Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reversed Resolutions


We are a little over 12 hours away from the new year.  Some will be celebrating with family, some with close friends, others will go to bed at their regular time because it's just another day to them.  Not me. New Year's Eve is a celebration, and I plan on celebrating.  

The beginning of a new year is like a new chapter to a book.  Heck, it can sometimes be like starting a brand new book or a sequel.  The pages are still blank, waiting to be filled with good times and bad, laughter and sadness, hope and loss.  Once the words have been written, there's no taking them back, but a new year can bring about a way to make some changes to the story line, add a few new characters, and throw in some twists and turns.  

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have written about all the things I want to do in the new year.  Call them resolutions, if you will, but plans and goals are more like it.  Have I kept them?  Not always.  I've started out strong, but as the days go by, the goals and plans start to fade and I focus more on the here and now.  

This year, I thought I'd try something a little different.  Rather than making a list of all the things I'm going to do in the new year, I thought maybe it's time to write a list of the things I don't want to do.  Maybe focusing on the parts of my life that bring me down or cause me worries and eliminating them may bring about more success.  I know that I can't mess with fate.  What happens to me happens for a reason, I truly believe that.  The good stuff happens for a reason, the bad stuff happens for a reason, and no amount of planning or preparing can alter what each day brings.  There are no time machines, there are no do-overs.  I just have to accept the inevitable and take on each challenge as it arises.  But, there are some things that I can try and eliminate from my being, who I am and what I do, that can lead to bigger and better things for me and the people I care most about. goes...

1.  Don't sweat the small stuff

I have come to accept that my life is a string of to-do lists and calculated plans.  I maintain several calendars in order to keep up with how hectic life is, and all the obligations that I have to juggle.  That can often be very overwhelming, and can bring on a lot of unneeded stress.  In 2015, I want to get rid of that unneeded stress and let go of sweating the small stuff.  Things will get forgotten, plans will get cancelled, and I'll make some mistakes.  I want to be able to handle those situations with a quick "meh" and move on.  

2.  Let go of the "what if" statements

I'm guilty of being a bit of a worrier.  Often about those things that I have no control over.  I focus too much on the "what if" of certain situations.  To go right along with #1, I need to learn to let go of the what if statements, and just focus on whatever happens.  If I spend so much time trying to calculate the outcome, I'll have no time to enjoy the spontaneous moments and surprises that are awaiting me.  I can't control everything, and that's something I need to learn and accept.  Heck, I don't want to control everything... I actually like some excitement in my life.  So, goodbye What If.

3.  Pick my battles carefully

Everyone has heard the saying "pick your battles wisely".  I may be a little guilty of picking battles where there aren't any real battles to pick.  I find trouble where trouble doesn't need to be.  I dwell on situations that aren't really that important.  In 2015, I want to be more aware of the battles that I pick and pick a lot less of them.  Once again, situations out of my control need to stay that way.  I need to accept and realize that there are things I can't change, no matter how much I want them to.  I need to focus my energy on fighting for what truly matters and letting all the little stuff go.

4.  Remove the negativity

I consider myself to be quite an optimist.  I can often see the end result, or focus on an outcome that I want.  I'm a glass is half full kinda gal, and I love that about myself.  But, one thing I am guilty of is allowing negativity in when I'm around it too much.  Sometimes I see the good in everything, but spending a little time around others that don't share my vision can sometimes blur my vision and start corrupting it.  That needs to stop.  I may not be able to fill everyone else's glass, but I can stop others from draining mine.  I am a dreamer, a go-getter, someone that can see the end of the rainbow.  I don't want anyone interfering with those visions or taking them away from me.  Even bad days can have their use for learning lessons and allowing me to see the bigger picture.  I want to embrace all of those moments and not allow negative interferences to take me off track.  Sometimes being the one person that doesn't give up, doesn't lose sight of the end goal, or doesn't allow negativity to take over is the one person that can lift other people up when they need it the most.  I sure would like to be that person more, rather than someone that's easily influenced by negativity. 

5.  Don't look back

Finally, this year I don't want to focus so much on comparing my life to what it was a few weeks ago, a few months ago, or even years ago.  Those chapters have all been written and they have all shaped who I am today.  But, each and every day is a new beginning and I can't possibly try and make myself go back to a time in my life when everything seemed easier or when everything seemed to be how I wanted them to be.  I am not the girl I was back then.  I've changed, my life has changed, and I need to focus on who I am still becoming each day.  I am not set in stone, I am adaptable and changeable.  I am flexible and am willing to make adjustments where adjustments are due.  But, I can't ever go back to a girl I once was.  I have goals, I have dreams, I have aspirations.  Everything I have done in my life, everyone I have met, and everyone that still remains are in my life for a reason.  They have helped mold, shape, and create the person I have become.  But, moving forward I need to accept that I am going to continue to change, and I will always be evolving.  Sometimes clinging to the past can bring comfort or hope.  I sometimes yearn to go back to a past version of myself, yet that can never happen.  I am who I am, and I have to accept that.  If I'm not happy with something going on in my life, I need to have the courage to make the necessary changes, but I don't want to ever compare myself to who I once was.  I like who I am now, and I need to embrace her more.  Love me or leave me.  That's how it's going to be in 2015.

So, there you have it.  Some things I want to try and get rid of for 2015.  I have no way of knowing if I'll succeed in all of them, but it's nice to have a solid vision.  

This has been a fantastic year.  I am so happy with everything that has happened to me over the course of these past 12 months.  I truly hope that 2015 is just as great, if not better.

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!!  Ring in the new year with the ones you love, and start the new year how you plan to go on.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

As 2015 Approaches....

I can't believe we're just two days away from 2015.  And I can't believe I haven't written a blog post since Christmas Day.  Time flies when you're having fun, I guess, and I've been having some of that.  At 3:30AM the day after Christmas, the kids and I loaded up the car and drove to Tennessee to visit Peanut's family.

The trip was bittersweet.  I love spending time with M and D, and they are now my family, which is why it's always so hard to say goodbye.  The kids had an absolute blast and they love their grandparents.  Butter and Jelly have made it perfectly clear that M and D are also their grandparents, and that's totally fine with me.  I am a firm believer in never having too much family.  Peanut got to spend some time with her dad, and that was good.  

The trip home was long and quiet.  Nobody really had much to say.  The only thing on all of our minds was when we get to go back again for another visit... which will be soon, I hope.

Now my mind is in New Year mode.  My hopes, my dreams, and my desires are all starting to surface in my brain, and it's got me in a very contemplative mode.  I'm also reflecting back on this year, and how wonderful it's been.  

I have so much to be happy about in terms of what's gone on this year.  So much has happened, and I've made some wonderful memories.  There have been good times and bad, but the good have far outnumbered the bad.  Trying to top this year will be pretty tough, but there are always a few goals I like to set for myself.  Not so much resolutions, more like aspirations for things I'd like to achieve or succeed in.

But regardless of what goals I try and set for myself, I only really have two goals I want to focus on.  The first is being happy.  I just want to be happy.  I want my family to be happy, my friends, my co-workers, my students, and me to just enjoy the year and take each stone as it is thrown.  I don't foresee any major changes happening in my life, but it would be nice to just continue on as this year has been going.  Reconnecting, recharging, and refueling myself.  

I want to be mentally prepared for anything that comes my way, and just roll with the punches.  It'll be a crazy busy year, I'm sure.  The kids will have their extra curricular activities, I have school, and work will keep me on my toes.  During the summer, I want the kids and me to have some fun and get out and explore.  We'll spend time with family, have some pool parties, and just enjoy each other.  

The other big focus I will have this year is my weight.  I don't care how many times I've said it, this weight is going to be gone by the time 2015 is over with.  I have managed to do something I don't think I've EVER been able to do over Christmas break, and that's lose weight.  I'm down another 10lbs this month, and it's going to keep coming off.  I don't care what comes my way, nothing is going to interfere with me getting to be that Hot Mama I have wanted to be for so long.  I hate the way I feel about myself, and that HAS to change.  2015 is going to be my year for it, I just know it.  I'm not getting any younger, and with every year that passes it gets harder and harder to lose the weight.  So, it has got to be this year.  I'm done putting it off...thinner me, here I come.

OK, I should really wrap this up.  I'm going out to eat lunch with Hope and Sanity today.  I can't wait!! I have so much to tell them, and I know they probably have plenty to share with me.  

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best. Christmas. Ever!!


It's 9:30 on Christmas morning, and it's been quite the morning.  All the presents have been opened, the trash has been cleaned away, and the kids are trying out all of their new toys.  I have Christmas dinner to start working on, but I just had to take some time to write about our day yesterday, and how today has gone so far.

Yesterday was an awesome Christmas Eve, like always.  We had an absolute blast at P-Momma's house, and she made the most amazing spread of food for us to enjoy.  The kids had fun, I had fun, even Hubby seemed to have a good time.  P-Momma liked the gifts we got for her, and I was floored at the amazing gift she got for me.  She put together a coffee table book full of over 180 pictures of our family.  It's AWESOME!! The kids and I had such a great time looking through all the photos. 

We made it home around 7PM, and Jelly and I got straight to baking some cookies for Santa.  After the cookies were made she wanted to head straight to bed.  I helped her hang her stocking and got her all tucked in to her bed.  I then did my rounds to the other kids to make sure they had their stockings hung.  Then, I just sat and waited for all the kids to fall asleep.  I was quite surprised that they were all completely out of it by 10PM, so I was able to make it to bed before midnight.  

This morning I woke up around 6AM.  Butter and Peanut were already awake, but Jelly had apparently woken up and then gone back to sleep... due to the fact that her stocking stuffers were strewn all over her bedroom floor.  While I waited for her to wake up, I visited Peanut and Butter in their rooms to see what they thought of their stocking stuffers.  Both kids were happy, but they were ready for Jelly to wake up so they could open presents.  She finally woke up a little after 6:30.

Before presents could begin, however, I had to go through all of Jelly's stocking stuffers with her.  I've never seen so much excitement from her in regards to her stocking stuffers.  She frantically showed me her new stuffed Olaf, and the matching blanket.  She ripped through the candy and showed me the Frozen bath set, Frozen watch, and Monster High toothbrush set.  She then looked at me and told me that it was already the best Christmas ever due to all of the Frozen stuff she got in her stocking.  I was floored.  The child hadn't even seen the mounds of presents under the tree, but she was already perfectly content with the goodies she'd already received.

Her eyes lit up with pure delight when she saw the Christmas tree.  As did the other two kids' eyes.  They nestled themselves comfortably on the floor, and waited for me to start my duty as the gift giver.

The looks of joy and amazement that sprung in to their little faces with each gift that they opened.  All three kids were shocked, surprised, and very happy with the gifts that Santa had picked out for them.  Apparently, Momma is still able to surprise her kiddos, no matter how old they get.  What touched me the most was hearing the words "Best Christmas EVER!!" explode from their mouths over and over and over again.  It melted my heart, and even brought a stray tear to my eye every now and then.  

Jelly had asked for two things on her letter to Santa:  Frozen toys and a Nintendo DS.  And, the girl got that and then some.  Her delighted little squeals with every present as it was opened told me that Santa knew exactly what to get her, and her wishes had been granted.  The same can be said for Butter and Peanut.  Butter had asked for a pair of cowboy boots, that Momma told him he was NOT getting.  It was sure great to see the look of surprise and excitement when he opened the box that contained his new cowboy boots.  The same look came across Peanut's face as she opened up her new cellphone.  

I know that Christmas is about much more than presents, but I have to say that my hands down favorite moment of the day is capturing those looks as they open their gifts and then melting those moments in to my heart forever.  It means so much to me to be able to give them a good Christmas, and I know that it means a lot to them that I take so much time to pick out each gift for them.  Even though Jelly still gives Santa all the credit, the older two know where the gifts really come from, and they know I try very hard to find everything that they get.

For the rest of the day, we're going to try out all the new toys and games.  I'm going to do my best to play with them as much as I can while taking little time outs to prepare our Christmas feast.  Then, we'll all sit around the dinner table and enjoy the bounty of food set before us.  

I will then retire for an afternoon nap and then get up for more fun and games before bedtime.

On this day, I have to take a second and reflect on how truly blessed that I am.  I have the most amazing children anyone could ever ask for.  They bring me so much joy and happiness, and it means the world to me that I can give them one heck of a Christmas.  They deserve it.  

I love my three children more than words could ever describe.  They are my everything.  And on this day, I will cherish every second we get to be together enjoying the fun and memories that we're making.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and that this day is also your Best. Christmas. Ever!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas Eve!!


                                   'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through my place
                                         The kids were getting ready, as if it were a race....

Don't worry, I'm not going to do the whole poem.  Been there, done that.  HA!  But, seriously, it's kinda crazy in my house right now as the girls are getting ready to head to P-Momma's for our annual Christmas Eve celebration.  Butter has been staying with P-Momma since last Friday, so he's already there, but the girls have been home with me and they can't wait to get our day started.

I've seen a few stray snowflakes fall from the sky this morning, but it's mostly a rainy, dreary day.  There's no chance of us having a white Christmas, but I have to admit it sets the day up even more when I see a few dancing snow flakes sway to the ground.  

I haven't blogged much over the past couple of days simply because I haven't had much to write about.  The kids and I have been busy doing some Christmassy things, but other than that I've taken some time to rest and relax.  

Yesterday, I made another batch of fudge and it came out AWESOME!! It's soft, creamy, and I plan on making some more to share with friends and family over the next few days.  Now that I know how to make it, that is.  I'm taking a bag to P-Momma today, and I'm going to make another batch tonight to take with me to Tennessee.  The kids and I are heading to Tennessee on Friday to see Peanut's family. The other two kids are coming along, and they're excited about am I.  It'll be nice to get away for a couple of days.

But, today, all I'm focused on is doing our Christmas traditions.  To P-Momma's house we go first, for dinner and fun.  We'll eat, drink, and be merry together... just like family should be on Christmas Eve.

Tonight, we'll come home and Jelly and I will bake up some cookies for Santa.  I have to remember to stop at the store and buy some egg-nog or Jelly will be a little disappointed.  Maybe I can talk her in to leaving him some milk instead.  We'll see.

Once the cookies have been baked and set out, the kids will hang up their stockings with care at the foot of their beds.  I'll tuck them all in, and read them 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Well, I'll read it to Jelly.  The other kids prefer laying down to a Christmas movie.  

Then, once they're all sleeping, Santa will make his appearance and deliver all the goodies to the tree and in to their stockings.  Santa has to come later and later each year because certain teenagers don't seem to want to go to sleep as early as their little sister, which means that Santa has to wait for them.  

I tell ya what, though, for being as big as he is, Santa is as stealthy as a ninja.  He gets in and out of the kids' rooms and lays out all the gifts under the tree without a single kid stirring in their beds.  I don't know how he does it, but he's made it through 14 years without any wake-ups.. knock on wood.

Then, it's just a matter of waiting for the kids to wake up tomorrow morning to discover the loot that has been left for them.  This year, as with all years, I'll probably be awake before the kids.  I have such a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve, because I'm so excited for the kids to wake up and open presents.  The tradition is that the kids aren't allowed out of their rooms until Hubby and I are up.  Which is why the stockings are kept in their rooms.  They are allowed to open them before they come out of their rooms.  I like to have some fun and draw out the whole process.  I get up, I turn on the coffee pot, I go see each kid in their room and "oh" and "ah" over their stocking stuffers, and then I make them wait until the coffee is ready before they can come out.  It's evil fun, but I get a kick out of it.  

UGH, I'm so stinking excited!!

Sitting here and writing about it isn't helping.  Which means, I should probably go and get ready to head out to P-Momma's.  

Before I go, though, I would just like to take this opportunity to tell all of my friends and family that take the time to read my ramblings that I hope you have an amazing Christmas!! I hope Santa brings you everything you ask for.  I hope you are surrounded by the people that matter most to you, and that your day is filled with love, laughter, and happiness.  

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Haven't Quite Gotten in to Christmas "Break" Mode

Technically, I'm on Day Three of Christmas Break, yet I haven't stopped since the minute we walked out of the school building on Friday.  All three days I've been up before 7AM, and it's taken its toll on me.  So much so that I ended up getting sick yesterday.  UGH!!

Friday evening, I took the kids over to P-Momma's to spend the weekend.  That way I could get all of the wrapping done without having to lock myself up in my bedroom.  Although, once I got home, I was too tired to do much so I spent the evening watching TV with Hubby.  

Saturday morning I was up at 6:30.  Hubby and I made a quick run to Walmart before the crowds swarmed in, and when I got back I set up my wrapping station.  I sat on my living room floor for over 6 hours wrapping.  And, apparently, being in that position for so long did a number on my back.  I was so sore by the time I went to bed.  

Yesterday morning, I woke up around 6:30 once again, and I felt like poop.  I couldn't get warm, my back was killing me, and my nose was running like a faucet.  I bundled up in my fleece robe and two blankets and still couldn't shake the chills.  I went back to bed for a while and felt a little better when I woke up.  I, then, went and picked up the kids.  By the time I got home, I was absolutely exhausted and went back to bed for a while.  I felt so weak, achy, and miserable.  I was praying that I wasn't coming down with the flu and knew that the best place for me was my bed.  When I did get up, I felt a little better but I kept getting dizzy.  I tried to eat something, but I had no appetite.  I ended up falling asleep on the couch, once again.  I woke up around 11:30PM last night, and I was up until after 2AM.  The chills were gone, the dizziness was gone, but I still felt pretty weak.  

I must have fallen asleep again, and I woke up at 7AM this morning.  This time I felt MUCH better.  No dizziness, no weakness, and just some minor nose running.  Apparently I managed to flush whatever was wrong with me out, and I can focus on doing some fun Christmas activities today.

Here in a few minutes, I'm going to pick up Peanut's friend, and he's going to come over and spend the day with us.  We're going to make Gingerbread houses and try making some fudge.  I've never made fudge before, but I've always wanted to.  Fingers crossed it comes out OK.  After that, we're going to sit down and watch some Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate.  I've been waiting a long time to do some Christmas activities, so today is the day!

I'm so excited for the next few days to hurry and go by.  I think I'm worse than the kids when it comes to Christmas.  I get so stinkin' excited.  I just really want these next two days to be full of fun and no stress.  It's the perfect time to enjoy with my kiddos and do some fun activities together.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the presents and preparations, that I forget how important it is to spend some time just having some fun.

Well, I better get off of here so that I can get ready to go pick up Peanut's friend.  

Have a great Monday, everyone!


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Last Day of School for 2014!!!


Here it is!!  The last day of school for 2014, and the last day before Christmas break is upon us.  This week flew by, which was what I was hoping for.  I'm so glad that it's been such a busy, fast week and that my class and I have had such an amazingly fun week.  Today will be no exception, and we plan on ending 2014 with a bang.

This morning, we'll be bundling all of the fourth graders up and taking them caroling at the Senior Citizen Center.  I think it's such a great idea to have the kiddos do something like serenading some older folks with their beautiful singing voices.  We've been practicing hard, and they're ready to spread some Christmas cheer for all to hear.  

Once the singing is over with, it's back to the school for some fun and games before lunch.  We've finished up all of our units, all of their grades have been entered, and it's just going to be a day of having some fun and celebrating all of their hard work they've done for the first half of the year.  After lunch, we're going to push all the desks to the side of the room and lay on the floor to watch a Christmas movie.  The kids are going to bring blankets, pillows, and their pajamas and we're going to relax and enjoy the afternoon.  Once they come back from specials, they'll open their gifts that I got them and break out all of the snacks that they brought to finish up the movie with. 

It's hard to believe that we're already half way through the school year.  I can't even begin to describe the transformations that I've seen in these amazing kiddos.  It's like they're not even the same kids that walked through the door on the first day of school.  They have matured and really buckled down in becoming the best 4th graders they can possibly be.  I've watched kids that could barely add two numbers together fight long and hard until they were able to multiply two digits by two digits.  I've held the hands of kids that had trouble reading a book on a first grade level find the confidence to push themselves and are now reading close to grade level.  I've pushed and prodded kids that were scared to answer a single question out loud to finally find the confidence to participate in class conversations, and I'm now watching them crack jokes and correct other students that give an incorrect answer.  It's certainly been an amazing first half of the year, and I'm completely blown away with their effort, their dedication, and the growth they have all made.  This is usually the success I see after an entire school year, so I'm so excited to see what 2015 and has in store.

They're not the only ones that have gone through some changes.  The kids in my class have definitely brought out the best in me, too.  For the first time in my teaching career, I get up every morning excited and motivated about what surprises they have in store for me.  I'm not saying my first two years weren't amazing, or that I wasn't excited each day with them, but I've really found my confidence as a teacher with these kiddos.  I've let go of the mentality that I have something to prove to anyone outside of my classroom walls, and I've allowed myself to follow my heart and really hone in on my students' needs to drive my instruction and how I teach.  I've learned just as much from those precious angels as I've taught them, maybe more so.  They've really shown me that kids will most definitely rise to the expectations  that are set before them.  They've ingrained the philosophy of firm but fair.  They've listened to my lectures and speeches about my wanting them to be the best they can be and rise to whatever goals they set for themselves, and they've taught me to do the same.  They now don't hesitate to question me, correct me, and provide me with feedback that's productive and beneficial to their learning and my teaching.

It hasn't all been perfect.  I've made some mistakes.  I've had a few setbacks.  But, the good has outnumbered the bad hundreds of times over.  And I will leave that school building today already missing their smiling faces, their warm morning hugs, and their questions about what we're going to be learning next.  

I just hope and pray that they are all able to have a good Christmas.  They deserve it.  I wish I could have done more for the them in terms of gifts and their celebration, but I've learned that with these kiddos the smallest of gestures goes a very long way.

Yesterday, I celebrated with the kids that had reached their AR reading goal for the quarter.  I brought the stuff for them to decorate gingerbread cookies and brought them some egg nog as well as some other snacks for them to enjoy.  Most of the kids participating had never decorated a gingerbread man or tried egg nog.  To see the light in their eyes and the laughter on their faces as they tried the egg nog, and stuck little candies to the front of a gingerbread man was something words can't even describe.  And the absolute best part was being able to do such a small thing that had such an amazing impact.  It was in that moment that I realized how truly blessed I have been by having these students in my class and how much thanks I owe them for overcoming some pretty hard obstacles to show me how hard they can work.  

I can't even say enough about how much I love each of the seventeen sweet children I have in my class this year, and I will miss them so much.  But, I'm also ready for a nice couple of weeks with my biological children and my family.  The break will be very good for me, and will recharge my motivation to come back in 2015 and pick up right where we left off.

So, here it is...the last day before Christmas break....


Have a great Friday, everyone!!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Two More Days

It's so close I can almost reach out and touch it.  The finish line draws near, and I can just about see it off in the distance.  Just two more days, and I have the feeling that they will be the kind of days that are either over in the blink of an eye or feel like time has stopped completely.  It could really go either way.  There's so much going on today and tomorrow, it could really make time seem to pass by a lot faster, or there could be so much going on that it just exhausts me and may make the big hand on the clock seem as if he's feeling the sugar induced coma we're all feeling.

Thankfully, I was able to take care of the issue of the kids not going away this weekend.  P-Momma so graciously agreed to have the kids for me so that I can take care of the last minute Christmas preparations.  I felt awful burdening her with the situation, but it goes to show just how awesome she is that she's willing to move some stuff around in order to help me out.

There's now one week until Christmas, and I'm definitely feeling the pressure.  Last week, I wrote a two week preparation check list, and I promised a one week prep list to follow.  So, I might as well take care of that this morning.  Please forgive me if I seem a little scatterbrained... I've got some personal issues going on that has left me a little unfocused, but I'll try my best.

1.  Wrap, Wrap, Wrap

I hope that you're not like me and have left all of the wrapping until the very last minute.  If you are, then you should probably get on that.  Take this weekend to get everything wrapped so you don't have to worry about any hiccups with a shortage of wrapping paper, running out of tape, or needing a box to put a toy in because it's two awkward to wrap as is.

2.  Make a List, and Check it Twice

A few years ago, I started making a list of all of the Christmas presents I had bought.  I did this for one reason and one reason only:  Because I forgot about a gift and didn't find it until well after Christmas was over.  From that moment on, I've started keeping a list so that I can make sure to check off each gift as its wrapped, so I don't find any surprises after Christmas.

3.  Don't Forget the Stocking Stuffers!

I have done this so many times, it's not even funny.  It was worse back in the good ol' days when I did my Christmas shopping well before Thanksgiving, but I have been guilty of forgetting the stocking stuffers up until the very last minute.  There's nothing more exciting than heading to Walmart on Christmas Eve and picking through the disaster zone that's left of the Christmas candy aisle.  Believe me, it's a pain.  Although, it's really hard to buy stocking stuffers too early for fear of them melting or starting to go bad.  I've made a compromise with that, and I pick up all of my stocking stuffers two weekends before Christmas.  Not the weekend right before Christmas, but the one right before that - whenever that is.  I still have to deal with some crowds, but there's still a good enough selection left to make it worth it.

4.  Open by Number

For so many years, I tried to figure out a way that I could organize my gifts so that I could remember what was inside, so that I could determine how the kids opened them.  I'm the kind of person that buys them stuff that either goes with other stuff that's wrapped separately, or a big gift that I don't want them to open until the end.  Back when the "big gift" was determined by size, that was pretty easy.  But, in the days of electronics, the big gift meant how much I'd spent versus the size.  It became really difficult to wrap gifts in a way that I could make sure the kids opened the smaller gifts first.  Of course, if you're the kind of person that doesn't need an order to how gifts are opened, then this doesn't apply to you.  But, I'm one of those weird people that wants everything done very orderly and I make my kids open one gift at a time, and in a special order.  Finally, it struck me a couple of years ago to number the gifts as they were wrapped so that I could control how the gifts were opened.  It requires a little planning, but it makes for some fun on Christmas morning.  The kids have to dig through the gifts in order to follow the number sequence.  It helps make the gift opening last a little longer, and we have a lot more fun than just all tearing in to the gifts at once.

5.  Don't Stress

Probably the hardest thing to do around this time of year, but one thing I've tried very hard with.  It's so easy to get stressed out the week before Christmas.  You're still thinking about how much needs to be done, you're trying to wind down everything else going on in life, and there just doesn't seem to be a spare minute for you to just sit and enjoy some Christmas time.  Well, make time!  Don't worry about the small stuff, but focus on the moments that are slipping away because you're in a tunnel vision mode trying to finish everything up before the big day.  Sit down and watch a Christmas movie, make some cookies, build a Gingerbread House, put on some Christmas music and dance around while you're working.  Please don't say there's not enough time to do that stuff, because that's missing out on what this holiday is all about:  Being with the ones you love.  I have learned that spending time with my kids is more important to me than making sure I have coordinating wrapping paper.  I have learned that it's better for me to stay up very late one night taking care of stuff than to use up the time during the day with my kids.  Christmas only comes once a year, so build up those memories and make each moment count.  I hate the feeling once Christmas is over that tells me I spent too much time worrying about presents and food than I did spending time with my kids.

And that's it for me today.  I really need to go and get ready for my second to last day at work for 2014!

Have a great Thursday, everyone!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Three More Days

Another day is behind us, and we're just about at the half way mark.  At about 11:30 this morning, we'll officially make it over the "hump" of the week, and it will be the downhill slide until Christmas Break.

Yesterday was another good day.  The kids were well behaved, they got their work done, and I'll have to admit it's feeling kinda out of the ordinary to have such well behaved kiddos this close to the second biggest break falling only slightly behind Summer Break.  I've hardly had to utter the words "calm down", "settle down" or "quiet down".  It's just weird.

But, I'm definitely not complaining.  I'll take kiddos that are this well behaved any time, and it just goes to show how truly blessed I am with such an amazing class.

Last night we had our annual Christmas concert.  I had about half my class show up for the program, which is pretty good.  It's not uncommon for most of my kiddos not to show up because it's sometimes hard for them to get a ride to the program at night.  The kids all did a fantastic job, and I was blown away with how wonderful they all sounded, despite having much fewer kids than they're used to singing with.  The bleachers were packed with parents, and it felt really nice to see such a great turn out.

Today is our final "instructional" day of the week.  By that I mean it's the last day that we have to have everything happening in the normal procedures and routines.  All of the subjects will be taught, work will still be taking place, and my kids are even lucky enough to be taking a couple of tests.  But, they'll also be watching a movie over the book we just finished reading, so there's some fun going to take place.  Plus, I'm pretty sure that as long as everything is running like normal, the kids are able to keep their composure.  The minute I declare that school work is over, and we can focus on doing fun Christmas activities for the rest of the day, I may have a little more trouble trying to maintain control.  There's nothing harder to control that 17 Christmas excited fourth graders.  Well, I suppose 18 would be harder to control...

Anywho, last night before the concert, the fourth grade team went and had dinner at our favorite local restaurant.  Before we ate, my Mama Bear team mate handed out gifts some gifts.  She bought the three of us (the other 4th grade team members) a couple pairs of fuzzy socks, a lip balm, and gave us a gift card to Kohl's.  She's so good to us.  I have strict orders to spend the gift card on myself, and for once I think I might actually do that.  My kids have enough stuff that they'll be getting for Christmas.

Today, I'll be participating in a Candle Exchange.  Basically it comes down to me providing a candle to exchange for another candle or some wax bars. Just a little fun activity, I suppose.  I love candles, but I'm more partial to the wax bars.  I don't like to burn candles, but I do love to decorate with them.  The wax bars, however, I go through like crazy in my Scentsy.

Oh, it's also the Holiday Feast at lunch today, so I'll be filling up on roast turkey and the fixings.  I don't even want to think about how much weight I've gained this week due to all of the sweet treats, and other stuff I've crammed in to my pie hole.  I've been in a sugar coma since Monday, and I have a feeling it's only going to get worse.  My goal is to not gain more than 5lbs over the course of the Christmas break, but I may be already getting close to that limit and we still have three days to go until break even starts.  Oi.

OK, time for me to hit the ground running and get ready.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Four Days and Counting


We're another day closer to the coveted Christmas Break, and yesterday went by surprisingly fast.  I'm staying optimistic that today will go by in the same manner, but it's going to be a long day due to the fact that it's the Christmas concert tonight.  We won't be getting home until pretty late, being that the concert doesn't get over until about 7PM.  

Yesterday was a very good day, though.  My kids were amazingly quiet and focused all day, and it made life so much easier.  They really enjoyed listening to Christmas music while they worked and I enjoyed singing along just to keep them even more amused.  They even managed to make it through a Smarter Balance practice test with limited distractions, and for the most part they did really well.  I also managed to remember to make a letter about the Christmas party on Friday, and got that sent home with the kids so they can start bringing in their snacks.

This morning, it will be business as normal in class and then the afternoon will be spent in the gym practicing for the concert.  We're finishing up our story in reading, and the kids are excited to hear how the book ends.  It's always nice when they enjoy the book we're reading.  They really loved the Charlotte's Web unit we did, and now they're really enjoying The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Tomorrow, we'll get to watch the movie and then on Thursday, the kids will compare and contrast the book to the movie.  It's always nice when there's a movie to go along with the book, because the kids really feel like they're getting a special treat by watching a movie.  It's also a great way to get them comparing and contrasting.  I explain to them that we only get to watch a movie if we can prove the educational value, so they're much more likely to put in the effort with their comparison in order to keep getting to watch movies about the books we read.

I got some disappointing news yesterday, when I found out that Peanut's uncle won't be able to keep the kids this weekend.  He was going to take all three of them for a fun weekend, but something came up and he's not able to now.  That's left me in panic mode, as I had planned on getting all of my wrapping done for Christmas this weekend.  I'm going to have to figure something out, because there's just no way that I can get the wrapping done while the kids are here, and there's just too much to do to try and cram it all in to one day.  Wrapping gifts for three kids is a timely process, and it requires a full weekend.  At least.  I'm just hoping and praying I can figure something else out, or it may mean a couple of sleepless nights for me while I try and get it done while they're all sleeping.

I'm sure I'll figure something out.  I always do.

Right now, though, I'm not going to worry about the weekend and just focus on making it through one day at a time.  There are four more days left, and if those days are anything like yesterday was, it'll be smooth sailing.  I should probably knock on some wood, now, in order to prevent jinxing myself.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Break Countdown... T-Minus Five Days


This is it.  The last five days before Christmas break, and it's on like Donkey Kong.  There's so much going on I'm not sure whether it will fly by in the blink of an eye or drag on sucking every bit of energy out of me... but I'm ready.  

This weekend, I had a list a mile long of things I had to get in preparation for this week, and wouldn't you know I forgot half the stuff I need.  For example, I bought the secret pal gift I needed but forgot the gift I needed for Secret Santa on Wednesday.  I bought the kids' gifts for their teachers, but forgot the goodies I'm supposed to provide for the teachers today.  I hunted high and low for an ugly sweater for today's Ugly Christmas Sweater, but came up with nothing.

It's very frustrating because Peanut and I were out for about six hours shopping, yesterday, and I can't believe I forgot so much.  Not just that, but I found the cutest stuff that I wanted to buy but couldn't think of a valid reason to buy some of it...and now I'm banging my hand against my head thinking that one of those gifts would have been perfect for the Secret Santa exchange.  I also had ample time to buy some sweet treats for the staff, but now I'm going to have to rely on what's available at the Walmart Express this morning.

But, I guess that comes with the territory.  When I have this much going on in one week, there's going to be some forgetting.  Over the course of the next five days (including today) I have two Christmas concerts to attend after school, two gift exchanges, a candle swap, the Terrific Tiger assembly, a Christmas concert put on by the county band during school, caroling around town, my class Christmas party, and a practice Smarter Balance test.  That's a lot of stuff to cram in to five days.  That's not even considering the teaching I still have to do, being that we're finishing up all of our units and making sure we're ready to kick off 2015 with all new content.  

Let's not also forget the fact that the kiddos will be super hyper and it will be down right impossible to get them to focus on anything.  If this week is anything like it was the few days before Thanksgiving break, I'm going to be EXHAUSTED with just trying to keep the kids calm and focused without any of us losing our minds.  Although, in fairness, they're not the only ones that I will have to control and maintain.  My own excitement may or may not be a factor in trying hard to keep everything calm and collected.  

I'm so ready for this week to be over just so I can get to Christmas celebrations without having so much to do.  I have yet to sit down with my kids and watch a Christmas movie since Thanksgiving, being that every single weekend since then has been taken over by Christmas shopping.  Thankfully, that's all done now, and for the last couple of days before Christmas we'll be able to enjoy our time together.  The kids are going away this weekend, so that I can spend some time wrapping.  But when they get back, we'll be making Gingerbread houses, watching movies, making fudge and cookies, and having some fun.  

But, before any of that can happen, I must first make it through these next five days.  I'm just going to take one day at a time, and not let myself get overwhelmed with how much is going on.  

Today is simple:  Ugly Sweater Contest, that I don't have a sweater for, but I'm going to try and improvise here in a few minutes.  My kiddos are taking the Smarter Balance practice test, and I'm sure that will be exhausting and a little overwhelming for them and me both.  Other than that, it's business as usual today.  Fingers crossed.  

So much to do, and so little time... but I'm ready to get it started and over with.  

Have a great Monday, everyone!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Congratulations to my Best Friend, and Apparently My New Sister


Last night, I had an absolute BLAST attending the wedding reception of my very best friend, Sanity.  She and her new husband eloped last month in Vegas and celebrated with a reception for friends and family last night.  So, it was quite fitting that the theme for their reception was Vegas.  

For the entire evening we ate amazing food, drank, and danced around the dance floor just like the school girls we were when we first met.  I got to meet some of their wonderful family, and I even got to see Hope for the first time in about a year.  If you remember, Hope was the third Amigo in our college trio.  She had a baby about six months ago, and I hate the fact that I still haven't seen him.  That's completely my fault, but I need to do something about that STAT!

I got the chance to meet some amazing people, and also see some of the family members that I already knew but haven't seen in a while.  I loved the fact that Sanity's mom gave me a big hug when I first got there.  I love that woman, I really do.  She threw Sanity a graduation party when we graduated college, and since then her and I have been friends on Facebook and she's kept up with what's going on in my life.  She knows how much I really care for her daughter, and that I consider them my family.

Speaking of family, I was completely shocked with how many people asked me if I was Sanity's sister.  I mean, we've gotten quite accustomed to it over the years from complete strangers, but I was tickled by how many family friends and people from her husband's side of the family that thought I was her sister.  In their defense, she does have a sister that wasn't able to attend the reception, so I'm not that surprised they thought I was her.  I mean, look at us!  There's definitely some uncanny resemblance there.  Look at our photo from the day we graduated college...

It's been three and a half years since that photo was taken, and we still have the same smiles.  Of course, the shape of my face has changed a little, HA!  This picture sits on my desk along with another photo taken with Sanity and Hope.  My students have all asked me if she is my sister, and I've been asked the same by teachers and other visitors to my classroom that have seen the photo.  

Last night, after the third or fourth person asked us, Sanity decided to start saying yes to the question.  We laughed about it, but in actuality the girl is just like a sister to me.  She's always been there for me when I needed her, and I couldn't ask for a better sister, really.

We reminisced, last night, about the conversations we had about when Sanity first met the guy that she is now married to.  We would giggle like school girls over how she felt about him, and I remembered how much he made me laugh when I first got to meet him.  We remembered how exciting it was when they first moved in together, and the times we've shared since then.  For some reason, it really meant a lot to me that I had been with her every step of the way through her journey of them first meeting, dating, moving in, and finally getting married.  It was what I had always thought about really, when it came to having a real best friend.  Sharing those special moments together and being able to look back and laugh at what we've been through together means so much to me.  

The whole night was awesome, and I had so much fun.  I am so happy for Sanity and her new husband.  I think he's absolutely perfect for her, and they'll be very happy together for the rest of their lives.  And now that we're officially "sisters", she needs to hurry up and start working on giving me a little niece or nephew to start spoiling.  I can just see it now, Hubby staying home with my kids and her new Hubby staying home with their new baby while we go out and hit the town just like we've always done.  We'll never be too old for it, I can guarantee that!  HA!

One day, if I ever get married, I know that Sanity will be standing right next to me through the whole thing.  I wouldn't mind doing the whole eloping thing, but if I opt for a more traditional wedding, Sanity will be at my side as my Matron of Honor.  We will then giggle like school girls about the times Hubby and I have gone through, and all the nights he stayed home and babysat while she and I hit the town.  

I couldn't ask for a better "sister".  She is my best friend, my partner in crime, my sister from another mother, and I will always cherish the memories we have and the memories that are yet to be made.  I am so very happy for her, and can't wait for the new adventures that her and her new husband will take.  

So, my dear Sanity, I love you, girl.  Congratulations on meeting the man of your dreams and for getting him to put a ring on it.  ;)  You deserve all the happiness and joy in the world, and I know that you will continue to have it with the wonderful man that is now your husband.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

The "What's in it for Me?" Mentality


This week has been a tough week for me.  More emotionally than physically, but I felt utterly and completely EXHAUSTED when I got home last night.  I suppose it's due to the time of year, and the week before the week before Christmas break is always a little tough.  

Christmas is my, hands down, most favorite time of the year, however it comes with it's share of upset and heartbreak.  I am so thankful that I get to be with my family and that we always have such a wonderful Christmas, but I also like to think about others that aren't so fortunate and try and do something that might make their lives a little happier around this time of year.  

Although, around this time of year, there's just so many charities, fundraisers, food drives, etc. that it gets a little overwhelming.  It feels like all I'm ever hearing is "bring money for this" and "please donate to that", and I have to admit that I start to get a little disheartened as I put something else on my shopping list or take way more money out of my Christmas budget than I intended.  

One thing I do pride myself on, though, is that I haven't adopted the "What's in it for me?" mentality.   What do I mean by that?  Well, let's look at some examples...

For the past couple of years, I have adopted a child off of the Angel Tree.  This is something I love to do because it's completely anonymous and the only benefit I get out of the whole thing is knowing that I helped make a child's life more happy on Christmas Day.

I like to put my change and a couple of dollar bills in to the red kettles outside the stores, because it's my way of doing a little something for the people that money will feed.

I like to donate food to food drives because I want to help make sure people have food on their tables this time of year.

Now, the argument could be made that I should be doing stuff like this all year long, but if that were the case, I'd be broke.  I like to give back, but I don't have the financial means to support charities and causes all year long.  HOWEVER, I do a lot of giving throughout the year when I buy school supplies for students who can't afford them.  I buy over priced junk from catalogs to help with school fundraisers, and then end up giving that junk away to my kiddos or someone else that might enjoy it.  I put in when I can, and try my best to help out whenever I'm needed.

But, getting back to my original subject, one thing I have noticed with each passing year is that we are living in a society that is more focused on the phrase "What's in it for me?"  By that, I mean that there has to be some incentive or reward for donating in order to get people to donate...and I think that's sad.  It's so much harder to get people to donate or give just for the good feelings of doing so, and that breaks my heart.  

I work in a school that has a very high poverty rate, and a lot of the fundraising and donating we do is for our community and the students we serve.  That's a blessing in itself, and there are immediate paybacks to our efforts.  We can see how our dollars and donated items are helping, and that's a great return on investment.  

It's hard, though, when we ask our students to donate and give.  I often feel bad asking for donations from the very students who may be on the receiving end of those donations, but it's just something we do.  It's a great lesson in charity and giving, and I'm always preaching that what goes around, comes around.  By helping others, some day that help will be returned in some form.  It may not be directly related to the person they originally helped, but I am a firm believer that by being kind and generous has a true investment in to a day whenever they may need a little help in return.

I guess that in itself is a form of doing something to get something.  But, let's not get focused on that for now, OK?

What I am noticing more and more with each passing year is the fact that I hear the words "What's in it for me?" far too often.  If there's not some immediate reward or incentive, then it's much harder to get someone to give.  

Each year, it's quite common for me to spend quite a bit of money on a basket that we put together for a silent auction that we have at our Christmas concert.  It's supposed to be something done as a class, but it gets harder and harder to get my kiddos to donate to the cause.  

My first year, I had a great turnout of donations and supplies given by my kiddos.  I offered no incentive or reward, I just sent out notes to parents and started watching the supplies come in.  Last year, it was more of a fifty-fifty split.  About half of my class donated, and I payed for the rest.  This year, for three weeks I tried to gather donations and not a single thing came in.  Each time I mentioned it to my class, I was met with at least one student asking what they got if they brought stuff in for the basket.  When I told them there was nothing being given back, I saw nothing come in.  So, I decided to start selling little items.  I went out and bought some things to sell and started selling, and I was shocked at how quickly those items disappeared.  I was able to make a little profit to spend on the basket.  

Last week, we did a Penny War for the Shop for a Cop program.  For the first three days, our jar sat empty in our classroom.  I put some change in there in hopes of generating some participation, but again I was met with "What do we get if we raise the most money?"  The announcement was made on the third day that donuts and extra recess would be given to the class that raised the most money, and the last two days my tub was filled to the brim.  My class raised over $75 in change the minute free donuts and extra recess was announced.

This week, we have been trying to do a canned food drive.  My poor box has sat empty since day one, because there is no prize or reward for the most food collected.  No matter how much I try and throw out the incentive of the feelings that come from giving, or how nice it is to help others in need, the box still sits with not a single can or item.  I am told by my students that their parents don't have the means to donate to causes like that, but when the snack cart comes around, I'm shocked at the wads of cash that appear from their pockets so they can purchase items.  

And all of this isn't a dig at my students, or their families.  It's not their fault.  Our society as a whole is being raised in to a generation of giving to receive.  It's so sad, but from my own observations a very real and factual statement.  I, myself, was raised with this mentality.  My mother constantly preached about how hard she worked for every dollar she earned, and that she didn't make that money to just hand it off to others.  I was quite educated in the benefits and handouts offered by the government, and was never taught about giving back or helping others in need when the opportunity presented itself.  Poverty rates continue to rise, and less and less people have the means to donate.  When a little good comes in to our lives, it's very hard for us to justify giving it away without anything in return.  Some of us have gone through some very hard times and turned out just fine, so others will too, right?

I can see both sides of the story.  I understand that there's just SO many charities and fundraisers, that people get disheartened and tired of constantly giving.  I understand that some families work extremely hard for every dollar that comes in, and the thought of handing over money with nothing in return is just something that can't be done.  I understand that many people are in the mindset that if people are in need, they should do something about it and shouldn't be sitting around and waiting for a handout.

I get all of that, I do.

But, I think there are important lessons that are being lost with the shift in our society's mindset.  Love thy neighbor, give unto others as you would have them do unto you, count your blessings, etc.  

When my own daughter takes the $1 I've given her to buy a candy bar and puts it in to the red kettle at Walmart, there are no words to describe that moment.  When she is able to justify her giving with the fact that she gets plenty of candy, yet maybe another child might get a candy bar who hardly ever gets candy...the message comes loud and clear.  I'm doing something right.

She is able to look at the fact that she has what she needs, and she's willing to give up a candy bar if it means helping out someone else.  A dollar might not be a great deal, but it's something.  

And I'm definitely not saying that all kids should be forking over all of their candy money to help out those in need, but just think about the impact that could be made if every child handed over $1 to help out one charity?  With the understanding that they will receive nothing for their donation but the good feelings that they were able to help in a small way.  

I know I will probably offend some people with this blog post, and for that I'm sorry that you feel this way.  Again, I'm not digging at anyone or trying to out anybody in a negative way.  I'm not trying to rally everyone up to get out there and start handing over cash and items immediately. 

I'm definitely no saint in all of this.  Sure, I've done a few things to help out.  I could do a lot more.  I paint myself with this glorious martyr picture, but I am too very guilty of uttering the words "What's in it for me?"  I have sighed, whined, and complained my way through many situations where I just didn't want to do anymore.  I have accused and judged... heck, I'm really doing that right here with this post. I'm not perfect, and I don't think myself so.  I am guilty of doing the very things I share with you right now.  I don't put money in to every collection bin, I don't give to every charity, and I am also guilty of speaking my mind when it comes to various charities and organizations.  I have my own lessons that I could learn from my own advice.  It also doesn't help with the negative picture I paint on society.  We hear quite often about corrupt charities, people playing the system, and the rich getting richer while the poor continue getting poorer.  It's no wonder so many people have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to giving.

All I'm saying is, wouldn't it be nice if there was a different mindset?  I wish I could make all the poverty struggles disappear.  I wish that I could make sure that every single child has food, comfortable shelter, and a few toys to open on Christmas Day.  I wish that there were jobs available for everyone, and nobody ever had to worry about how their needs are going to be met.  

I wish I could do all of those things, but I can't.

All I can do is small, little gestures that may not be a whole lot in the grand scheme of things... but they hopefully help a little.

Because, at the end of the day, I am just as guilty as everyone else in asking the question "What's in it for me?"

However, what I'm realizing more and more is that I am perfectly happy with the answer just being:  You helped.

Have a good Saturday, everyone!


Friday, December 12, 2014

It's Finally Friday!!!

I can't believe it.  It's Friday.  The day that felt like it was never going to come.  For some reason, this week has been a REALLY long week.  I'm not sure if it's because of all the Christmas excitement, the stuff we're trying to fit in before Christmas break starts, or the fact that we're all so ready for Christmas break that the days are dragging on FOREVER, but I'm just exhausted and so ready for the weekend.

It's not as though I'll get to do much resting this weekend.  I have a wedding reception to go to on Saturday, wrapping to do, cleaning and laundry to get done, and I still have to get to the store and pick up the last few gifts.  But, one thing I don't have to do is homework.  That feels nice, not having to worry about spending hours in front of my computer trying to watch videos, read articles, and write papers.  

One thing I definitely plan on doing this weekend is spending some time with the kids watching one or two of our favorite Christmas movies with some hot chocolate.  I always let that type of stuff pass me by, and this year I REALLY want to make sure we do some more Christmas stuff together.  We watched Elf on Thanksgiving Day, but that's the only Christmas movie we've watched thus far.  It's tradition that we watch Polar Express, The Grinch, and all three Santa Clause movies at some point before Christmas.  

I know my kiddos at school are feeling the weight of Christmas break looming over us, and they are doing their absolute best to contain their excitement.  It's usually really hard to control my students this close to Christmas, but my kiddos are being troopers.  They're still working hard, staying focused, and doing the best they can.  Thankfully, we just need to get through today and next week is pretty much chocked full of Christmas activities that will hopefully make the week zoom by.  

I am so thankful that I get to work in a school that allows us to participate in Christmas activities.  We may not be allowed to get into the religious aspect, too much, but we can still make snowflakes, stockings, and Christmas trees.  I can have a tree in my classroom, and we can do fun Christmas activities like writing letters to Santa, read Christmas themed books, and make Christmas ornaments.  We even go caroling to places around the community which is pretty awesome.  

I'm not sure how I'd feel working in a school where Christmas is banned, and it breaks my heart that so many schools are like that.  I know that many of those schools figure out a way to enjoy seasonal parties and celebrations, like having a "winter party" in lieu of a Christmas party, but I'm so glad that we don't have to worry about that.  I understand the reasoning behind those schools axing the biggest holiday of the year, but I also know that I'd be heartbroken if I couldn't build Christmas traditions and enjoy Christmas activities with my kiddos.

Today, I get to wear my Santa hat to work, and that always puts me in a fun mood.  And today kicks off the "Gateway to Christmas Break" week long celebration.  I have to find an ugly sweater for our Ugly Sweater day on Monday.  I also have to find a gift for our Secret Santa gift exchange that will happen on Wednesday, and make some form of goody to take to work on Monday for a Five Days Until Break daily celebration.  Each day next week, a different group of teachers will provide refreshments for the rest of the teachers.  We have our Christmas concert on Tuesday, the Terrific Tiger assembly on Thursday, a Christmas concert that will be performed for us on Thursday, and then on Friday we will be going caroling and having our Christmas parties.  So much to do and so little time.  Let's not also forget that we will still have to teach during all of that.  HA!

It's going to be a long, exhausting week that's for sure.  But it will be a lot of fun.  I just need to get through today and then I can mentally and physically prepare myself for the festivities that lay ahead for next week. 

So, I better get to getting this day started!

Have an awesome Friday, everyone!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Your Two Weeks 'Til Christmas Checklist


Can you believe it?  There's just two short weeks until the kids will be opening up gifts, a feast will be prepared and eaten, and parents all across around the world will start thinking of the debt that they're now in due to the mess of toys and gifts strewn around the house.

Yep, there's just two weeks to go, and I figured I'd write up a little checklist of stuff that should probably be done if not close to being done by now in order for Christmas to go smoothly.

1.  Should be just about done with gift shopping.

If you're anything like me, you HATE battling crowds of people in order to do some Christmas shopping.  Well, if you haven't bought all of your gifts yet, then you're in for some crowd battles.  The closer it gets to Christmas, the more droves of people go on the hunt for the last minute bargains and forgotten items.  Stores become arenas of high stakes battle-royales.  The Christmas cheer mode seems to dwindle as people will push, grab, and think nothing of ramming you with their cart if you get in their way.  If you want to bypass the "close to Christmas crabbies" I suggest having the majority, if not all, of your Christmas shopping done by today.

2.  Make sure you have plenty of wrapping paper.

There's nothing worse that waiting until the last minute to wrap some gifts, only to find out that you don't have enough wrapping paper to get the job done.  Then, you have to venture out to the stores... and I'll refer you back to #1 for that scenario.  The best time to stockpile on wrapping paper is after Christmas, but if you didn't manage to pick some up during last year's sale, make sure you have a few extra rolls than you think you'll need... just in case.  Also, when selecting your wrapping paper, make sure you pay attention to square footage.  Stores love to try and trick buyers with the bundle packages of wrapping paper.  You can get one roll for $3 or three rolls for $5.  Well, the three roll pack sounds better, but sometimes there's just as many square feet of wrapping paper on the one roll as there are on the combined total of the three pack.  Also, make sure you plan ahead for bulky items that will require more wrapping paper.  It's no fun realizing you only have bits and pieces of wrapping paper left, and none of them are big enough to wrap that gigantic gift.  It doesn't hurt to measure the biggest box you'll be wrapping before you go out and buy your wrapping paper.  

3.  Don't forget the gift bags AND tissue paper.

I personally think that some manufacturers get a kick out of how they box up their items.  I'm pretty sure there's a competition at these companies for who can come up with the most awkward shaped packaging for something that would fit quite nicely in to a square box.  I can see it now, the head packaging designer sitting at his desk, drawing up some sketches, and chuckling as he says under his breath "no one will ever be able to wrap this easily" with a "mwuahahaha" evil laugh.  Thank goodness for gift bags, right?  While my kids would much rather unwrap their gifts than pull them out of a gift bag, there are just some things I refuse to try and wrestle with in order for to be wrapped.  Having some gift bags and tissue paper around does the job, nicely, and I can limit my wrapping fights.  But, make sure you have a variety of sizes in your gift bag collection.  Also, just another bonus, but use little sticky labels for tags instead of using the actual tags, so that the bags can be kept and reused.  There's nothing wrong with recycling some gift bags.  And don't forget the tissue paper!  Some stores sell some great gift bag assortment packs, but they leave out the tissue paper.  It's something that can easily be forgotten about until it's too late... so pick up a few packages.

4.  Also don't forget the tape and gift tags. 

I don't know how many times I've put a Christmas movie on, fixed a nice cup of hot chocolate, dragged all the wrapping paper out, pulled in all the Christmas gifts, and sat down to wrap only to find out there's no stinking tape.  That's one of THE most frustrating Christmas situations I can think of.  So, always make sure that you stockpile tape and gift tags.  Nobody wants to run out a few days before Christmas to hunt for tape.  Those tape dispensers can be quite dangerous when you're being jostled and pushed around by the crazy, wait until the last minute, Christmas shoppers.  

5.  Don't let the Christmas time get away from you.

Around this time, about two weeks before Christmas, I start to think about all the fun Christmassy stuff I'd planned on doing the first week of December that I never got to.  Don't let the Christmas time pass you by without enjoying it.  This time of year is always a busy time, but it's important to make some time for some fun family Christmas activities.  Sit down and watch a Christmas movie while drinking hot chocolate.  Sing Christmas songs in the car with the kids.  Go see a nativity.  Take a drive around the neighborhood and look at all of the pretty lights.  Go to the Christmas parades.  Trust me, the closer we get to Christmas, the less you'll think about this type of stuff so DO IT NOW!  You'll find the time to do all of the other stuff, but there's nothing worse than getting to Christmas Day and realizing that you really didn't do much celebrating of Christmas because you were too busy getting ready for Christmas Day.  

And that about does it for the two week warning.  I'll have another one for you a week before Christmas.  I really need to think about these tips, myself, because I still have some gifts go buy, I haven't checked my wrapping paper inventory, and I know we don't have tape.  Looks as though I'm in for some fun times this weekend as I go out and take care of the last few items.  

Until then, though, I'm just going to enjoy the Christmas countdown.

Have a great Thursday, everyone!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My Grown Up Christmas List


I figured I'd better get my letter written to you, Santa, like I do around this time each year.  It feels like time is passing so quickly, that if I don't do it now you might not receive a letter from me this year.  It seems like each year I get busier and busier right before Christmas, so I have decided to stop and send you my Christmas wishes for this year... while you still have some time to read them.

First off, let me start by saying thank you for all the wonderful memories you have given me over the years.  My oldest two children stopped believing in you a few years ago, but they allow your spirit to live on in our house for little Jelly.  She's been dying to write your Christmas letter, and this weekend I've promised her that we'll sit down and do it.  I also need to prepare the video that you always send to her, because she's also noticed she hasn't received that.  

It doesn't bother me one bit that I don't get any credit for the gifts my kids receive for Christmas.  Well, any credit for Jelly's gifts.  I am totally fine with her thinking that all I did was send you a note telling you some of the things she wants, or you relying solely on the letter she sends to you.  A part of my Christmas magic comes from sitting up with her on Christmas Eve watching the NORAD app to see where you're currently delivering gifts, and then her rushing to bed when she thinks you're getting close.  I love how she justifies how many cookies to leave you, the treats that she picks out for the reindeer, and how she gives our cats a stern talking to before going to bed to make sure they stay away from your Egg Nog.  Another part of my Christmas magic comes from the look on her face, Christmas morning, when she sees the goodies that she thinks you left for her.  I love hearing every squeal of excitement as she opens her gifts and yells "How did Santa know I wanted this?  I didn't even write it on my letter!"   I love the fact that she always wants to write you a letter AFTER Christmas to thank you for all the wonderful toys, clothes, and candies she gets.  

This year, I intend for the magic to be just as exciting, and I can't wait.

But, there are a few things I'd like to ask for.  A few things I have on my list that I think should get some attention, being that I've done so much for you over the years in making sure that your spirit lives on in my household.

First off, I want you to know I've got my house covered.  You don't need to worry about thing here.  What I ask is that you somehow, someway, find a way to deliver some Christmas magic to all of the students in my class.  I have some of the most amazing kiddos that have rekindled a flame inside of me and make me want to be a better teacher and a better person every, single day.  They deserve to have a good Christmas, because they have some of the sweetest hearts.  They are kind, caring, compassionate, and they give me everything they have when I know that life is tough for some of them.  I push them, hard, yet they never give up and continue to amaze me with their vigor and grit.  I love each and every one of them, and could really use a little help delivering to them the kind of Christmas I think they deserve, but may not get.  I will do what I can on my end, but I really could use some help from you... if you can.

Second, while I put my own students on the top of the list, I know that there are many kids in our school that deserve the same delivery of Christmas magic as my students.  You see, I teach in a school that is made up of kiddos that have a rough life.  Poverty, absent parents, abuse, and neglect are things that rear their ugly heads far too often in the lives of some of our kiddos, and it's just not right.  The faculty and staff at our school do what we can to make sure that these kids are loved, cared for, and are safe while with us, but I sure would like it if they could be given some peace and protection while we're away from school.  I have the honor and privilege of seeing these amazing kids each and every day, and it always amazes me how truly wonderful they are with everything they have to go through.  It would be great if the shield of love that we put around these kiddos while they are with us each day can be extended and placed over them while we're away from each other for two weeks.

Next, I really would love it if you can put a little something extra under the trees of each and every teacher and faculty member that work with these amazing kids each day, and have some input in to the fact that the kids are doing so well.  We work so hard, and our hard work is definitely evident with each and every smile we encounter from the students we see in the halls and in our classrooms.  You would never believe that some of our kiddos have such hard lives stepping in to just about any classroom in our building, and that's because of the love and support we give our students.  Miracles happen on a daily basis at our school, and the teachers go above and beyond to make those miracles happen.  I know that these amazing people are always putting their students first, and sacrifice a lot to make sure that these kids are receiving the best education, the most love, and the best care that can be given.  I'm quite sure that many teachers, before laying their head down at night, pray for their students.  We pray for their comfort, their safety, and their health.  We pray that we can do everything we can for them, and that we can continue making such progress with these amazing kids.  Our prays are often answered, and it would be nice if the amazing people I work with got a little something to show them how much they've done and will continue doing each and every day.

And finally, I'd love it if you could do a little something for all the wonderful family that I have.  P-Momma, Peanut's grandparents, Kyle, Melonie, and all of Peanut's family that have accepted us ALL as family.  They all deserve a little something to thank them for being such amazing people.  I may not have a good relationship with my own parents, but the love and kindness I've received from these amazing people have made up for it ten fold.  P-Momma is a great mother to me and an amazing grandmother to my children.  She deserves so much, yet she probably wouldn't take it... because that's just the kind of person she is.  She always puts her family first.  Peanut's family that she's met this year have been super awesome to Peanut, me, Butter, and Jelly.  They are now family to all of us, and I am so thankful that Peanut was able to connect with them.  They really deserve something to show them how truly happy I am that they are in our lives.

And that's it for me.  I know I've asked for a lot, Santa, but whatever you can do to help out will be great.  

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!!