April 30, 2014

Did Your Students Do This Too?

This morning, upon seeing my first female student, I was immediately berated because I, apparently, missed a very important memo:

#OnWednesdaysWeWearPink



Apparently, today is the ten year anniversary of Mean Girls, and people everywhere (according to my facebook feed) are wearing pink in celebration.

Can we just talk about this for a second? How is it even possible that Mean Girls is ten years old?

TEN YEARS!



I swear it's only been like 5. To be fair, though, I'm the person who still thinks of the 90's when someone says something happened 10 years ago.

My students were only 1 or 2 when it premiered.

I'm not sure which of these facts makes me feel older.


All day long, my students quoted the movie at every opportunity. During our soccer match in PE, the girls had way too much cheering for "Glen Coco" AKA every student in the game.


And I heard this quote more times than I could possibly count...


Don't get me wrong. Mean Girls is probably one of my all-time favorite movies. I will watch it every single time it plays no matter how far it is into the story. It doesn't really matter because I have it pretty much memorized at this point.

So, I'm slightly disappointed that I missed this milestone. Do you think it counts if I wear pink next Wednesday???




April 29, 2014

Teacher Tip: Scholastic Magazines

Happy Tuesday, my faithful followers! We're on our last cycle of Interim Testing this week, which means I get to spend some quality time on the computer while my kiddos test. The great news is that I can finally share a Tuesday Teaching Tip... it's been way too long!

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the wonderful assortment of Scholastic magazines, but I don't know how many of you use them on a regular basis in your classrooms. If you do use them, are you familiar with the supplementary resources online?

I know there are many magazine options, but as a middle school teacher, I'm most familiar with Junior Scholastic and Scholastic Action, and I absolutely love them both. They are filled with high-interest, relatable articles that my students devour. Both magazines offer excellent options for using the featured articles as Articles of the Week and for guided reading.

Action provides articles appropriate for instructing your students in the areas of reading and writing. The issues include reader's theater scripts, essay organizers, debate outlines, and more. The thing I love most about this rag is that you can get leveled texts on the website. That's right! They've differentiated the articles into three Lexile levels to meet the needs of your students! The middle level is always in the magazine, but you can get the higher and lower levels on the website and print them for free. I love this feature because it allows me to cover the exact same material with a whole class but still keep things differentiated. You can click here for an example of leveled texts in an article about eating bugs... how many of your students would LOVE this article?!

In addition to the differentiated article, Action magazine offers Common Core-aligned teaching resources that supplement the various articles. You can see from this link to the most current issue, that they offer numerous activities, and they take all of the guess work out by giving you a lesson plan complete with CCSS. What a great resource!

Junior Scholastic operates in a similar manner, but focuses on nonfiction articles related to national and international news. I love this magazine for keeping my students aware of current events and teaching them to think critically about things that are happening in our world. I love that this magazine includes primary resources, geography lessons, paired texts, links to videos and exposure to important vocabulary.

If you haven't yet subscribed to either of these magazines, I highly recommend you consider them for next year. You won't be disappointed!

April 28, 2014

Special Olympics & IMWAYR: Elsewhere

Yesterday was Special Olympics at one of the local colleges, and my girl J asked me several weeks ago to come watch her compete. Her events included running and the softball throw, and we have two other students from my school competing in running and jumping events.

Joel was a great sport and agreed to tag along for this event, and we arrived at 11:00 as planned. J was scheduled to start at 11:15, so I thought I had plenty of time. As it turns out, though, I wasn't able to find our group. I stook at the track for 20 minutes looking for them. I saw plenty of other students from our district, but I couldn't find my kiddos. Finally, after emailing the coach, I realized we were in the wrong place (stupid lack of signs), and I missed her event by like 2 minutes.

Luckily, she was smiling from ear to ear when I caught up with her and her family before they headed to lunch. I'm glad she knows I came, even if I didn't get to see her compete.






For today's book talk, I want to share with you a book that I fell in love with years ago and still recommend to students. It's called Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.

I was first introduced to this book by a coworker while I was subbing and earning my teaching certificate. I mentioned that I was looking for suggestions for building a classroom library, and she raved about this book.

Elsewhere is the setting of this story, which is where all people go once they die. But don't worry, this book isn't morbid at all. In fact, one of the reasons I like this book so much is because it offers an idea about life after death that I think can be very comforting for students dealing with loss.

In Elsewhere, the weather is perfect, no one is ever sick, and the best part of all, life continues. At whatever age a person died, they come to Elsewhere and age backwards until they are again infants (in body, not mind), when they float down a river and are re-born in the world.

When Lizzie dies at age 15, before she can even earn her license or have her first kiss, she is devastated. She laments the life she left and spends a lot of time at the Observation Deck watching her friends and family continue with their lives without her.

Her new home is living with a grandmother she's never met, who has been in Elsewhere long enough that she's now the age of Liz's mother. This creates a strange yet familiar dynamic between the two.

In time, Liz learns to accept and even enjoy her new life and the possibilities it offers. She befriends Thandi and meets her new crush, Owen, and through those relationships, she learns that while her old life is over, she has opportunities in this new life in Elsewhere, not to mention the future lives she now knows she will have.

My favorite part of the book is when Lizzie takes a job working for the Division of Domestic Animals and learns that she's fluent in canine. As she interprets for her furry friends, she also helps them find new homes in Elsewhere.

This book offers a unique perspective on life after death that stays with readers for years to come. I would say it's appropriate for any middle school student.

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.

April 25, 2014

Five More Funnies on this Friday



If this week is any indication of what the end of this year has in store, it's going to be a LONG six weeks! If I didn't know better, I would have thought we had a full moon EVERY DAY this week because I had to deal with way too many meltdowns.

Despite the fact that this week has left me in serious need of a glass (or bottle) of wine, I did manage to find 5 things that made me laugh this week:

1. Whenever my PE class is assigned to workout in the fitness lab, I get excited because it means Robin (the PE teacher) and I get to dance around to fun music while the kids laugh from the stationary bikes and treadmills. We were just about done when Pharell's 'Happy" song started playing. I don't know how anyone could not love that song... it's just so... well.. HAPPY! About half way through the song, Robin decided it would be fun to have our class burst into the health room next door for a little impromptu dance mob. Their reactions were priceless, and several students danced with us in their seats. It was a great pick-me-up!


2. One of the characters in a story we read this week lives in Ontario. We asked the students where that was, and they just stared at us. When my co-teacher tried prompting them with, "This country has provinces," they still stared blankly. Finally, she said, "It's North of us," and a student exclaimed, "North and South Dakota!" Seriously?????


3. Our SPED kiddos have been working hard to build birdhouses during our Design and Modeling class this week. J was very excited when she learned she would be able to paint her birdhouse pink because... everything has to be pink for this sixth grader. I sat with her and watched her start painting, giving her tips about keeping the project on the paper towel mat I provided and being careful not to splatter the paint. After I was satisfied that she was doing a great job on her own, I walked away to clean up a mess from an old project in another part of the wood shop. When I came back, I saw that she managed to get paint ALL over the table, her clothes, and even in her hair (from using her paint-stained hands to tuck her hair behind her ears). Poor girl was rocking some pink highlights!!


4. On days when we have a few extra minutes at the end of science, the classroom teacher likes to share riddles, strange but true facts, and brain teasers with the class. On this particular day, she was sharing a riddle about something found on a path with four fingers and a thumb that is not covered in flesh or fur. One of our ESL kiddos guessed, "Human hand!" and she immediately asked him what covered his hand. Of course, he said, "Skin!" and then she had to explain that flesh means skin. haha!


5. In PE, we were outside playing Sharks and Minnows. For those that don't know, this game involves a small group of students standing in the middle of a field (sharks), who try to tag the minnows as they run from one side to the other. We called the minnows by classification (those wearing black socks, those in band, etc.). In one round, Robin yelled, "Anyone with BO!" and all the kids stared at each other. Some started guessing, "Band and orchestra?!" not remembering that our music kids had already run across the field. Finally, one student proudly yelled, "Body Odor!!!!" as he began sprinting past all 5 sharks like it was a walk in the park.


April 24, 2014

What I'm Thinking About Today

Today, students took a big science test over cells and classification. I know this unit was difficult for them because it included a lot of new concepts and vocabulary, but as I graded the tests for two classes, I was lamenting their scores.

This lead to a conversation with the classroom teacher about the idea that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.

And the more we talked, the more I felt her frustration with the new teacher evaluation system, which starts next year. At this point, student scores will be a direct reflection of teacher success.

I know this post isn't bringing to light anything new, but I really want someone to give me a good reason as to why this is the solution to our education crisis in America.

Since I started working in education, I've been taught to be a facilitator of learning. Therefore, it is my job to provide the tools necessary and the encouragement needed for students to become lifelong learners.

This is great, in theory, but what are teachers supposed to do when students lack the initiative to take any ownership of their learning? We spent 3 DAYS making Cell City, which is supposed to be a metaphor for how each organelle operates within a cell. The day the submitted this project, they took a quick pop quiz to check their understanding of the functions of each organelle.

We had a good number of students who performed better on the PRETEST than this pop quiz.

We gave them notes. We reviewed the notes. We offered an extension activity for them to further grasp this information.

What else are we supposed to do?

I genuinely wish I had the answer.

I can't follow them all home to make sure they study. I can't even make them do their homework! You can't force someone to care about something they deem unimportant.

I think some of our students believe they can learn through osmosis. Like the information is just going to seep into their brains by being in the classroom... even when they're not paying attention.

This is the reality of education. Every teacher knows this.

So why don't our policymakers?

April 23, 2014

Chinese Dynasty Amusement Parks

In social studies, we recently finished studying Ancient China. With this, we learned about the various dynasties, which students were asked to characterize by designing amusement parks with various attractions that tie specifically to the dynasty they were assigned. They were asked to consider what was invented during that time as well as how life was different for people based on who was in power.

Here are a couple of examples from this year's groups:

I especially like the slide made of silk for visitors to surf down and the lazy river that represented the use of irrigation systems in this park! Some of our students were very creative!!!
 
While roller coasters are always a popular choice in amusement park engineering, some of our groups included torture devices to reflect the way leaders ruled with iron fists and punished anyone who spoke against them.
I've also seen this project done at other schools in my district (remember, I subbed here for two years) where each group had to make an amusement park that represented ALL of the dynasties. They simply had different sections of the park. I like this twist because it allows students to demonstrate their learning on all the dynasties and they can see how they are similar and different on one poster.

April 21, 2014

Weekend Recap and IMWAYR: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Happy Monday, friends! What a glorious three-day weekend! I'm sorry I'm not sorry about being away from my computer and this blogging world so much recently, but I've been out enjoying life! Now that winter is behind us (I say this with a chuckle since it was just a week ago that I had to scrape snow off my car before work... Chicago springs feel a lot like cruel jokes.), we've been itching to be anywhere but inside the house.
 
Joel's birthday was this weekend, and we were on a mission to celebrate with some fondue. We visited SIX stores before finding a set (seriously... is fondue a seasonal item? If so, for what season?) at Bed Bath & Beyond (and, of course, I didn't have one of the ubiquitous 20% off coupons with me... story of my life). At about 4:30, I suggested we pick out our groceries because we had skipped lunch with all of our shopping, and I know how long it takes to prepare all those bite-size morsels for dipping.
 
Flash forward to 8:30 PM when we were on batch #2 of cheese fondue. Yes, we had to go BACK to the store because we couldn't get the right consistency. I don't know what we did wrong, but we got the consistency of the cheese inside a mozzarella stick instead of a dip. I know that sounds amazing, but that's a LOT of chewy cheese on each bite of broccoli. I gave up and started dipping my bread and apples into a jar of Nutella. So we're calling our fondue a fondon't!
 
On Saturday, two of our friends from Baton Rouge flew into town for the weekend, so we met up with them at the Drake and gave them a tour of the city. We walked all along the Magnificent Mile and through Millennium Park and Grant Park. This part was fine... but then we had to walk back! And let's just say that this girl doesn't always make the most sensible choices when it comes to shoes, so my feet STILL hurt! We went to Gino's East for some delicious deep dish pizza and a delicious brownie in honor of Joel's birthday.
 
Yesterday, we spent the day with my family for Easter. We had a delicious brunch, and I made my favorite Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake. We also had pumpkin pancakes, egg salad croissant sanwiches, spiral baked ham, island pie (my grandma's pineapple whip dessert), quiche, and fruists and veggies galore. It was YUMMY! We were blessed with the most beautiful weather of the year, and got to eat on the deck and play some boccie ball in the yard. We were outside until the sun started to set last night, and it was wonderful! It felt like a vacation!













For this week's book talk, I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. The book seems to have some mixed reviews, but to be honest, I didn't even look at them before I downloaded it. I'm really into autobiographies and memoirs, especially when written by funny women. I've read everything by Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin... I just love them!

Although I was never a regular watcher of The Office, I always thought it was pretty funny, so I was willing to give this book a shot just from seeing the cover. I think Mindy is the kind of girl I could call a friend. She's just quirky enough to be endearing without being annoying, and I actually enjoyed getting a glimpse into her mind in this book. I found her to be relatable and interesting enough to hold my attention in the car. It was a cute book for someone looking for a light, summer read!

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.

April 16, 2014

Dichotomous Keys and Jelly Beans

Being that I come from a language arts background, most of the lesson ideas I share are geared toward reading, writing, and word work. What can I say? It's my comfort zone!

But today I have to share with you an awesome lesson we did in science this week because our students LOVED it!

We started studying classification this week, and with this came instruction on using Dichotomous Keys. We had thorough discussions on the principles of taxonomy and learned how all living things are given scientific names in addition to the common names we normally hear. 

Then, the fun began!

We started the lesson with some Harry Potter, which means I was won over from the very beginning. Here's the quote that was shared:

“He [Harry] finally tore his eyes away from the druidess Cliodna, who was scratching her nose, to open a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. 

"You want to be careful with those," Ron warned Harry. "When they say every flavor, they mean every flavor—you know, you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a booger-flavored one once."

Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully, and bit into a corner. "Bleargh - See? Sprouts."

They had a good time eating the Ever Flavor Beans. Harry got toast, coconut, baked bean, strawbery, curry, grass, coffee, sardine, and was even brave enough to nibble the end off a funny gray one Ron wouldn't touch, which turned out to be pepper."


At this point, student pairs were given a dixie cup half full of Jelly Belly candies and a corresponding Dichotomous Key. Students took turns selecting a bean and using the Key to determine its flavor. You can find a bunch of these online, but I found this one to be most helpful since it includes a key for the name brand as well as the Sam's Club brand for those who are thrifty like me! :)

Then, students had to eat the bean to assess their skills, and record whether or not it was the flavor they expected. Of course, the classroom teacher told them the Harry Potter Jelly Beans were included in the bunch, which made the activity even more exciting for the students who were afraid to accidentally eat a vomit or ear wax bean. Watching them nervously bite into each bean was pure entertainment!

She didn't actually include the Harry Potter beans because she didn't think to oder them in time, but if you're interested in doing so, this article includes a Key for those beans as well. Even if you don't go all out and include these beans, trust me, your students will throughly enjoy this activity!

April 14, 2014

IMWAYR: Stories About Stepping Up













During ELA, we've been talking about what it means to "Step Up" to make a difference. To help our students realize there are more opportunities to step up other than bullying (seriously... this is the ONLY example they were able to give on the first day of our unit), we've been reading some short stories about others who've made a difference.

Jimmy and Ryan and the Well in Africa that Brought them Together is a wonderful story that begins when 6 year-old Ryan takes on extra chores around the house in order to earn enough money to build a well for clean water in a remote village in Uganda. His determination inspired many others who joined in his efforts, and together, they were able to reach his goal.

When Ryan travels to Agweo, he meets an orphan named Jimmy, and the two form an instant friendship. The story then takes an interesting twist that teaches readers about the dangerous reality for too many African children. Is it possible for Ryan's family protect their new friend?

This is a fantastic book for providing an example of how our students can step up in big ways to help less fortunate people across the globe. I especially like that it all started with a six year-old, showing our students that you're never too young to make a difference.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down is a fabulous picture book that shares the story of four black college students who sat down at the Woolworth's diner waiting silently to be served. This story gives students a better understanding of segregation and the determination it takes to start a movement of change. In particular, this movement resulted in a change in law and stood against injustice.

I can share that my students were surprised by the fact that this movement gained so much momentum without the use of any words. We talked about how there can be great power in silence, meaning that even when you feel like you can't say something, you can still take a stand. This was also a good lesson about how sometimes it takes a long time (four years in this instance) to initiate change, and that many people needed to band together to end segregation.

Six Million Paperclips: The Making of a Children's Holocaust Memorial is an inspirational story about how a teacher in a small town in Tennessee helped her students grasp the concept of 6 million Jews being murdered in the Holocaust. Ultimately, they decided to collect paperclips, each one representing a life that was lost.

Several years and many volunteers later, the school group put together a memorial at their school, which displayed their paperclips in an authentic German railcar. The memorial served a way to honor the victims as well as a means to spread awareness through the community. As my students demonstrated, it's hard to grasp the magnitude of such a big number without being able see it.

You can read more about this group and the documentary about their experience here. If you're anything like me, this story will inspire you to want to do something equally as impactful with your own students!

The final story, The Dog Poop Initiative, talks how people need to take initiative in their lives rather than sitting idly by or waiting for someone else to do something. In this story, author Kirk Weisler recounts a day when he arrived to coach his sons's soccer game to multiple warnings from various adults about a patch of dog poop on the field.

These good citizens warned others to keep their distance, yet Kirk realized, not one of them had the initiative to take 30 seconds to clean it up. He wondered how this example translated to other areas of our lives and whether or not we're creating a society of people without the initiative to do whatever it takes to make the world a better place. What a great message for our students to hear!

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews

April 8, 2014

Hair Reveal and A Tasty Treat

I'm linking up with Holly today because I tried some new things.

First and foremost: my hair. Those of you who follow my blog know that I was searching for a more affordable method for coloring my grey hairs. In addition, I had the problem of my ends being much darker than the hairs closer to my roots because they were just saturated from years of dye.

Based on advise from many of you as well as some expert tips I read online, I decided to start by stripping my hair with Color Zap. Actually, if you want to get technical, Joel did all this for me. We only applied the Color Zap to the length of my hair, as instructed by the nice stylist who cut Joel's hair earlier in the day. Basically, this product will remove any hair dye and lighten your hair a shade or two. Mine turned out kinda orange, which was what I expected.
After the Zap, we went straight into the DIY color. I bought Ion Color Brilliance in "Dark Mahogany Golden Blonde," which is really a deceiving name since it's a dark reddish brown color. But the name totally made me nervous.

And the result? Well... I'm not 100% happy, but it's good enough for now. I think next time, I will try a darker shade, as it's still looking a little orangey to me. The color Zap left me with somewhat of an ombre look, which I wasn't aiming for but will gladly accept. I probably would have destroyed my hair had I done this intentionally.

Anyway, here's the final product. Please ignore the silly face I'm making... this was originally a text to Alison while I was still trying to decide if I should keep it or run back to the store for more hair dye. What do you think?

I also want to add that I did a 3 hour coconut oil hair mask to repair some of the damage from the stripping and coloring. It made SUCH a huge difference in my hair's texture. 

My second Tried it Tuesday was a recipe from Skinny Taste, which is one of my favorite websites for healthy recipes. My coworker brought in these flour-less chocolate brownies, and we were all in shock when she told us they were made with a base of black beans. And then when she rattled of the rest of the ingredients, I was incredulous that this tasty treat was the result.


What finally sold me on trying these myself, I'll admit, is that you make these brownies by throwing everything in a blender. Yep... I can do that kind of baking!

The consistency of these brownies is more cake-like, in my opinion, but that's a fair trade considering how much healthier they are! Joel, my dad, and my brother gobbled them right up without complaining... even when I told them the secret ingredients! :)

April 7, 2014

IMWAYR: Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie













Each year, my school does a reading project called One Book, One School. Each day, we rotate through the schedule (Chapter 1 during Period 1 on day 1, Chapter 2 during period 2 on day 2, etc.) so all students are at the exact same place in the text every day. I also love that ALL teachers are a part of this, even PE!

As an ELA teacher, it's so nice to have a common text to discuss with students (even in the following years) regardless of grade level, and it's exciting to listen to students talk about the story with their peers.


This year's book selection, which we started yesterday, is Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. For those who read last week's post, you may recognize this title as it was a previous winner of the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award. I read this book back when it was on the Caudill list and absolutely loved it, so I was happy to see that my school chose it this year for the read aloud.

The story is narrated by Steven, a 13 year-old eighth grader who tells us about his love of drumming, his crush on the cutest girl in school, and his annoying 5 year-old brother, Jeffrey.

Except everything changes for Steven the moment Jeffrey is diagnosed with Leukemia, turning the whole family's world upside down. Steven steps up to the plate in some pretty major ways, including hosting a benefit concert to help his family pay for the mounting medical bills.

This is the perfect novel to demonstrate what life is like for a family in crisis. All sibling fight, of course, and many of our students tell us that they "hate" their brothers and sisters. I've had great discussions with students about how they would react if something like Jeffrey's fate happened to those siblings, and they always admit they'd be really worried.

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.

April 3, 2014

Student SMART Goals with a Freebie

You guys, it has been a long day of hair color around these parts. After reading all your responses to my Currently cry for help, I was determined to take on the DIY hair coloring again. 

The process actually started yesterday when I visited Sally's for my supplies and I left empty-handed because the girl there was less than helpful and friendly. Joel and I went to get haircuts today, and I talked to the super nice lady who cut his hair about color for some more guidance. 

LONG story short, I ended up using a color remover to strip my hair of the buildup of color, which has prevented the ends of my hair from taking on any new color... even when I've paid well over $100 for said color. It's currently 8:18 PM, and I still haven't seen the final product because I'm doing a coconut oil treatment to add back some of the moisture I removed today. I'm feeling confident, though. And I promise I'll keep you guys posted!

While I wait for my hair to soak up all the coconut goodness, I wanted to link up with my girl Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit for Thursday Throw Down. 

One of the things I've done to encourage students to be interactive with their learning is teach them about SMART goals. This was actually one of my professional goals one year, and I thought it would be a good way to give my students more ownership of their learning. 

So, the first thing we needed to do was break down what a SMART goal entails. I gave them this handy dandy worksheet, which you can download for FREE by clicking on the photo below.

We worked our way through each step of a SMART goal citing examples and non-examples for each step, and then we practiced putting it all together. We started by writing personal goals for things they wanted to buy or get permission to do and created an action plan for how they could make that happen. 

And let me tell you... when kids want something, they're able to get VERY creative in what they're willing and able to do get it! :)

Once I was sure all students understood the concept of a SMART goal, we wrote one for each unit. On the first day, I would give them a preview of what the unit would look like and tell them about the final assessment, which in my classroom was hardly ever a test because we focus on authentic assessments. 

Once they knew my expectations, students write a SMART goal that focuses on something they want to improve on for the unit. For example, during my poetry anthology unit (don't worry... this product is still coming), some of my students wanted to focus on mastering the use of literary devices. In order to get there, students knew they had to take good notes, write several examples, conference with a peer (or me) to make sure they were on the right track, etc.  

As it says in the handout, it's really important that students know themselves as learners in order to write a good SMART goal. During a reading-focused unit, for example, I saw action steps that acknowledged distractibility with a promise to not sit with a certain friend or to choose a spot away from the door. Other students, knowing they are the slower readers in their reading groups, vowed to bring their book home every night to catch up for the next day. 

Our SMART goal worksheets served like contracts in our classroom. I approved each goal and the accompanying steps on that first day so I knew where each student was focused. It also helped me hold them accountable if their current behaviors were not going to get them to their goals. 

My favorite part about the SMART goals is that students are accountable to themselves. They're not doing something because I told them it was important but because it's a necessary step to help them reach their end goals. 

April 1, 2014

Currently, I'm Asking for Your Input

Happy April, everyone! It's time for my favorite monthly linky, hosted by Farley!


I normally don't expand much on my Currently posts, but this one needs some discussion. In particular, I'm looking for some feedback on a couple of these, so feel free to chime in!

Listening - I L.O.V.E. that I'm still in my bed after 10:00, and it's not because I'm still sick!  Spring Break is the best gift ever! 

Loving - Yesterday, Chicago was blessed with 70 degree temperatures for the first time in what felt like a year. Although it didn't last long enough (a cold wind is howling as I type this), it was the perfect way to lift my spirits. I took the time to not only straighten but also curl my hair and put on a cute outfit, complete with fun jewelry for a day date with my man. Joel and I spent some time at the outlet mall simply because it allowed us to walk around outside, hand a nice lunch at a salad bar, and then we visited my BFF Ashley and her twin girls AND my sister and her boyfriend. When we got home around 8:00, we spent a couple hours hanging out with my brother and his girlfriend before climbing into bed to watch some Real Housewives. It was basically the perfect day!

Thinking - I'm looking for some new books to read. When it comes to adult books, I've really been enjoying memoirs and autobiographies... especially those by funny women. Ellen Degeneres, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey... I've loved them all. What else should I add to my reading list???

Wanting - At Joel's insistence, I caved and bought a pair of Crocs last year. My schedule was such that I was literally on my feet from 6:30-1:00 every day, and they were the ONLY shoes that didn't make my plantar fasciitis hurt at the end of the day. They feel like walking on little clouds. I know Crocs are the shoes everyone loves to hate, but I think I'm finally in a place where I can say I don't care. We visited the outlet store yesterday, and I think I found at least 3 other pairs I want to buy. My sister thinks this is the first sign I'm getting old and fears I'm on my way to wearing mumus and giving up completely on my appearance. I assured her this is not the case. I think I'm just finally old enough to not care if someone judges my shoes if they aren't the ones walking in them all day!

Needing - I've mentioned this before, but I've been finding grays in my dark hair since high school. I started coloring my hair using boxed dye from the drugstore until my hair stylist pointed out that my ends were literally black from soaking up too much dye. I'm at a place now where my hair needs to be colored every month because of regrowth and because those stubborn grays fade so quickly. The last time I went to the salon for color only (at the end of February), I shelled out $130. And this is for all-over color. I don't do highlights or lowlights or anything else fancy. I would... but I'm trying to be cost-efficient. And call me crazy, but I don't think $130 for all-over color is cost-efficient. Who can afford that every 4 weeks? Not this girl! Especially not on this salary. I desperately need to find a more budget-friendly solution. I know I shouldn't go back to using boxed color, so I need to find another option. I'd love to be able to buy my own color and developer on ebay (but how do you know what will work for your hair?) to do it at home for a fraction of the cost. Anyone have any tips or alternate ideas?

Hours & Last Day - I have to punch in on a time clock and am required to be in the building from 7:35-3:05. This is more than an hour later than I arrived to school in my previous jobs, so I'm not complaining. :) Our last day is June 6 after 4 snow days. They were worth it!