Welcome! Join me as I share my experiences as a wife, mom, and kindergarten teacher, and my reflections on them all. Come along as I share my crazy journey!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time: A Friend or Foe?

I can't believe how long it's been since I last blogged!  September first...which means it was before the school year began.  It makes sense looking back.  September was a long, crazy month.  I have some difficult children in my class this year and September is like a black hole that I don't care to remember with all it's trials and tears and tantrums.  Fast forward three months...things are SO much better!  My kiddos have shown amazing growth in so many ways.  The behavior from September is pretty much gone!  That's not to say it's an easy group now, but in comparison, it's like night and day. 
My own children have adjusted to a new school year and are thriving.  This year I have a sixth grader (what?!), a fourth grader, a first grader, a three year old, a nine month old four-legged furry baby and a pretty great guy to share it with.  Life is busy every day but it is filled with so many blessings.

This holiday season I have been noticing all the things that are the same.  The traditions that we carry out from year to year and enjoy again now like making Christmas cookies, Charlie - the special little elf that has been hanging around our house again, getting milk shakes and driving around to look at Christmas lights (yes, I know, milk shakes in the cold...fun, right?).  It's all there, all being enjoyed.

I also have been noticing all the things that are not there.  My dad will be gone for eight years in January.  I honor him in the decorations (he made me some fabulous wooden pine trees that grace my kitchen shelf display each year), I honor him in the memories being made.  My mom has moved on, changes being made as she goes.  My children are growing up.  There is evidence of that in the gifts they are receiving this year.  There is evidence of that in the pictures that I enclosed in Christmas cards.  Life never stops, it never slows down, it both stays the same and changes forever.

These are the thoughts that inspired this poem.  My little slice of life today and every day.

The winds of change blow gently
and time slides by unnoticed
It’s in the slimming of cheeks
and the growing of legs
It’s there in the deepening of voices
and in the worries that develop
Time is by our side
when we bid our birds farewell
It the gusty breeze as they fly away
found in the freedom of their new wings
It’s there in the proud tear
as they sail their own life’s ship
Time is there as we look back
on loved ones grown old
It sweeps along both pushing and pulling
raging and billowing
It’s there as we grieve our losses
comforts the heart in memories
The winds of change blow
time slides by in the blink of an eye

Merry Christmas and I hope to be back more often in the new year!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Freezer Meal Day!

Yesterday I spent my day in the kitchen doing a different kind of back to school prep.  I made 17 crockpot meals for the freezer!  After posting about it on Facebook, several people asked what I made and for the recipes.  So, here is how it all went down and links to the recipes.

I started by looking for way too long on Pinterest for recipes.  There are so many to choose from I didn't know where to start.  I ended up just making a list of the ones that sounded good to me that day and that I thought maybe (ok, its a big maybe) my kids would eat or at least entertain the thought of trying.

Next, I printed out the recipes and made a grocery list.  This is a no joke shopping list people!  It's a full page long!  I'm pretty sure my shopping cart has never been so full.  But...Meijer was also having 10 for $10 sales and they had chicken/hamburger on sale, which certainly helped my wallet!

Anyway, the next step was to chop all the veggies.  5 green peppers, 3 red peppers, 4 potatoes, a million baby carrots, 5 onions and lots of tears and stinging eyes later, I was done!  I wish I had timed this part...it felt like I chopped for hours, but it made it really nice and easy to put the meals together!  Totally worth it!

I chose to chop the chicken as I prepared each recipe rather than all of it ahead of time because I didn't want it to sit on the counter that long.  Doing it as I went along meant more hand-washing but it kept the chicken cold!

Next, I just jumped in!  I started with the first recipe, wrote the name of the dish and the cook time on a freezer bag (make sure you get the kind with write on labels) and if I needed to add anything to it before cooking I also wrote that on the bag.  Then I added all the ingredients to the bag!  I started with the meat on the bottom and dumped everything in on top.  After everything was in and zipped closed I mashed it around a bit to mix things together.  A few bags were really full so I double bagged them just to be safe.  I don't enjoy cleaning my freezer very much!

I made 17 meals - from chop to freezer - in exactly 5 hours.  I had another soup recipe I wanted to make but forgot one ingredient.  Wouldn't you know it?  No biggie...I will make that one this week.

So, what did I make?

From Ring Around the Rosies I made:

Sweet and Tangy Meatballs (makes 2 bags)
Sausage and Peppers (makes 2 bags)

From 6 Cents :

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches (makes 2 bags)
Salsa Chicken (makes 2 bags)

From Stick a Fork In It :

Crock Pot Chicken and Rice (for this one, I left out the cream cheese and will add when cooking)

From Six Sister's Stuff :

Black Bean Taco Soup (double bag this one!)
Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
Hearty Beef Stew (double bag this one!)

From Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour :

Crock Pot Potato Soup (this is the one I haven't made yet)

From Allergy Free Cooking :

Enchilada Wraps

From Squidoo :

Teryaki Chicken
Beef Stroganoff
Divine Chicken
Chili (for this one I decreased the beans by half and added 1 lb. of hamburger) (double bag!)

I will say...I have not actually tried any of these recipes except Crock Pot Chicken and Rice from Stick a Fork In It, which we all loved! 

So there you have it!  Five hours, 17 meals done, 1 more to finish...whew!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anniversary Timeline

I decided that a 13th anniversary deserved some reflection.  For my slice this week I decided to celebrate by sharing a timeline of our lives together...starting from our first meeting 18 (WHAT?!) years ago.

As you know, we have an anniversary coming up next week...13 years!  Can you believe it?  So much has happened since we met, both good and bad, and through it all I gave my all to you and you gave your all to me. 

September 1996 – first met
I visited your dorm room with my friend.  I liked all four of you, but on our walk home I told her you were the one that I liked best.  It *might or might not* have taken you four months to ask me out.

January 1997 – first date
We went to Fazoli’s.  You ate spaghetti and I had pizza.  It was the first time I had ever seen anyone eat spaghetti by twirling it with a fork and spoon.  It was the last time I ever saw you eat it this way.  Best day ever!

1999 – Engaged
You brought over dinner from Fazoli’s – spaghetti for you, pizza and a ring for me.  Best day ever!

July 2001 – Wedding
We had a wonderful day surrounded by our family and friends.  Best day ever!

May 2002 – We bought our house!

March 2003 – Arrival of Matthew William
He took long enough!  After three attempts at inducing labor and a long weekend of labor pains, he finally arrived on Sunday morning, weighing in at 6 lbs. 14 oz.  Best day ever!

November 2005 – Arrival of Emma Grace
Emma arrived four days late, mostly because I didn’t want a Halloween baby.  She made her way into our world in the evening, weighing in at 8 lbs. 8oz.  Best day ever!

June 2008 – Arrival of Madison Elizabeth 
Maddie came into the world on a rainy morning weighing 7 lbs. 7 oz.  Best day ever…even if I missed the last day of the school year and even if the basement flooded while we are the hospital!

July 2011 – Ten Year Anniversary
I was very pregnant but that didn’t stop us from hitting the casino and staying at a beautiful hotel for our anniversary.

August 2011 – Arrival of Avery Rose 
Avery arrived a few days early to greet her siblings weighing in at 8 lbs.  She was so happy she even smiled for her hospital picture!  Best day ever! 

July 2014 – Now
As we approach another anniversary…I find myself thinking if I had to do it all over again, I’d still choose to give you all of me.  Happy anniversary Bill!

My favorite song right now seems to fit the occasion.  Take a listen!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My May SLANTbox Has Arrived!

It's been a very busy couple of weeks!  My last day of school with students was June 18.  We had a half-day of school on our last day and immediately after my students were out the door, I was on my way to a conference!  I attended the All-Write!! conference in Warsaw, IN on Thursday and Friday with a few other teachers from my school.  We had a blast and learned a lot...but, more about that later.

I also received my May SLANTbox from Elizabeth.  I was matched with her for this month and she sent me a great box full of goodies.  Don't know about SLANTbox?  Click here to read more about it.  Basically, I was matched with two people - one who sent a package to me and one I sent a package to, or I'm trying to send a package to (LONG story...not impressed with the LaPorte, TX USPS!).  Through a few emails and a bit of blog stalking, we got to know each other a bit and then following the SLANTbox rules and the theme of monograms, we put together packages for our match.  This was my first time participating in the SLANTbox, and with the exception of the shipping difficulties for the package I sent out, it was a lot of fun!

Mine arrived during the thick of the last few days of school, so even though I opened it and have enjoyed it, I haven't had a chance to show you yet.

Here is the big reveal!

My very first impression made me smile.  Apparently, either Elizabeth figured out that I like a nice chevron print or she got lucky,  but my package arrived in a cute chevron envelope!

I was careful to open the envelope, partly because I could tell it was pretty full and I didn't want to hurt anything and partly to savor the moment a little.  The first thing that I saw as I opened the package was this cute little guy!

Because Elizabeth remembered that my classroom theme was monsters, she sent a little monster stuffed animal for my classroom.  My students are going to love this in the fall!  I am thinking he might be a reading buddy when kids are struggling to maintain their reading stamina during read to self time at the beginning of the school year.

Next, I pulled out this little bundle of goodies - all tied together with a cute glittery string.
As you can see, there is a whole bundle of stuff here...monogrammed note cards, glittery tape, foam letters, colorful pens, a photo album, a variety of stickers, and a cute notebook.

The final item to be revealed was a handmade card, which is beautiful!  In her card, Elizabeth explained each item and why she thought I would like it. 
Elizabeth did a great job putting together my SLANTbox!  She took the time to find out a little about me and then sent me some great items she knew I would enjoy!  Thank you Elizabeth! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ugh...I hate data!


That's what I feel after looking at my teaching goals and the associated data for the year.

I know how hard I have worked with some of my students and all the extra work that my paraprofessional has put into interventions with some of my students. 

I have one child that is going to be retained.  His parents have the paperwork to sign as I type.  I have another child with some health issues that I would like to retain.  His health and lack of attendance (partly due to doctor appointments, partly not) combined with his progress basically stalling out in January doesn't bode well for first grade.  He is not meeting goals for kindergarten and will sink in first grade.  His parents have put off the meeting to determine a health plan and best placement for him for next year.  I am hoping to get it rescheduled by the end of the week.  I have another child that is finally, slowly making progress.  She's not meeting end of year goals but is making steady progress toward them.  Her parents, even after talking about the possibility of retention at our March conference, seem startled by the fact that we would like to meet with them to discuss next year's placement.  So, yes, that is a total of three possible retentions from my class of 18.

Of my other 15 kiddos...there are some very high students, some who are right at grade level.  I'm pretty happy with the progress of most.  However, there is a group of kids (about 5) that did not meet the end of year goal for writing.  Three of those five are only a half-point away on the rubric, which, in most cases, means that they either didn't have enough details or style and voice wasn't quite strong enough.  My readers were similar.  There were 7 that didn't meet the end of year goal.  6 of those 7 were one level below the goal.  All 7 of those students came to school without knowing more than a handful of letters (mostly just those in their name or less) and zero sounds and all but one made it to a level C.  I think that's pretty good, but it's not the end of year goal.


I understand we need goals for students to be sure they will learn everything they need to learn.  However, I also know that the kids that are struggling now, most likely, will be just fine by second grade.  They will take off in their reading once they get to levels with more interesting books.  They will take off in their writing also, once it becomes easier to hear the sounds and write them down rather than having to put so much thought into each and every letter they put onto the page.

I know these things.

I still don't feel great about my students not all meeting the end of year goals.  It's never happened.  Not once, in all my teaching years...oh my, 13 years.  Every year we come close, every year I feel disappointed because I know that "people" will look at the numbers and not know the child.  They will see that there are kids that didn't meet the goal but they will not know who's parents divorced during the school year, who had health problems, who's parents were involved at home and who's parents were not.  They don't know how hard my littlest peanut worked to pass the first text level this year.  They don't know that after working hard all year and being in intervention groups all year, he finally passed the first level on May 30th and we celebrated and gave him high fives.

They just don't know.

But I do. 

I have to remember the huge amounts of growth my students made this year even when they didn't meet the end of year goal.  I have to help them celebrate what they did and learned this year.

Because I know and I am proud of them!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Chalk-a-bration!

Today I'm joining up with Betsy From Teaching Young Writers to celebrate Chalk-a-bration!  Check out other great chalk work today!

Now that we have finally had some beautiful weather in Michigan for a little while, the kids are itching to be outside.  My kindergarten kiddos and I spent some time outside drawing and writing with our chalk.  There is nothing better than the happy smiles of kids when they see a brand new, enormous box of chalk!

Check out the beautiful creations they made for Chalk-a-bration!

 the sun
 I am a bug


 Beautiful flowers - a mom/child collaboration


 I love the Earth.

 The sun is beautiful!

I am a butterfly.
 And my personal favorite...a poem!

in the

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trying my hand...

If you stopped by my blog during March then you already know we were anticipating the arrival of our newest family member...a puppy!  In April, you may have seen a few new pictures.  You probably even saw the debate over and choosing of her name.

Well, now she's become a topic of my writing!  I often write poetry, mostly for myself but I also share it from time to time.  However, I very rarely write poetry for children.  I love reading children's poetry but I've never been inspired to write it.  It's just never really even crossed my mind.

Until last week.

One day, during a break, I sat at my computer with a rare free moment at school.  I didn't have email to respond to, I didn't have grades to enter, I didn't have copies to make or even phone calls to return.  So, I took advantage of it and spent some time writing!  What came out over the next couple of days surprised me very much!  I decided to share it for some feedback...keep in mind it's my first children's poetry ever!

I sat on a bench today
Just to breath the time away
A little bird landed near
Somehow I knew I shouldn’t fear
He tipped his head
And “Hi,” he said
“Why are you feeling down?
I see your face, I see your frown.”
Staring with shock and surprise
I could not believe my eyes
He started again, he began to speak
My head shaking, my knees weak
“Can’t believe you hear me, right?”
I nodded my head, fighting flight
“No one does and that’s a fact.
No one knows just how to act,
When words fall out
Should they run, should they shout?”
I just shrugged, it’s all I could do
He asked again, “Why are you blue?”
So, I figured I might as well talk
“Tuesdays are our day to walk.”
He said, “But you are alone, right?”
I guess I looked a sorry sight
“Usually I walk with my friend,
Tuesdays are our time to spend.
We walk in the park and feed the birds
Just to be, to play, to share some words
I’m lost without her, my faithful friend
Always with me until the end
My dog.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, The Known and The Unknown

I was having a hard time deciding what to write about today.  I wanted to share something about myself but I just couldn't find my topic.  It's not a true slice of life, but it is a slice of me that I share with you today.  

I challenged myself to think of 20 things about myself today.  The first five are things many people might know about me, but not everyone.  The next ten things are things that not very many people know about me, only those closest to me.  The final five are things that are probably unknown to all except myself, or at least, they were until I hit publish.  :)

1 - I have four pretty amazing kids ranging in age from 11 to 2.
2 - I met my husband my freshman year of college.  Our first date was January 16, 1997.  We went to Fazoli's.  I had pizza and he had spaghetti, which he ate with a fork and spoon.  I'd never seen anyone twirl their spaghetti with a spoon before!  I guess he was trying to be neat and impress me because I have never again seen him use a spoon for his twirling.
3 - I love to write.  I don't do it as often as I would like to, but I enjoy it very much.  I'm thankful for the SOL challenge on Tuesdays and throughout the month of March.
4 - My favorite teacher was my orchestra teacher.  He taught me a lot about teaching, getting to know my students, and how to be passionate about something.
5 - I love to read!  I'm pleased to say I am part of a book club!
6 - I played the violin from 4th grade through 12th grade and I loved it!
7 - I used to practice for hours because I wanted to be first chair in the violin section.  It was always a close competition between myself and another player.  We challenged each other often for the rights of first chair.
8 - When I was four, I wanted to be a country music singer.
9 - I am the youngest child of five.  The next oldest is 10 years older than me. 
10 - I would love to have a writing group.  A friend and I tried to start one and it never really grew wings.  I love talking about other people's writing and getting feedback on my own.
11 - My all-time favorite movie?  It's a tie between Dirty Dancing (I can recite it line for line) and Pretty Woman (Can't go wrong with Richard and Julia!) and Mr. Holland's Opus (probably because if #4 above).  There are many close runners-up, but these are the top dogs.
12 - When my hubby proposed, he brought dinner to my apartment.  He brought Fazoli's - pizza for me and spaghetti for himself.  Sound familiar?  See #2 above!
13 - The first book I read that I remember feeling an attachment to was my first chapter book called King of the Dollhouse.  It was about a child's dollhouse and the king and queen dolls that came to life after the child went to sleep.  I remember feeling like it was just a magical story and I read it several times.  I still have it and would love to have my daughters read it...but I'm afraid they won't see the magic in it.
14 - I despise all things vampire/zombie/scary-bad-guy related.  However, I LOVE the show The Walking Dead!  I didn't want to like it and I resisted for a long time, but my husband got me hooked.
15 - I still enjoy watching kids movies and love to take my kids to the theater to see them!
16 - Part of me secretly wishes #8 could still come true.
17 - I'm 35 years old and I have never lived alone.  I lived with both parents until college, I lived with people throughout college, when I graduated I briefly moved back home with my parents and then I got married. 
18 - I backed out of my garage and into my husband's car in our driveway.  Twice.
19 - Remember #3?  Last summer I started writing a novel.  I worked on it like crazy during the summer but during the school year it's been hard to become inspired enough to work on it.  At this point, it takes longer chunks of time to work on it than I can devote most days.  I can't wait until summer to get back at it!  Remember #10?  This is one reason I really wish I had a writing group!  I want people to read and give feedback on my story!
20 - My husband says I snore.  I don't know how he can possibly hear me over himself?

Well, there you have it.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the known and the unknown.  It was harder than I thought to think about the unknown items!  Did anything in the list surprise you?