around for the rest of the evening with bright red marks above my eyes.  That's a plus.  It''s decided... I'm going to be a waxing girl. 

After the salon, I came home and shaved.  Yes, this deserves mentioning.  Because it's Decemeber, and my legs are always covered anyway, right?

And then I straightened my hair.  Contrary to what pictures of me may show, this doesn't happen nearly as often as it once did.  It's a process.  But it always looks photo-worthy when it's done.

And when I was done, around midnight, I began tracking a flight.  And I tossed and turned all night long in anticipation of it's arrival because this isn't just any flight; it's THE flight.  The one that is bringing my love home to me today!

Yes, my man is on his way home, and in less than two hours, I will be able to look into his gorgeous eyes and give him the world's biggest hug... for the first time in EIGHT months. 

THAT right there, folks, is going to be my best moment of 2010.

What's yours?

December 29, 2010

Saying Thanks

When we were kids, my mom my always forced us to write thank-you notes after birthdays and Christmas.  Truth be told, it was like pulling teeth around here (as I'm sure it is in many families) to get them done.  Finally, she wouldn't let us have the gift (usually money) until we sent the card - hello, motivation!


I'll be honest, though, and admit that I couldn't tell you the last time I wrote a thank-you note, slapped a stamp on it, and put it in the mail.  I still think it's important to acknowledge a gift (or special meal or visit) in some way, but I can't help but think that these formal thank-yous are very passé. 

In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, I think it's much more reasonable to expect a phone call, e-mail, Facebook message, tweet, text, etc. than a hand-written note in the mail.  And I think there are a lot of people who would appreciate the immediacy of these options over waiting a week (or more) for a note to arrive in their mailboxes.  Also, odds are much better that I have your e-mail address than your street address. 

I'm just being honest here... unless it's for my grandparents, a card is probably not going to happen.  (Unless, of course, it's for a formal event, like my wedding.  A formal event calls for a more formal thank-you, in my opinion.) 

I also have to say that I don't ever expect or keep track of who sends me a thank-you.  This may not be a very popular opinion, but to me, expecting a thank you is like expecting to be praised for being nice or thoughtful - and that just seems silly.  We should be nice and thoughtful of others because it's the right thing to do, not because we want to be acknowledged for it.  

December 22, 2010

Be The Change. Save a Life.

I wouldn't say I'm a fan of the Colbert Report, but when I came across the video, Jesus is a Liberal Democrat, I knew I had to share it.  The part that I liked about this video had absolutely nothing to do with the politics at all.  My favorite quote comes at the end when Colbert says,

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition — and then admit that we just don’t want to do it. 

Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, we can all afford to be more charitable this holiday season.  And yes... we can all afford it.  Because, as I learned on Friday's episode of 20/20, it doesn't take much to make a difference.  In the episode, Be the Change. Save a Life, Diane Sawyer took a look at world health stories from across and the simple, life-changing, affordable solutions to help our global community.

One of the things that really struck me was how basic the needs are for so many people.  Yes, we have poverty here in the United States, but even our poorest families have access to clean drinking water and basic medical care.  I can't imagine living in a world where I have to question each sip of water and wonder if that will be the drink that kills my child.  No one should have to live like that!

The other thing that really struck me was how easy many of these problems are to treat.  For only $11, you can provide birthing kits to three mothers, providing them access to basic things like a bar of soap and latex gloves.  A $14 donation provides 2,000 chlorine tablets to ensure safe drinking water.  An Embrace infant warmer costs only $20 and is often the difference in whether a baby survives past his or her first month.

I could go on and on about the heart-breaking stories and simple solutions shared on the show.  The point is, though, that we have no excuse not to do something about it.  Please, take a moment to visit their website and consider the many ways you can help.

December 19, 2010

Belonging

Remember the television show Cheers?  While I was definitely too young to be a true watcher of the show, my dad was a fan, so I often overheard the theme song and learned the tune myself.

(Sing it with me now...) 

"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You wanna go where everybody knows your name."

From what I can recall, the show centered around the lives of the bartenders and regular patrons of a local (whole-in-the-wall?) bar.  As indicated in the theme song, it was a place for them to belong.  A place to be surrounded by like-minded people who know and care about you. 

I realized today how much my Zumba class has become my "Cheers" after attending a two-hour master class this afternoon.  I love, love, love my instructor and the many friends I've made since joining this class nearly five (!) months ago.  The fact that I have them has been a huge motivation for me to keep going.  I know that if I miss a class, someone will notice... and they will care!  I love catching up with them each day and sharing parts of our lives, and I love how many of those relationships have extended beyond the walls of our gym. 

This group is so important to me now that I don't have a real teaching job because I lost that sense of belonging when I had to sub.  Even in my long-term positions, it doesn't feel the same because I know it's still only temporary.  At Zumba, though, I'm an equal.  I'm not there filling in for the day or even for the semester. 

I belong.

And I love it!  :)

December 14, 2010

The Marvels of Modern Medicine

Today, I learned about the first man to be cured of HIV, and I am so excited about what this means for the future of medicine.  Timothy Ray Brown, the patient, received a stem-cell transplant in 2007 after being diagnosed with leukemia. 
 
I know that a stem-cell transplant is a very risky procedure and that this is certainly not the cure for HIV... but it is certainly a milestone.  And I can't help but think about the hope this must bring to those that suffer from this debilitating disease. 

I know it will take time, but I hope this is the beginning of the end. 

This will change lives, people!

December 5, 2010

OMIGOD You Guys!

Yesterday, Amy and I took mom to our favorite sushi buffet and then to see Legally Blonde, The Musical for her upcoming birthday.  (Don't worry, Ma, I won't divulge your age!)  One of the great things about living here is the ability to take advantage of Broadway in Chicago, and I knew this was exactly the type of musical mom would love!

I have to say, not only did mom love it, but I also loved this musical!  I already knew the story was good, and I was pleased to discover how much I also enjoyed the music, the dancing, and the acting.  The actress who played Elle Woods did a fantastic job with this role- and that's coming from a huge Reese Witherspoon fan!

The script was funny and relatable.  They stayed true enough to the original story that fans would appreciate the musical, but there were some changes - ones I actually appreciated.  They even made some obvious modifications to include one-liners that reference things like "Glee" - making the audience burst into laughter in even unexpected times.

My personal favorite part when the lawyers were trying to figure out if the pool boy was gay or just European.  The song that accompanied this scene was just too funny.  I couldn't stop laughing!  Here's an excerpt from the song for your enjoyment:

Elle:
Of course he's gay.

Calahan:
Or European?

All:
ohhhhhh.
Gay or European?
It's hard to guarantee
Is he gay or European?

Warner:
Well, hey don't look at me.

Vivian:
You see they bring their boys up different in those charming foreign ports.
They play peculiar sports.

All:
In shiny shirts and tiny shorts.
Gay or foreign fella?
The answer could take weeks.
They will say things like "ciao bella"
while they kiss you on both cheeks.

Elle:
Oh please.

All:
Gay or European?
So many shades of gray.

Warner:
Depending on the time of day,
the French go either way.

I'm not sure where the tour is headed when they leave Chicago, but if you get a chance to check out this musical, I highly recommend it.  It's a great event for a girls' night out (or a fun date with your gay boyfriend)!

December 3, 2010

Just Like I've Always Imagined

I've had a secret fear that my family... my whole family.... was over Christmas.  Everyone, that is, except for me.  I love everything about it... our annual cookie day, the music, the lights, the trees, the presents, the flavors.... it all just warms my heart.
My family, though, has slowly started to do less and less for the holiday.  I couldn't even tell you the last time my dad put lights on the house, and the only reason we had any outdoor decoration at all was because I bought my dad a twinkling snowman (who is super-cute, btw).  He says it's too cold, that he doesn't have the time, or (his newest line) that he doesn't have a ladder that will reach high enough anymore.  Excuses, excuses, I say! 

Then, last year, my family didn't even have a tree (well, Grams gave us a cute little one... but it just wasn't the same, you know?), and I couldn't help but feel a little sad without it.  We propped our tree on a TV tray in the living room, tree skirt and all, and kept our presents on the floor beside it.  It just didn't have the same effect, if you know what I mean.

Decorations and a tree... it's just stuff, right?  Yes... but it matters to me!

Today, I was overwhelmed with joy when my parents came home with a beautiful, tall, and full Christmas tree!  Even better than the tree itself was the effect of said tree.  Immediately, everyone began pitching in to assemble the tree, and mom and I ran down to the basement to get out our ornaments and decorations.  And then, we spent hours... together... decorating our home for Christmas. 

It was just like I've always seen on TV... a family coming together, reminiscing about the ornaments that adorn each evergreen branch, hanging stockings and wreaths, and we even found a new, perfect place for Grandma's old tree. 

Our house looks like it's been sprinkled by the magic of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  It looks better than I can ever remember! 

And as I sit here, sipping on my cinnamon apple tea, I can't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside about what I hope will become a new family tradition.       

December 1, 2010

Gifts

It seems that every year, around the holidays, I hear more and more people complain about the gift-giving process and all that comes with it.  I understand that times are tough for many families these days (I lost my job too, remember?), that we should strive to keep consumerism and materialism from running our lives, and that contemporary celebrations often miss the true meaning of Christmas. 

But...

As a person who really, really loves gifts, it makes my heart sad when people say they'd prefer to forgo them each year.  I know it can be a lot... especially if you have a large circle of loved ones, and everyone should set their limits, but isn't it worth it in the end? 

I always fear people will assume my preference for gift-giving is because I'm materialistic or selfish.  Today, though, I came across a great reminder that gift-giving (and receiving), for many people, is a love language.  And I am here to declare that it is mine! 

I get that warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I receive a gift.  It doesn't even have to be anything of monetary value... just something to show someone was thinking of me.  My mom said she could bake a dozen cookies, but if she put a couple "special ones" on a plate for me, I felt loved.  To me, a gift says you care... and that's why I like them!

In the same way, I get really excited about giving gifts.  I spend a lot of time searching for the perfect gifts for my loved ones; I always try to think of something My mom can attest to the fact that it's extremely hard for me to hold on to a gift.  I always want to tell the person early because I'm so excited to share my "love" (because that's really what I'm doing).

It's not just about getting and giving presents... it's about sharing love.

So, before you go around asking friends and family to stop the gift-giving tradition, consider, for a moment, that you might be denying someone their love language.  Instead, consider setting spending limits or drawing names if there are too many people for your budget.  But don't take away someone's ability to share their love!     

November 27, 2010

Thank Heaven For Little Girls!

After my fifth Zumba class in four days, I deserved another sushi lunch, if I do say so!  So, I was really thankful to have the company of my sister, best friend, Elaine, and her daughter, Hannah for a sushi extravaganza.  Once again, it was delicious food and great company.  I just love my girl time.

After lunch, we went to Ulta to pick out some nail polish.  I treated myself to a mini/pedi earlier this week before parent conferences, and the color was starting to chip.  No worries, though, I am now supplied with my very own bottle of "Lincoln Park After Dark Suede" (as well as some other colors... I can't help it.  I'm a sucker for a good sale.) and my touch ups have been applied.

Hannah may just be my number one fan in life.  No one gets quite as excited to see me, and she makes my heart melt every time.  She's the only human I've ever seen break into a full body shake with anticipation when I walk through the door... it's so stinking cute!  After shopping, she decided that she wanted to come home with me for a little while, and I was happy to give Elaine a little "me time" and entertain the little princess.

We rocked out to some tunes in the car, played with the dogs, ate a snack, pulled out nearly every toy in the toy box (where she gravitated toward my old pom pons from my cheerleading days... a girl after my own heart), sand some American Idol karaoke, played in the massage chair, and enjoyed a manicure and makeover (which she couldn't wait to show off to everyone in the house).  It was a full afternoon, and I loved every minute.  It's so cute to see the world through the eyes of a four year old - especially when they are someplace new.  Everything is fun and exciting... it's so fun to watch!

As if my day wasn't great enough, I was also invited to a game night.  We had some yummy snacks, delicious wine, and tons of laughter.  Let me tell you, you haven't played charades until you've played with this group!  I nearly peed my pants several times from laughing so hard.

I wish every Saturday could be this fun!  I am so thankful for my awesome friends (and sister)!

November 26, 2010

A Little TLC

Today, after four Zumba workouts in three days, my body is feeling a bit run down. I'm proud of myself, though, for sticking with the plan. I have one more class tomorrow morning, and then I get a day of rest. It feels satisfying to prove to myself that I can do this!

I am especially thankful for the therapists at my chropractor's office! They are pretty much the sweetest group of girl you'll ever meet! I always feel like they are genuinely glad to see me when I arrive for my appointments, and I look forward to our little chats during each session.

Most of all, though, I'm thankful for the massages I get dent each therapy session! I never knew what I was missing out on before... But I sure do now!

November 25, 2010

Black Friday

Mom said we're not allowed to go shopping on Black Friday and practically forbade me from even looking at the ads so I'm not even tempted.  I have to be honest, though, and tell you that I looked around online a bit tonight.  Interestingly, I have a hard time searching for gifts during these sales.  Instead, I tend to focus on the things I want... not exactly what this season is supposed to be about. 

At the end of the day, there are some good deals out there, but I didn't see anything I'm willing to lose sleep over.  I tried hitting out outlet stores one year with my mom and sister at midnight, and it was just too crazy.  I don't have that kind of patience, and I'm yet to find anything I need or want that badly.

Maybe I'll stop by the mall after the morning rush to see if there's anything left to purchase. 

How about you? Are you a Black Friday shopper?  What deals are you trying to snag this year?

Happy Turkey Day!

Even though a certain someone was stuck in NY for work, I had a good Thanksgiving today.  It started with an early morning Zumba class with some friends, which was definitely necessary given the copious amounts of food that were to be consumed later in the day.

We ate extra early this year, which ended up being perfect because I was famished when I got home from class and could hardly wait until noon to start eating.  Everything was delicious: turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole...yum!

After our meal, we drove out to visit my grandparents (and my god-dog, Samantha) for dessert.  Grandma makes the yummiest pies... pumpkin, pecan, and apple!  I couldn't decide on just one, so I had two half pieces and took the third home instead.  Good thing I have Zumba class number 4 of the week tomorrow morning to burn off some of those calories!

Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine!

November 24, 2010

Why My Childhood was Awesome



Today, I am thankful for this little gem I came across from this week's American Music Awards show. I don't know who came up with this concept, but I am impressed! Combining the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys was pure genius! As I watched this video this evening, I couldn't stop smiling and singing along. How awesome would this be to see in concert?!

November 23, 2010

Devastated

I just received terrible news: my boyfriend is not coming home for Thanksgiving after all.  He called tonight to tell me that someone below him was let go from work today and now he has to cover her shift Friday. 

Words cannot express my disappointment.  I had plans.  Oh, I had plans.

So, now it's back to waiting... for Christmas this time.  I know it's only a month away, but that feels like an eternity when I've been eagerly awaiting his arrival, which was scheduled for tomorrow. 

I guess the silver lining is that he is pretty much guaranteed his days off in December since he's working this week... at least we hope so.

Fingers Crossed

As of 8:00 tonight, I am no longer an ELL teacher.  Conferences were easy breezy tonight (only one parent), which left a lot of time for bonding between my two coworkers and myself.  If I had to be at school, that's the way to do it (though a bottle of wine would have been nice)!

My coworkers and students threw me a very sweet goodbye party today.  They decorated a canvas tote bag for me and put together a book of letters from each student.  It was very thoughtful and made me feel appreciated.

I hope to see them all again, though, because I was offered an interview next week for Carolyn's maternity leave starting in January.  Fingers crossed!

November 22, 2010

Woe is Me!

Dearest Oprah,

I have been a loyal viewer for many, many years, but I have to say that you really disappointed me.  Last week and today, you aired your "Ultimate Favorite Things" episodes, and I would love to know why I wasn't invited!  I mean, really!  You had two this year... two... and you still didn't hook a girl up. 

I tried - I really did - to be happy for the audience members as they learned about the gifts they were about to receive, but the truth is... I'm super jealous!  Where's my iPad?  Where's my diamond watch?  Where's my cruise ticket?     

And to think this was my final chance.  Oh... I am crushed! 

Sincerely,
Giftless Viewer

Day One Complete

After a 13 hour work day, I have finished day one of parent conferences.  Today's schedule was jam packed with our "problem children," whose parents we specifically asked to join us to discuss behavior and academic concerns. 

I am pleased to say that every single parent on the schedule actually came!  That never happens!  And... what's even better is that the parents were completely on our side.  They thanked us profusely for helping (or "dealing with" according to one mom) their children and offered complete support at home. 

The hardest part for me was watching a mother cry when she came to the realization that her son very likely has attentional issues that need to be dealt with outside of school.  Her husband has tried to convince her of this for years, but it took our team conference (with the support of a translator and an assistant principal) for her to agree that now is the time to have him evaluated.  I know this isn't easy for any parent to hear, but I am hopeful that this will be the missing piece of the puzzle... the piece that will help us (school and home) help him!

Although I will not be around to reap the rewards of tonight's conversations, I'm thankful that the school-home connection was strengthened today.  I feel much better leaving these kids in another teacher's care knowing that their parents are aware of our concerns and working hard to support us at home. 

I can't believe I'm actually saying this aloud, but I think tonight's conferences were productive.  Hopefully tomorrow's will continue to be just as fruitful. 

November 21, 2010

Waiting

Remember when you were a kid and you would get sooo excited for upcoming events like the first day of school, a big vacation, or a visit from Santa Claus? Well, I never seemed to lose that excitable energy. I can never sleep the night before school starts, and I still love the anticipation of a big event.

I cannot begin to adequately express the excitement I feel right now.  Why?  My wonderful boyfriend is coming home for Thanksgiving, and we will be together for the first time in more than six months.  Seriously... I am beyond ecstatic! 

You know how when a dog gets excited he wags his tail so hard that his whole butt shakes with it?  That's how I feel right now! 

I am so thankful that his vacation days kicked in this month and he has the opportunity to come home.  I am anxiously looking forward to seeing my love again.  I don't even care what we do when he's here...I just want to be with him.  Ahhh!  Soooo excited! 

Oh, please let the clocks speed up until he gets here (and the freeze for a while after he arrives so I can keep him a little longer).

November 20, 2010

Who Likes Coffee?

This weekend, I'm thankful for this delicious offer from Starbucks:


I tried a peppermint white chocolate mocha for the first time, and I may be in love.

Tomorrow's the last day, so grab a friend and head to your local Starbucks for some coffee talk.  What a great way to catch up on life and enjoy some relaxation!

November 19, 2010

It's Not Thanksgiving Without Pumpkin Pie!

Do to limited kitchen availability next week, today ended up being our culminating Thanksgiving activity: home-made pumpkin pies!  After a few days of learning about Pilgrims, Native Americans, Turkey dinners, and the importance of giving thanks, I thought it was appropriate that they try this traditional dessert and get a real taste of American life!

About 15 minutes into first period, I became concerned when I noticed the consistency of the pie crust being mixed by my youngest student.  It just looked way too watery, and even though I am no baker, I knew something wasn't right. 

"How much water did you add to that mix?" I inquired.

She picked up the measuring cup and showed me the line indicating 1 1/3 cups... one cup too many!  Yikes!I knew this wouldn't work, but I wasn't sure how to solve this problem.  You can't make pumpkin pie without the crust, and I didn't have the luxury of running back to the store for more mix.

Thankfully, the FACS kitchen is right next door, so I ran over to ask my coworker what we could do to salvage our pies.  She graciously offered to give me a new recipe as well as the supplies from her kitchen to bake a new crust from scratch!  How nice was that?!

I am happy to report that the pies turned out perfectly... and made the whole room smell simply delicious!  I was also very pleased that we had enough pieces to serve all of the ELL students and staff in our building.  I thought it was a great way for my newcomer students to experience a bit of our culture and to show their appreciation to their peers and teachers. 

Unfortunately, 2 of my 3 newcomers hated the pie.  But at least they can say they tried it, right?  And, they were happy enough to eat the whipped cream and accompanying cranberry sauce (once again, I am thankful for their flexibility here). 

Bonus: I nominated the FACS teacher for our "Bulldog of the Week" (staff award) for saving our pies, and she won!  I'm so glad that she will be able to enjoy rock star parking for the next week as a reward for her good deed!  Yay for good karma!

November 18, 2010

Who Wouldn't Love This?

One of the perks (okay... if I'm honest, this is probably the only perk, but I'm trying to be positive here) about my car accident back in September is that I get a wonderful massage at the chiropractor's office each time I visit.  I remind myself of this on days I'm exhausted (like today) and really just want to go home and take a nap.  I've had a bit of a tension headache all day today, and those 8 minutes really helped.  Thank you to the girls of WCC for their amazing massaging hands!  It's my favorite part of the day!

In fact... I think I'll go upstairs and sit in the massage chair right now.  I've got to get rid of this headache before felling asleep!

November 17, 2010

Grammar Can Be Fun!

Teaching the parts of speech has always been a thorn in my side.  As a middle school teacher, I am extremely frustrated that I still have to teach these basic lessons when they should have been mastered at the elementary level.  I'm not blaming elementary teachers here.  I think this is a curriculum problem.  As the saying goes, "It's a mile wide and an inch deep!"

Even though I resent it, I do take the time to teach the parts of speech because they are the foundation of grammar (and essential for learning foreign languages, which students here begin in middle school).  As much as I hate teaching it, my students dread learning it even more. 

"It's so boring," they complain as soon as they see it on the daily agenda.

I try so hard - I really do - to make the parts of speech fun.  I incorporate games, songs and videos (who doesn't love a good Schoolhouse Rock?) and anything else I can find to make it memorable. 

One thing I've really struggled with is coming up with a catchy song that not only identifies the parts of speech but also defines then and gives examples.  My thinking is that if I can get students to memorize something like this, they will "have" the information for life.  I scoured YouTube, TeacherTube, and every message board I could find looking for the perfect song to no avail.

But...

I happened across something that does the trick - a poem.  Not only does it fulfill all of my requirements above, but it easily lends itself to hand/body motions (thank you to my ELL students for coming up with ours), which is great for those kinesthetic learners. 

I taught this to my newcomers and they learned it with ease.  We practice it daily, and they giggle the whole time because they are having fun learning grammar!  Woohoo!  I'd say mission accomplished. 

A huge thank you goes out to the author of the following poem (whom, unfortunately, I do not know):

PARTS OF SPEECH POEM

Every name is called a NOUN,
As field and fountain, street and town;

In place of noun the PRONOUN stands
As he and she can clap their hands;

The ADJECTIVE describes a thing,
As magic wand and bridal ring;

The VERB means action, something done-
To read, to write, to jump, to run;

How things are done, the ADVERBS tell,
As quickly, slowly, badly, well;

The PREPOSITION shows relation,
As in the street, or at the station;

CONJUNCTIONS join, in many ways,
Sentences, words, or phrase and phrase;

The INTERJECTION cries out, "Hark!
I need an exclamation mark!"

Through poetry, we learn how each
of these make up THE PARTS OF SPEECH.

November 16, 2010

My ELL Buddy

When I started this job, I knew I wanted things to be different.  I made a conscious decision to not socialize much with coworkers for a couple of reasons:
  1. When teachers are together, much of the conversation revolves around complaining about students.  I find this to be counter-productive and only wish to discuss student problems if it's with the intention of seeking help.  Of course, the other hot topic of conversation is to complain about the administration.  And to be honest, my current administrators are dreams come true compared to what I was dealing with before, and I have no desire to ruin this image in my mind.  These are the primary reasons I do not eat lunch in the staff lounge.
  2. I'm trying to keep a low profile.  Although it is in my nature to be extremely friendly with everyone I encounter, I've learned that it is best, in the workplace, to stay under the radar.  Once again, this may be my PTSD from my old school, but I saw way too many people jump to criticize other teaching styles because they didn't like people for personal reasons.  I want to make sure no one has any reason to speak negatively about me, and my way of controlling this has been to make sure no one has any reason to talk about me at all... I mind my own business and hope others do the same.
As a result of my decision, I have only really met a handful of people in my building.  Sure, I smile and say hello to everyone I pass, but I could probably only name 10 people if my life depended on it. 

At first, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle my new work style.  I'm a people person.  I live to interact with others and have always made friends very easily.  I worried that my new philosophy would take a lot of the joy out of my day... it's no secret that the people one works with have a huge impact on one's happiness in the workplace.

Carolyn has been the reason I've been able to stick to my philosophy.  She has not only been my mentor but also a friend.  The 40 minutes we spend laughing together during lunch is the highlight of my work day.  It's been fun learning about each other and sharing in the excitement of her current pregnancy.  Even after this position ends, I know I have a friend in her. 

Thank you, Carolyn, for being such a huge support in my experience.  Thank you for showing me that I don't need an army of acquaintances to make work fun.  Thanks for being my ELL buddy!    

Happy 200!

I was about to start my thankful post today when I realized that this is my 200th post!  200!!!!  This feels like such a milestone! 

I feel like I should have some kinda of giveaway for my readers - something to mark this momentous occasion.  Too bad I don't have anything anyone would want.   

Quick... someone give me something that I can give away!  :) 

November 15, 2010

Jolted Awake

I can't figure out why, but I didn't hear my alarm this morning.  All indications tell me the alarm was set properly - but I never even stirred.  This is super weird for me because I'm normally an extremely light sleeper (back when I used to use my CD alarm clock, I used to wake up to the sound of the CD beginning to spin from across the room... even with my fan blowing). 

Anyway, let me just say how completely grateful I am for my internal clock, which sounded at 6:57 AM (My normal wake up time is 6:30 AM, and I'm always out the door by 6:45 AM).  My initial thought was that I had to be reading the clock wrong - that I forgot to reset my bedroom clock with last week's time change.  Nope!

Clearly, then, I was mistaken and today is Sunday.  Wrong again!

Shoot.  That only left one option: I was late!!!  Insert crazy adrenaline rush here! 

Now, let me start by saying how much I despise being late... for anything.  In grade school, if my family was late going to church, I'd beg my mom not to send me to Sunday school and let me sit in "big church" (aka: please stick a needle in my eyeball because even that would be more fun than this).  In high school and college, if I woke up late for school, I stayed home... because that clearly makes more sense, right?  I can't help it!  Being late just gives me so much anxiety. 

Well, this morning, I was extremely thankful for my nighttime routine!  My hair didn't need washing or even brushing (curly hair bonus: you never brush it after it dries).  Thank God my clothes were already picked out the night before.  Within 5 minutes, I was dressed, had brushed my teeth and was literally out the door...

Except then I had to wait for my car to defrost (because even a remote starter isn't that fast)!  Ugh!  Insert panic here!  I said a silent prayer that traffic wouldn't be too unbearable and that no cops would be looking for speeders... because I was going to need to transform myself into Speedy Gonzalez if I wanted to make it to school on time.

Once I could (barely) see out my windshield, I threw my car into drive and weaved my way through traffic.

God must have heard my prayers because I didn't see a single cop on the road (Thank you, Jesus!).  And because of my delay, I managed to avoid all of the traffic associated with the two high schools I pass on the way to work.  This also cut down on the amount of time waiting at red lights considerably. 

I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I pulled into the parking lot with time to spare.  What a way to start my day!

I'm just hoping tomorrow will not be a repeat performance!

November 14, 2010

Weighing In

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably familiar with the hotly criticized article, "Should Fatties Get a Room", by Marie Claire columnist, Maura Kelly.  In case you have been living under a rock, the gist of the article is that it's "gross" to watch overweight people on television, as on the new CBS sitcom, Mike and Molly.  In fact, Ms. Kelly makes no qualms about letting her readers know that it is also aesthetically displeasing to see these people walk across a room in real life as well.   

Like many readers, I was appalled by her words.  Certainly, it's no secret that we live in a society that values skinniness.  We are bombarded by these messages all day, every day.  But I was shocked that someone had the audacity to say these words aloud.  Because, I guess, if you're willing to say something aloud (especially from such a large platform), you probably think that most people will agree with you.

And then it got me questioning: is she right?  Do most people think that fat people should be hidden away as to not offend the eyes of the beloved thin people?  Certainly, people were outraged by her words and quick to comment that people of all shapes and sizes deserve respect.  But... which group is among the majority, I wondered?   

I thought about the covert messages overweight people receive each day: You cannot shop for clothes in the same stores as thin people because they don't want to think about wearing the same clothes as you.  If, however, our company does happen to carry a few items in your size, you will have to order them online, without ever trying them on... and pay for shipping. 

And the clothes that come in your size will in no way resemble the current styles that the privileged thin people can wear.  Instead, you must cover up with shapeless, colorless garments meant to disguise your body... because no one wants to see any of that.  And because clearly, no one over a size 14 has anything worth accentuating.  There's no such thing as a good shape when you have that much of it, right?!

Even the fitness industry plays a part here.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find good workout clothes that come in anything bigger than a size large?!  It's hard enough to go to a gym (aka: meat market) and have to workout alongside all the Barbies, but to have to do it in an over sized t-shirt because that's the only thing that comes in your size... ugh!  And you'd think that the industry would know better... hello?  These are the people who need your clothes the most!  Give them a little bit of confidence when they walk into their fitness classes - give them something cute (and supportive) to sweat in! 

So, can I blame Ms. Kelly for offending overweight people everywhere?  Not solely.  While I believe her words were definitely hurtful, I also believe that this is what we should expect from someone who writes for a fashion magazine. 

To quote one of my favorite blogs:  "I feel like we have come to a point where being thin is so so linked to our notions of beauty and success that we no longer even notice that it’s a problem. We are just outraged when someone says it out loud, because it is this unspoken rule that we all “get” but never speak."

At Your Local Supermarket

This morning, I took a quick trip to the grocery store to buy the supplies I need for my upcoming  ELL activities.  I am super-excited to be able to help my students experience their very first Thanksgiving, something they know nothing about at this point.  Among other things, we will be making pilgrim hats, pine cone turkeys, garlands of gratitude, and of course, we will be finishing off our festivities with home-made (or... I guess they will be school-made) pumpkin pies and some cranberry sauce.  They are already very interested in the pumpkin pie because I told them about it back when we carved our Jack-o-Lanterns before Halloween.  They are skeptical that those "nasty" insides can be made into anything tasty, so I'm excited to prove them wrong. 

Being that I was shopping with my mom, who just spent 10 days in Africa where food was scarce and often lacking in nutrition, I was reminded of how lucky we are to live in a country where such a variety of food is readily available at all hours of the day (literally).  And on a cold day like today, I am especially grateful for the convenience of this one-stop shopping.  It really is incredible when you think of all the places from where those foods have been transported to get to your friendly, neighborhood grocer.  And to know that (for the most part) the food you're buying is safe for consumption because of quality-controls and government standards. 

So, as the aromas of my potato soup simmering on the stove wafted through the house, I took a moment to give thanks that I live in a country that provides me with the luxury of grocery story, fully stocked with all the foods I could ever need or want.  That I needn't worry where my next meal might come from, and that I have more than adequate access to proper nutrition for a healthy, strong body.

I can't wait to discuss with my students the things that they are grateful for this year.  I imagine they will come up with many things that I take for granted, and I look forward to them educating me on just how much we have to appreciate!

November 13, 2010

On This Rainy Day

Today, I was so thankful to be able to snuggle up on the couch in my pajamas on a cold, rainy day after a yummy sushi lunch (yes... again) and some shopping with my mama and sister.  I was able to snuggle up under some blankets and catch up on some movies I've been meaning to watch while enjoying several cups of hot, mint tea.  That's what I call perfection! 

One thing I absolutely love about Saturdays is the ability to take a lazy afternoon nap without having to worry about ruining my sleep schedule because I don't have to worry about it tonight! Yippee!

Thank you, rain, for coming to wash away the stress of last week.  Please leave me renewed for the week ahead!

November 12, 2010

Thank you, Friday!

After what has been a a very long week, I am immensely thankful for Fridays. Oh, how I look forward to the relief that they bring after an exhausting week.   Some weeks, I feel as though I've run a mental marathon, and I count the days until Friday finally arrives.  This... was one of those weeks.

My students really disappointed me this week, in many ways.  In addition to the normal behavioral issues and the constant struggle to get my students to stay on task or complete a homework assignment, I was heartbroken to see how terribly my kids performed on two big assessments this week.  Heartbroken because I don't know what else I can do to help them... and because they don't care! 

It can be so discouraging to work so hard and care so much and see such little result.  I feel like I'm at my breaking point.  I'm disappointed in myself because I feel like I'm now looking forward to the end of this position (I have just over a week left) rather than feeling sad to leave.  I need a time out!

Thank you, Friday, for giving me the time to relax, the lluxury of sleeping in tomorrow morning, and the promise that I can relieve myself of the stresses of work for the next 48 hours. (P.S. One of the things I look forward to about the day-to-day subbing ahead  is that I can make any day my Friday if I want!)

November 11, 2010

Soldier Homecoming Surprises

This morning, Carolyn (my fabulous co-worker without whom I would be completely miserable) and I decided that our ELL students needed a little lesson on Veteran's Day. All they seemed to care about was the fact that we were in school despite today being a national holiday. Thank you United Streaming and YouTube for giving us a way to "show" our students the purpose of this day.

This is the one video I absolutely had to share. Even though it's like the sixth time I've seen it, I'm moved to tears within the first 30 seconds. I just can't help it. My students, too, were captivated by this video... which is a miracle because nothing seems to hold their attention!


A huge thank you goes out to all the gallant men and women that serve, past or present, in our armed forces. You have all sacrificed so much for us, and I can't imagine where we'd be without you!

November 10, 2010

More Zumba Love

Today, I was reminded how thankful I am for Zumba.  Before I started, I had absolutely no desire to ever work out... ever!  And even though there are days I'd rather stay home on the comfy couch after a long day of work, I'm always glad I pushed myself to go. 

It's been three and a half months now since I started, and I'm still going strong.  I feel better both emotionally and physically, I am healthier, it has motivated me to eat better, and I feel better about myself.  I'd say that's motivation to continue going, huh? 

I'm so glad to have found something that works for me.  Something that's fun and doesn't feel like "working out" in my book.  Something I know I can stick to.

I also need to give a shout out to my instructor, Tom, who has been an amazing inspiration.  It's so awesome to see how he's transformed his body (and life) because of Zumba... I want to be just like him! (And seriously... you should see this man shake his booty!  He could give Shakira lessons... for real!) 

And a huge thanks to my Zumba girls who make each class so much fun.  It's nice to feel part of a group and to look forward to seeing friends at each class.  You girls have been a huge motivation for me on the days I feel like I'd rather stay home and relax.  Knowing my absence will be noticed makes such a difference!

November 9, 2010

Savoring the Sun

Corey (still in NY) experienced his first snowfall of the year this week.  I have to say that I am not the least bit jealous.  On the contrary, I am thankful for the unseasonably warm weather we've been having.  It's so nice to not have to defrost my car in the morning or even wear a jacket.  I've worn dresses to work for the past two days, and I'm savoring these moments!  It's amazing how a beautiful day seems to brighten people's moods, too.  With a long winter ahead, I am appreciating these days while they last.

November 8, 2010

How To Teach When You're Super Sick

Today, I am super thankful for YouTube and flexible students.  Not flexible in a bendy way (though this may be true as well.. I'm not sure, though, because I don't teach PE) but as in willing to go with the flow. 

This cold I've been fighting has officially taken over my body.  I had a terrible night's sleep, during which I had to wake up my mother, whining for a decongestant to relieve the pressure in my sinuses so I could sleep.  Thanks to her cocktail of drugs (did I already mention how glad I am to have her home again), I was able to enjoy a few more hours of slumber before school.

If I wasn't a sub, I might have stayed home today.  But without a salary, I feel as though I should be on my death bed in order to stay home.  So, I sucked it up... and here I am.  Well, in body, at least.  It's kinda hard to stay focused when I'm battling a dripping nose and disruptive cough all day. 

I looked at my lesson plans for today and just knew I wouldn't be able to make it through an entire day of instruction.  I decided to give myself a break in the middle of my day, during 8th grade US History.  Thankfully, I came across a cartoon series on YouTube that shows the Boston Tea Party, which we just finished reading about on Friday.  I explained to the girls that I just didn't have it in me to read and discuss a lesson today and that we would watch the cartoon instead.  Thankfully, they were happy to have a day off of reading and willing to roll with my new plan. 

Truth be told, I didn't even preview the video like a good teacher would.  I just hoped it would be okay since it's a cartoon.  The good news is that it wasn't only appropriate, it was entertaining.  And I even overheard the girls connecting things in the video to our previous readings.  In fact, I made a mental note to use this series again... it was that good!

Not bad for a non-plan, huh?  Thank you, YouTube, for giving me a much needed break today!  

November 7, 2010

My New Favorite Place

I love sushi.  I mean, I love, love sushi.  Despite being a very picky eater, this is a food that makes my mouth water.  The problem with sushi is that it's very difficult to make and extremely expensive to buy.  It's one of those things I allow myself to indulge in only a few times a year... until now.

One of my students recommended a new restaurant: Nagoya.  When she mentioned this all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, I was intrigued, though a little skeptical about how "amazing" she claimed it was.  My only place for comparison is Todai, which is pretty good but does not even come close to comparing to a real sushi house.

After visiting the website and learning that the lunch buffet (Monday through Saturday) is only $12 (and only $20 for dinner and Sundays), I knew I'd have to give this place a chance.  Yesterday, after weeks of anticipation, I was finally able to try it, and let me tell you that it does not disappoint.  I am amazed that they can offer such a huge selection of real sushi for such a low cost.  We're not talking about mini sushi rolls here... this is the real deal. 

I'm in love!  If you like sushi and live in the Chicagoland area, you need to take a little trip to Naperville to experience this deliciousness.  If you don't live in the area... come visit!  I'll take you!  And I promise it's worth the trip!

Oh, man!  I can't wait to go back!      

ZHB 2010

Today, I am extremely thankful for an extra hour of time.  Time to recover.  Despite my cold, I had an amazing time at the annual Zeller Halloween Bash, and I am so glad to have these extra 60 minutes for my body to rest and prepare for another week. 

My Snooki costume was a success, despite the lack of orange skin (I would've gotten a spray tan, but I was a little worried about how I'd look tomorrow at work).  Thank you to my student who allowed me to borrow her Bump It, which helped me successfully pull off the legendary poof.  Thank you to my sister who allowed me to transform her bangle bracelets into giant, hoop earrings for the evening.  They turned out immensely better than anything I could find in the store.

And, most of all, thank you to Elaine and Josh for being gracious hosts for another awesome party.  I haven't had so much fun in a long time... and I'm easily amused!  Time to catch up with friends, flippy cup, rock band.... it was a great night!  And I promise to post pictures once they surface on Facebook... however, you will see the edited version, for sure!  :)

November 6, 2010

Some Things Never Change

No matter how you get, you always want your mommy when you're sick.  Add to the reasons I'm thankful my mom is home from Africa the fact that I came down with an icky cold yesterday. 

It came out of nowhere.  I was feeling fine on my way to lunch, where I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich as usual, but as soon as I got back to class, my throat was scratchy and eyes were heavy and burning.

Somehow, though, it's not so bad because I have my mom to bring me medicine and give me all the sympathy in the world.  She's good to me like that! 

Ok.. back to my tea and then time to cozy up under the covers to sleep this cold away.  I have BIG plans for this evening that cannot be missed.  I hope this nap helps!

November 5, 2010

It's About Time!

Today's "Thankful Thing" is super easy:  my mommy and sister are coming home from Uganda!  They've been gone for the last ten days on a medical mission, and I cannot wait to see them!  Not only do I want to hear about their trip, but I am so excited to have my girls to hang out with.  The last couple weekends have been very sad without my shopping partners or my weekly lunch dates.  I see a sushi date in our near future!!!! 

Also, I received a call from the body shop today that my car is officially done being fixed from my accident.  Yay for good timing!

Happy Friday, friends!  :)

November 4, 2010

A Little Smile in the AM

Lately, I have had the hardest time getting out of bed in the morning. As soon as my alarm sounds, I grimace at the thought of emerging from under my warm blankets into the cold, dark day.

I literally have to make a promise to myself each day that, "Today, I will take a nap when I get home from work." This never works, by the way, because by the time I get home from my after-school meetings or chiropractor appointments, it's too late in the day for me to nap without repercussions on my ability to go to bed that night. But... I still feel better, I guess, just giving myself this permission each morning.

No one enjoys waking up before the crack of dawn and hustling off to work (except, maybe, for my mom who is a crazy morning person), but I must admit there's a little something each morning that makes me smile: talk radio.  The 45 minutes I spend commuting to work each day are only bearable because of this entertainment.

For years now, I've enjoyed listening to the KISS FM's "Drex in the Morning" show because the hosts always come up with the most hilarious topics. I often laugh aloud or shake my head in disbelief as I listen to their stories and opinions.  I especially love Mel T, even though she's toned it down quite a bit since getting engaged.  She and I would be good friends if we met... I'm sure of it!

In high school, I was voted 'Most likely to be a talk show host,' and I often think of that when I imagine how much fun it would be to go work with that group every day. Who wouldn't love a job where there are smiles and laughter all the time?!

In the meantime, though, I am thankful for my morning radio crew for giving me something to look forward to on my early morning drives.

What about you?  Is there something that you look forward to every morning?

November 3, 2010

In the Principal's Office

Every Wednesday, we have a staff meeting after school, and just before it began today, my principal asked me to step out with her. Some of you may be familiar with the heart-pounding-in-your-ears feeling that accompanies a trip to the Principal's office, and while I never experienced this as a student, I certainly know the feeling as a teacher.

"Oh, no! What did I do now?" I thought. Even thought I couldn't come up with an answer to this question on my own, the panic had set in.

If past experience has taught me anything, it's that good deeds always go unnoticed and that even innocuous incidents can be turned into something terrible. Maybe this is just my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my last job, but I couldn't help but feel anxious the conversation that was looming.

Much to my surprise, my principal just wanted to touch base with me about my current position to see how I'm feeling. I mentioned yesterday that I wasn't feeling very thankful, and the reason for that is that I was informed by my director that I cannot keep my position for the remainder of the school year. He, too, was disappointed in this news, but his hands are tied because I do not have the proper ELL endorsement to be hired on permanently.

The "carrot that dangled before me" of a secure, full-time job with benefits was snatched away. And it hurts. I'm sad not only for me but for my poor students who will have to endure yet another transition of a new teacher coming into their room. I am especially worried about my newcomer students who will not speak to any adult in the building besides me. It's going to be hard to leave them.

Ok... this post is not meant to be a pity party. What I wanted to write about was how amazing it was for my principal to take the time to sit down with me and express (once again) how wonderful of a job she thinks I've been doing here. She told me she wishes I could stay all year, and we discussed the possibility of me taking on a maternity leave for colleague. She even told me she would hire me on the spot if she could (the job isn't posted yet, though, so it would be illegal). She told me that not only have I done a great job with my students, but that she is confident in my ability to be a great teacher to any group. I cannot tell you how reassuring that was to hear!

So, today, I am extremely grateful to have an encouraging and supportive administration in my building - this is only one example of how great they've been t work for. It is a tremendously welcomed change after what I experienced in my old building... the whole climate of the school is different.

I'm thankful to have earned a favorable place in the eyes of an new administrator, who has offered to write me a much-needed letter of recommendation. And thankful that this position has reminded me that I am a great asset to any school.

November 2, 2010

Why I'm Voting

I'm not going to lie... I don't feel very thankful this very moment. I have some very disappointing news to share, but I will save that for another post. In this post, I want to be dedicated to giving thanks... even when it's hard. So...

Today, I am thankful for the women who lived before me and fought so hard to give me the right to vote. I am thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to share my thoughts and to elect officials to speak on my behalf.

Even when the candidates don't seem the cream of the crop, I'm glad there are people who are dedicated to taking on these tasks that I would never care to. I'm still thankful that there are men and women who spend their days debating every law and fighting for what they believe... even if I disagree with them. I'm thankful that we have a government that doesn't simply impose things upon us but lets us have our say... even if it's limited.

I am thankful that there are candidates that do support the issues that matter to me. And even though our side may not be victorious in the end, it's good to know there are others who care about the same things that really shake me to the core.

And I'm very grateful to live in a country that allows us to disagree with the popular vote - to voice our discontent. I'm thankful for the free speech that allows us to question our leaders and inspire others to do the same.

So today... I am voting because too many people have fought uphill battles to give me this right. And I'm voting because even if my candidates don't win, I've had my say. I'm voting because I should share the responsibility of caring for our community and nation.

And... I'm voting to so I can retain the right to complain if there's something I dislike! :)

November 1, 2010

Reason #9872348 Why I love My Dad

I know it's still Monday, but I have another thankful moment that I have to share because it makes me feel so full of love...

Today, once my frozen fingers finally thawed enough to use the computer at work, I emailed my dad to tell him about my frigid commute.

"If the heat still isn't working after school, bring the car to me at work," was his response.

Because I had a chiropractor appointment at 4:00, I informed him about my intention to bring the car in tomorrow after school.

"Or you can just bring the car here, and we can switch cars!" he offered.

That's my dad. Completely willing to drop everything he's doing to help his little girl. Despite his own hectic schedule, he didn't even think twice about offering to turn my problem (or really my sister's... she just doesn't know about it yet) into his own.

How did I get so lucky to get such an awesome dad?

Thanks, Daddy, for caring so much about keeping me warm! I love you!

Thankful Challenge


Today marks the first day of November. November! Can you believe it? Me neither!

Last year, I saw a campaign, of sorts, appear on several blogs I read of Thankful Thursdays. I love the idea of extending our thankful spirits a little longer, so I am challenging myself to take it on this year. Only, I don't want to limit myself to posting only on Thursdays because I would really love to get into the habit of finding things to be grateful for every day.

So... here goes day one:

Today, I am thankful that my car is finally at the body shop to be repaired from my car accident back in September. I am also thankful that I have great auto insurance that was kind enough to mail me a check to cover the cost of my deductible (the accident was not my fault) this weekend... before the work is even started on my car. I'm thankful for my daddy, who selects our family coverage, for choosing a reliable company.

I am also thankful that my sister was kind enough to allow me to drive her car during this week of repairs while she's in Africa with my mom, saving me the out-of-pocket costs of a rental car. And I vow to remember that I am thankful for this option tomorrow morning when I am driving to work again with no heat!

Oops.. that doesn't sound so grateful, does it?

Well... it was a good effort for day 1. How about you? What are you thankful for today?

October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween Week!

I think one of the biggest perks of my job is the fact that I get to do all sorts of fun crafts in the name of teaching my students about American culture. Seeing as this is Halloween Week, our schedule is packed with all sorts of festivities that I'm super excited to share.

I introduced several activities to introduce the holiday, and then I asked each of my three newcomer students to select an activity (I gave them some ideas to choose from) of their own to prepare and teach the class. The great thing about this is that it forces them to use their English (as the teacher) and it relieves me of the burden of buying all the supplies (therefore, allowing us to take on even more projects).

Here's what's on our agenda for the week:

1. Pumpkin Carving - This was hilarious because none of my students have ever even seen the inside of a pumpkin before. Watching their faces as they cleaned out out the "guts" was priceless! They were most excited for this activity because they've seen jack-o-lanterns outside peoples' homes but don't have any of their own (mostly for financial reasons) so I was super happy to give them this experience.

2. Witches Fingers - This is a relatively easy activity where we used air-dry clay (Crayola makes some, but let me tell you it is not easy to find. I finally found some at Office Depot in case you're interested.) to cover our pens. If you use a little extra clay in the middle and add some detail with a toothpick, it looks like a knuckle. Then, we glued on some fake nails and painted them green with nail polish. Once they dried, the clay cracked a little bit, which I think makes them look even more like an old, witch fingers. My students are super excited to write with their new pens tomorrow once they are fully dried.

3. Spider Cupcakes - For this activity, I first taught them my "magic trick" of making cupcakes with cake mix and a can of pop. They thought this was incredible, and I'm certain they will never again make a cake with oil and eggs. Haha! Once the cakes were cool, we frosted them with chocolate icing, placed licorice pieces to make spider legs, covered the top with an Oreo cookie, and used icing to make two little eyes. Even my administrators had to stop by to enjoy the sweet treats.

4. Dancing Skeletons - I found a cute skeleton template online, which we transferred to poster board. After cutting out all of the bones, we attached them with paper fasteners so that each joint can still be moved. Not only are these adorable decorations in our classroom, but we will be able to refer to them in the future when we learn the names of the bones in our bodies!

5. Cup O' Worms - This is pretty much the "dirt cake" I made as a kid, only it's made in individual plastic cups so the kids can see the levels of dirt and the hidden worms. Also, the student who taught this project insists on sour worms because they are "so much gooder!"

6. Halloween Breakfast - I am not ashamed to admit that I got the idea for this in an Eloise Halloween Movie we watched today in class. In one scene, the butler serves pumpkin pancakes and jack-o-lantern juice (AKA orange juice). I'm kicking it up a notch by adding chocolate chips to design faces on our pumpkins and some red food coloring to my syrup so each bite can be dripping with "blood." My students are super excited for this treat, which we plan to enjoy on Friday.

7. Books, Books, Books! - A quick trip to my public library later, I had two hands full of great Halloween books for children. I'm reading several to the class, and then each student is in charge of learning one on their own, which they will read during our Spooky Storytelling time on Friday.

Sounds like a fun week, huh? I'm already looking forward to Thanksgiving!

October 19, 2010

Today Was Good

Today was a good day. Here's why:
  1. I woke up just before my alarm went off. As in one-minute early (pretty good internal clock, right?) This pleases me because I hate being startled awake.
  2. I got a free coffee at 7-11 this morning. Because they were out of the fat-free French vanilla cappuccino I was craving and I had to wait a whole two minutes. So nice, huh?
  3. I acquired a new, stainless steel Air Pot, which my mom was going to sell at a garage sale this weekend because I thought it was white (like the other one I opened)... which definitely doesn't match my kitchen. Never mind the fact that I don't even have my own house yet... the kitchen is planned in my mind, and it includes all stainless steel appliances. Anyway, when the time comes, I can now refill your mug with hot coffee in style! And for free! Be jealous!
  4. I hurt my knee at Zumba last night (this isn't the good part), so I decided to give myself tonight off from my "Anything Goes" class to rest so I can be ready for Zumba again tomorrow. This turned into a surprise blessing (a phrase stolen from my dear friend, Maria) because I didn't have a chiropractor appointment today either, meaning I didn't have anything I had to do after school today for the first time since my car accident. And. It. Felt. Awesome!
  5. I was treated to an after-school date with my Mama at a smoothie/shake place where I enjoyed a caramel apple shake, which was not only delicious but also healthy. Yes... you read that right. Each shake has 24 grams of protein and less than 6 grams of fat. I may have found my new favorite treat!
  6. I received an email from the Director of ELL in my district today asking if I would be willing to cover my current position for the remainder of the year since the teacher has decided not to return this year. This means I will be getting a salary again... and benefits... and that I don't have to worry about finding another job until next year! I cannot tell you the sense of relief I feel at this moment.

Hope your day was as good as mine! :)

September 25, 2010

New Job

I've been so busy recently, that I completely forgot to blog about my new job. Within days of the new school year starting, I was contacted by a friend's husband, who happens to be the director of the English Language Learners program in a local district. He was looking for a long-term substitute to cover a medical leave in one of the junior highs. He told me it would be a resource class, and that I would have like two students.

I was super excited about the opportunity to have consistent work and my own classroom, so I jumped on board and was able to start working the second week of school (meaning my official unemployment lasted only one week... holla!).

When I arrived at the school on my first day, I was beyond surprised to learn about my schedule. I was, in fact, not teaching any resource classes at all. Oh, no! I'm teaching every subject. That's right, people. Math, Science, Social Studies, English... it's all me! And... did I mention that I have all three grade levels in the room at the same time? And did I tell you that I have three students known as "newcomers," meaning they speak such little English that they cannot even be in a sheltered (content-based) ELL classroom? And that those three boys are in my classroom all day... even when I'm teaching sheltered classes.

Talk about overwhelming! I instantly wanted to duplicate myself and magically become fluent in Spanish (and Albanian... and math), neither of which is possible.

I won't lie... there were enormous amounts of tears in that first week. I even considered throwing in the towel on my way home that Friday - and I'm not a quitter. But after some much needed encouragement from friends, family and even coworkers, I decided to stay.

I have to admit, the job is still stressful and challenging, but I'm glad I'm here. I'm taking it one day at a time, and trying not to hold myself to the standard of being the very best ELL teacher in the world. I'm giving myself permission to say, "No!" if something doesn't work for me and "Yes, I would love your help because I know nothing about teaching math!"

One day at a time.

September 24, 2010

Dirty Clothes

OK, so this isn't the world's greatest revelation, but ever since I started working out consistently, I've realized how much I loathe doing laundry.



In the past, if you asked me what chore I hate the most, I would have responded, "Cleaning the toilet," without a moment's hesitation. Now, thought, I think laundry gives the toilet some stiff competition.



The part that really drives me crazy is how little time one can enjoy the completeness of a laundry cycle washed, dried, folded/hung, and put away because even as this process is completed, the next load of dirty clothes is already started with whatever one is wearing at the time of this dreaded chore. Unless, of course, one chooses to do one's laundry in the buff... something I have yet to try (and will wait to try until I live in my own home... alone... as to not scar anyone for life).



It's a never ending cycle.



And now that I'm working up a sweat multiple times a week, my hamper is full faster than ever, meaning I must partake in this chore sometimes twice a week.... I mean, a girl only has so many sports bras, you know?



Anyone with me on this?

September 23, 2010

It Wasn't My Fault

On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped at a red light about half a mile from my house. I was starving, and despite my healthy eating for the past couple months, I was really craving the taco on the seat next to me. I started tearing away at the wrapping when BANG! I was rear-ended.

I have no idea what the driver of the car was doing to slam into me while in a line of stopped vehicles. I didn't think to ask if she was on the phone or texting. I had only two concerns in the moments following the crash: the immediate pain in my neck from my head whipping forward and back, and the taco that had erupted all over both the car and me (the passenger in the other vehicle thought I vomited. Nice, huh?).

A little over 24 hours later, I am already extremely frustrated with insurance companies and the hassle of rectifying this situation. I find it incredibly irritating that I am stuck driving a car that is not 100% safe (per the man at the body shop today when I took it for photos and an estimate) because the bumper is hanging partly off (and therefore, not recommended for driving at "fast" speeds... whatever that means).

And the OCD in me is seriously grossed out by the fact that I can't go get my car detailed until I have approval from the insurance adjuster. Ewwww!

I am learning how painstaking of a process it is to have a car (or eve oneself) repaired after an accident. How, exactly, do insurance companies expect you to leave your car at a body shop for repairs without a rental to drive in the meantime? How am I supposed to get to work?

I'm hoping and praying this woman's insurance company agrees with my claim and the corresponding police report, and that they do the right thing and cover all of my expenses... as they should, since... it wasn't at fault!

September 22, 2010

Zumba Love

Sometime in August, my BFF, Elaine, introduced me to Zumba. For those that don't know, it's basically a dance aerobics class, but much better than the ones from the 80's you're all thinking of. It incorporates Latin dance styles and music and is basically a big party.

To say I have never enjoyed working out would be a huge understatement. In fact, I loathe it. Even when I have the best of intentions, like when I joined Curves back in the day, I find myself bored and wanting it to end almost as soon as it begins. I'm just not motivated.

The secret, I've learned, is that exercising can't feel like exercising. That's what I love about Zumba. It's like going to a dance party with a bunch of my girlfriends. Now that's my kind of working out! And no one's worried if you miss a step or dance off beat... everyone just encourages each other to keep moving and burn those calories.

I've actually become one of those people that needs to get in a good workout to feel good. I hate missing class and feel super lazy on days I can't attend. Who am I????

I am super happy to say that for the first time since high school, I am working out regularly. Not only do I take my Zumba class twice a week, but I've also ventured into some other cardio, strength, and yoga classes, all offered at the same facility.

This weekend, I'm super excited to attend my very first master class, where a guest instructor is coming in from Wisconsin to dance the night away.

Did I mention I will be spending a Saturday night working out? Haha! I don't even recognize myself anymore!!!

September 19, 2010

Did I Just Say That???

This weekend was the much anticipated Girls Night Out extravaganza with my friends Elaine, Patty, Alison, Amy... and my mom!

Al was the first to arrive at the bar for our karaoke action. We thought she was kidding when her text message, hurrying us to her rescue, said she was among the "short bus" riders... but she wasn't.

One man ended up sitting at a pub table right next to me, eating his Starbursts and inquiring about my song preferences. I didn't want to be rude by ignoring him, but I also didn't want to encourage further conversation. Let's just say, it made for some awkward moments, and the girls thought this situation was hilarious and were brought to tears of laughter at my expense.

At one point, The Champ, as he called himself, was called to sing a song, and during his performance, Patty told me, "Be a sport, and give him his first kiss."

"I don't think I'd be his first kiss," I corrected, "Just because he's special, doesn't mean he's not getting any. Haven't you seen the movie I Am Sam?" And just when I uttered the words "I Am Sam," there was a lull in the music.... FML!

My favorite part of the night was when Amy was about to sing and made a comment about wanting some free beer. The DJ responded, "Free beer is on February 30th," to which Amy gasped, "Really?! That's awesome!" She later admitted that she couldn't believe they were promoting the event so soon!

It was another great night. I never laugh so much as when I'm with this group. Love you guys!

September 16, 2010

The Joke's On Me

This is Gizmo, our chihuahua. Although he was not named after the look-alike Gremlin, he has proven to be just as mischievous at times. As a result, sections of our house are closed off via baby gates to keep him in line.

My sister and I have a terrible time with the gates... we're always knocking them over or tripping ourselves as we try to hurdle them in the hallways. Because of this, Amy prefers to take the gate down, making it easier to walk back and forth between bedrooms.

The problem, though, is that every time the gate is left open, the dog makes his way to my bedroom or my bathroom and poops.

Yesterday, I rushed home from school to shower and change before curriculum night. Upon arrival, I found the gate had been taken down and Gizmo had dropped off a few "gifts" on my bedroom floor.

As you can probably imagine, this is extremely frustrating. I have asked my sister repeatedly to please make sure the gate is in place if she's not going to watch the dog. Clearly, my reminders weren't working. So, I decided to teach her a lesson. I picked up his droppings and placed them on the floor in her bedroom, hoping it would teach her a lesson, and left for school.

When I came home from school last night, I learned that my sister wouldn't be coming home. Seriously disappointed that my lesson would go untaught, I shared my genius plan with my mom, who then informed me that she was the one who left the gate open! Oops! Sorry, Sister!

The best part was that when I went into my room to change, I discovered that Gizmo had somehow managed to leave me another generous gift.

I guess I know whose side he's on!

August 18, 2010

Flood, Fire and Fleas

If you follow my Facebook updates, you may remember my post earlier this summer about The Great Chicago Flood in my basement. For those that don't recall, we had a a series of terrible storms and a blown fuse (unbeknown to us) and dead batteries to our sump pump. The result was a pain in the you-know-what evening of moving everything out of harm's way. The good news, though, was that we were able to salvage all but a storage box (but thankfully, the contents were spared).

Apparently, though, this was only the first disaster in store for my family in 2010...

The Great Chicago Fire (Part 2, I guess... if you count the real one) was a result of mom's superb grilling skills during a backyard barbecue, during which flames threatened to engulf our entire deck. After assessing the situation, I quickly realized that the fire was beyond our control, which led to a slight moment of panic because we, apparently, don't believe in fire extinguishers.

This would probably be a good time to tell you that while I may not outwardly appear to be an anxious person, I am plagued by many anxious (and often far-fetched) thoughts. If dad isn't home from work when I'm getting ready for bed and we haven't from him all night, my inner thoughts have me convinced it's because he's been in a fatal car accident. Certainly, a logical person could conclude that he may be in a meeting (he's in insurance sales), but I never claimed to be completely logical.

So, my mind is immediately convinced that the deck is going to be swallowed in flames and the house will certainly be burnt to the ground. I make a mental list of all the items I need to rescue and accurately assess that while my plasma screen TV can be replaced, I have years of teaching resources that I would be devastated to lose. And then I remember that they are paper... and paper burns! And then I remember that we have neighbors, so I run next door where the more responsible residents loan me their extinguisher, which promptly smothers the flames.

The great news is that not only did we extinguish the fire before my teaching resources could be swallowed by flames, but we didn't even ruin the grill. In fact, after a thorough cleaning and round 2 at the grocery store, we grilled again that same night (sans fire, this time), which was perfect because I really worked up an appetite after all that commotion.

Oh, and I should mention that we are now well-equipped with our very own fire extinguisher, which we purchased when we had to replace the one we used from next door. And we learned a very valuable grilling lesson: just because the meat fits on the grill, it doesn't mean you should cook it all at once!

The Great Flea Infestation was confirmed yesterday when I took Gizmo to the vet after a week of endless scratching. Now, to be fair (and so mom doesn't kill me), it probably isn't the most accurate choice of words to say we had an "infestation," but if I told you this was The-Time-We-Found-One-Flea-On-The-Dog, it wouldn't have the same dramatic effect, right?

So, both dogs have been guarded with their Frontline Plus, and I doubt anything could have survived the eradication that was mom's cleaning spree last night. Bonus: the whole upstairs smells like fresh laundry!

They say bad things happen in threes... so let it be known that we've hit our limit!

August 11, 2010

How Badly Do You Want It?

This morning, I was watching a rerun of The View about fertility issues. Why am I watching this, you ask? Because I still have no job lined up for the fall and therefore have nothing better to do with my time at 10:00 AM.

Anyway, on this episode, Giuliana and Bill Rancic joined the cast to discuss their pregnancy woes, which apparently are featured on their reality show (which I don't watch because I think she's extremely annoying). While discussing their trials and tribulations, Giuliana, age 35, admits that her doctor told her she needed to gain some weight because she wasn't ovulating regularly.

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? You say you want a child but your body isn't healthy enough to carry said child (hello... look at her photo, for crying out loud. She looks like a lollipop with her giant head and stick body), so you doc prescribes a weight gain of 5-10 lbs. Giuliana explained that she's "too insecure" to gain the weight because she won't fit into the clothes her stylist brings her on set every day.

I honestly wanted to jump through the television (and apparently back in time because it's a rerun) and bitch slap her for being so stupid. I'm sorry but if you refuse to gain 5-10 pounds (which Barbara joked she could gain in one meal) for the sake of conceiving a child, you don't deserve to be a parent! Where are your priorities? I don't care if you're a television star.

[Side Note: After a bit of online research, I learned that Giuliana did, in fact, follow her doctor's orders and gained 7 pounds but was immediately upset with him when she didn't get pregnant. She promptly went on a 2 week cleanse and lost her I-wanna-have-a-baby weight (which only makes me hate her even more) and is now looking to try IVF.]

Management Style

As a teacher, classroom management is something I think we're always trying to perfect. Management styles can very drastically from one teacher to the next, just as they can from one parent to the next, but I am always "taking notes" (on both teaching and parenting styles) to help me learn what works best for me.

Some teachers, for example, cannot tolerate noise, and they are very strict about any side conversations in their classroom. Others, feel overwhelmed when students are out of their seats and therefore, require students to ask permission to sharpen a pencil or go to the bathroom. To create a comparison for you, I would say that these teachers are the Kate Gosselins of the education world. Kate may yell lot, but her kids definitely know what's expected of them and usually comply.

On the opposite side, I've seen teachers who seem to be able to tolerate a lot more noise and distractions. I've been in classrooms that make my head spin because there is so much noise and movement. The Masche family, stars of their own reality show, Raising Sextuplets, often reminds me of these types of classrooms. Mom, Jenny, admits she's not one for keeping a routine, and it's very clear from the chaos in their home. She makes Kate look like a drill sergeant.

Today, I came across this video of the Masche family on The Today Show, which clearly shows the result when one's management style is too laid-back. Not that taking six children on a television appearance would ever be easy, but yikes!!! This was bad!

I'm curious, would you say your parenting style leans more Gosselin or Masche?

August 7, 2010

Out of Touch

One of my dad's many jobs is to provide security for Chicago area events. Today, he was walking out the door for one of said events, and this is the conversation that followed:

Me: Where are you going, Daddy?

Dad: I'm doing security for Lollapalooza today.

Me: Oh, fun! Who's playing tonight?

Dad: I have no idea. Last night it was Lady Gaga... whoever that is.

Seriously? I know he's old and all... but last I heard Lady Gaga has more Facebook friends than President Obama. Has he been living under a rock????

May I never be so out of touch with the world!