Sunday, March 30, 2014

There's Always Time for Some Fun


What an amazing day I had yesterday.  Amazing in the sense of how much I got done and how much I did.  And amazing in the sense that I'm still able to walk today, and I'm not totally EXHAUSTED.

My day started with one mission and one mission only:  Clean my bedroom.

I had become a hypocrite to my children, and I had to change that.  I'm constantly on their case about cleaning their rooms, making sure their clothes are kept where they're supposed to be kept, putting their clean laundry away and making sure dirty laundry is in the hamper.

Yet, my room had become a disaster zone.

Clean laundry that hadn't been put away, piles of stuff that needed to be put away (somewhere) that was just piled up in various places around the room, and my room looked like it belonged to a teenager.

Not good.

Plus, I was more than ready to make the closet conversation from winter to spring/summer. 

One thing I lost moving in to our new house was my walk-in closet.  I had one in my old house, so my entire year of clothing was always hung.  Spring and summer were on one side and fall and winter were on another.  That was awesome.  But, I gladly sacrificed a walk-in closet for the amazing house that we now have.  

But, now that means I can only keep half a year's worth of clothes in my closet at one time.  The other half of the year are kept in storage tubs under my bed.  Being that it's the time of year to start making that transition, I thought it would also be a good time to go through all of the tubs and clear out stuff that I no longer wanted or that no longer fit me.  Sure, I want to lose weight, but holding on to tons of clothes that are about 6 sizes too small for me just isn't reasonable or realistic.  Maybe I'll lose that much weight, eventually, but I think it's better to focus on a size or two difference and let someone else enjoy the clothes that are not seeing the light of day.

By the time I was finished, I had two bags full of stuff.  All those clothes will be donated to a worthy cause, and someone else can get some enjoyment out of them.  

My closet is now full of bright colors and I'm now ready for spring.  My closet is also all cleaned out to where I can see what clothes I have, and shoes, and I'm now strictly using my closet for those reasons and those reasons only (versus the make-shift storage area it was before).

Everything has been unpacked and put away, or it's been put in the "donate" bags.  It was time.  Time to make my bedroom look like a bedroom, and not something off of an episode of Hoarders.

Anywho, in between all the cleaning, I decided to take the kids to the park.  The weather was beautiful, and I hated that I was indoors cleaning.  So, we jumped in the car and drove up the road to our town's park.  Jelly went off to play on the playground, Butter decided he wanted to go for a jog around the track, and Peanut and I decided to play some volleyball.

I love that our little town park has so much to offer.  Basketball courts, volleyball nets, running/walking track, a baseball field, and three separate playgrounds for the kids to play on.  Not to mention the HUGE open field in the middle to use for soccer or a family picnic.

We spent some time playing separately, and then spent some time all playing together.  We had a blast, and decided right there and then that we'd make it there more often for a little time out of the house.

A little mother/daughter volleyball

Me being silly with Butter

The stupid "fierce" pose that all of the kids are using nowadays

Mom and daughter selfie

Mom and son selfie

Mom and baby girl selfie

All in all, we had a blast.  And I'm so proud of myself for remembering to stop to take some pictures.  I want to document all these little fun things we do together.  It's important.

When we got home, I finished up my bedroom and then went out to sit on the patio while Hubby was grilling dinner.  He made us some FANTASTIC barbecue chicken and corn on the cob. 

After dinner, I pulled out my grading and got to work on that.  I spent several hours relaxing and grading.. at the same time. Yeah, I can multi-task like that.  I even managed to work a little on my lesson plans for next week.

Around 1AM, I decided it was time for me to head to bed.  I knew I had a fun-filled day in store for us today, so I needed my rest.  My back and legs were sore from all of the activity, and it felt good knowing that with all the fun, I'd also managed to get in some exercise.

Today, I'm taking the kids to the zoo.  Butter asked to go for his birthday, but we wanted to wait a couple of weeks until the weather warmed up a little more.  The weather is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL today, with highs in the 70s and sun shine all day long.

I've already decided that this weekend is a reflection on how I want our summer to be.  Day trips, park trips, barbecues, and FUN.  

I spend so much time on the weekends worrying about grading and lesson plans and other work that I need to do, that I often forget about what the weekends are SUPPOSED to be about.  Spending time with my family.  OK, so not ALL of my work might get done, but as important as my work is to me.. it's always FAMILY FIRST.  I am going to keep reminding myself of that.  NOTHING will ever come before my kids.  There might be some weekends that we can't go out and do something, but I have to remember that I can always take a break for an hour or two to go to the park.

And there should ALWAYS be something going on at least every couple of weekends.  That's why I've already decided to buy year passes to the zoo, season passes to Silver Dollar City, and put some cash away for other fun activities such as bowling, skating, hiking, museum trips, etc.  

But, right now, I better get to getting.  My kids will be mad if we're not on the road in the next hour.  They are ready for a day at the zoo!!

Have a great Sunday, everyone!!


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Adding Some Color to My Life


Last weekend, I took the kids to see P-Momma.  We hadn't seen her in TOO long, and we were WAY overdue for a visit.  The kids had been harping on me for a few weeks about when we were going to go see her, because that's one place they do enjoy going.  Especially Jelly.  She sure does love her "grammy" and is constantly asking me if she can go over to spend the night.

I, also, love going over to see P-Momma.  We can talk for hours, and never seem to run out of stuff to talk about.

It's probably what sparked the blog posts I wrote this week about a certain subject I'm not going to go much in to.  But, after spending a day with P-Momma, her asking me how life is going for me, her being genuinely interested in stuff that's happening in my classroom, and my life, it's no wonder the feelings started emerging that I shared this week.

But, anywho, not going in to all that again.

We went to P-Momma's, and we were talking.  She was telling me all about how stuff had been going for her, her job, and life in general, when she realized that she had something she wanted to share with me:  A few catalogs that she'd been recently shopping from to buy clothes.

Now, I will say right off the bat that I HATE clothes shopping.  I've said it many times, actually.  I'm a large girl, and I hate that about myself, and I can never find clothes I like when I go out shopping for myself.  Everything is always too frumpy, or doesn't fit right, or is made to make me look like a couch rather than a woman with "curves".  The one store that's designed for people like me (Lane Bryant) sell amazingly cute clothes, but I have to get a second mortgage on my house just to buy a few outfits from them.

That's another thing I have a problem with, spending a lot of money on clothes.  I just won't.  Apart of that stems from the fact that I keep telling myself that I won't be this fat forever, and spending exorbitant amounts of money on clothes just doesn't fly with me.  When I do buy clothes, they are to wear for a while... unless they are cheap, and then I don't mind so much.  I still own clothes that I wore back when I worked for Walmart.  That was about 8 years ago.  So.  Yeah.  As you can see, I make a "long term investment" when I buy clothes for myself.

Plus, my weight does fluctuate quite a bit.  I go through spurts where I can drop a dress size or two and then end up gaining the weight back, so I need variety in my clothing size selections.  Thankfully, I own several storage totes for my sporadic fluctuations.  

Anywho, P-Momma gave me a few catalogs to look through that she had received that sold clothes for women with curves.  Woman Within.  Think Lane Bryant for women that live on a tight budget.  I'd never heard of them, but I thought I'd give the catalogs a looksy. I honestly didn't expect to really do much.  I mean, it's hard enough to get me to buy clothes from a store let alone a catalog.  Simply because I like to try clothes on, and see how they fit and what they look like on me before I buy.  

But, as I started to look through the catalogs I noticed that there were a LOT of really cute clothes and the prices were REALLY reasonable.  I was still a little hesitant, though.  One thing I noticed about all of the clothes were the colors.  

Let me say, before I go on, I have three main colors currently hanging in my closet: Black, brown, and gray.  I have a couple of dark pink shirts, one or two dark purple shirts, and a couple of dark blue dresses.  

My closet is dark.  And I'm not talking about the lighting.  I just favor dark colors, and always have.

Several weeks ago, I went shopping with E.  She talked me in to buying a white dress with green chevron print, and I bought a white translucent cardigan to go over it.  It was WAY out of my comfort zone, but she twisted my arm to give it a try.  I wore that dress on the first day of spring and received TONS of compliments about how nice I looked with a little color on me.  

So, I've been thinking about getting some items that are a little more colorful now that the weather is getting nicer, and I'm getting a little spring fever.

So, back to looking through the catalogs.  TONS of spring colors were spread across the pages.  Bright pinks, blues, greens, yellows, reds... a rainbow of clothing.  But, it wasn't the colors that JUST caught my eye, it was the prices.  

I couldn't believe some of the prices I was seeing.  $6.99 tunic shirts, $9.99 capris and jeans, $17.99 dresses.  I was shocked.  Surely this was some special sale going on, and it was, but apparently they are ALWAYS having sales like the one I was looking at.

I decided right there and then that I'd give them a go.  I'd order a couple of things and see how it went.  If I liked the stuff, I might order more, but being that I was buying from a catalog, I wanted to be cautious.  

That same night, I sat down in front of my laptop and started doing some shopping.  The next thing I know, I had picked out 6 shirts, 5 pairs of capris, a maxi-dress, and a two piece capri suit.  I was just SURE that I was going to have to take some things off, because the final price would be WAY more than I was willing to spend.

Want to know what the grand total was for ALL of that?  $197.  WHAT THE WHAT???

Two hundred dollars for 13 items?  That can't be right, can it?  But, I checked and went through everything, and sure enough it was indeed correct.  

I was shocked, and extremely excited.  I decided to go ahead and keep everything in my basket, because that's basically an entirely new wardrobe (for me) for $200.  The colors I picked were mix-n-matchable, so there would be tons of different ways I could wear the items together.  

The next day, I received an email offering me a FREE luggage set (a $50 value) if I spend another $25.  Now, as a teacher, one thing I can never be in short supply of is large bags.  The set included an oversized weekend bag, a purse, and an insulated lunch box.  Did I need any of those things?  Nope.  Did I want them?  Absolutely.  

So, that night, back to the laptop I went.

I ended up spending another $100 but ended up with 2 pairs of jean capris, a pair of cargo capris, a pair of boot cut yoga pants, a dress, and a cute pair of summer shoes that look a lot like Toms.  So, another 6 items for $100.  And, of course, the $50 luggage set that I was now getting free.  

I honestly don't think $300 for 19 items that will basically replace my ENTIRE wardrobe is unreasonable.  I will be able to box up or get rid of basically every bit of "spring/summer" clothing I own.  

Yesterday, my first order arrived.  Just four days after originally placing the order - and I didn't have to pay for shipping, by the way.  

Last night, I put on a mini fashion show for Hubby and the kids.  I was floored at how comfortable the clothes were, how well they fit, and how light and "springy" they felt.  I was so happy that I had gone ahead and taken the risk of ordering so much.  And, now I can't wait for the next order to arrive.

I texted P-Momma last night to thank her for the suggestion, and she immediately called me wanting to hear about all the goodies I'd bought.  She was so excited to hear about all of the different colors I'd selected and told me that she couldn't wait to see me get away from the dark colors I'm always wearing.  

Not a single item felt bad on me.  The shirts are all long enough to wear with capris or leggings, which is important to me.  I hate buying shirts that are too short.  I want to cover my waist, not highlight it.  The capris were all lose and comfy, but not too lose to look frumpy or make me look 4 sizes bigger than I actually am.  The dress was floor length, but so comfortable.  It didn't cling to my waist, but didn't look like a moo-moo either.  Actually, I think I might need a couple more of them, because I LOVE wearing comfy dresses to work.  

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning!!

I'm so excited, in fact, that I've decided to spend this morning completely cleaning out my closet and getting all my new items in their rightful place.  In fact, I'm going to clean out my ENTIRE bedroom, and emptying out some of the totes that are just taking up space and are long overdue to be let go.  

After a day of cleaning, I've decided to take the kids to the park for some family time together.  We're going to have some activity time.  Walking the track, playing in the park, playing some volleyball.  Jelly can take her bike along and ride for a while.  Just some movement for all of us, on a beautiful spring day.

I feel happy.  I am happy.  And I'm embracing the happy.  

I've had so many wonderful words of kindness and support sent my way this week, and I want to take this opportunity to thank ALL of you that care.  But, I also want to assure you that I'm perfectly happy and content.  When life throws me lemons, not only do I make lemonade.. but I make lemon squares, lemon pie, lemon cake. There's always TONS of stuff to do with lemons.

What I've also realized this week is that I'm FAR from being lonely or in need of people to talk to.  P-Momma is ALWAYS a phone call or text away.  My friends at work are always there for me.  My kids are always here for me to brighten my day and keep me on my toes.  

I really need to remember to focus on the good, and get rid of any bad.  Not dwell on it.  Live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment.  

All I need is some color in my life.  And I've realized that I'm surrounded by color... always.  So, it's time to now wear those colors with pride.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Friday!!


Another week is almost over and it's been a pretty good week.  I'm ready for the weekend, though, and I'm planning on doing some fun stuff with the kids.  But, before that happens, we've got to get through today.

Today is our Terrific Tiger assembly.  It's a monthly award ceremony where each teacher picks a student from their class to be recognized as a "Terrific Tiger", and they get a t-shirt and a certificate.  It's a pretty big deal, being that there are only nine months in the school year, and most classes have over 20 students.  

I always have such a hard time picking my student, because they are all pretty terrific in my eyes in their own way.  But, this month was actually pretty easy for me because I've had one student that made it her "mission", if you will, to get the award.

I remember the first few weeks of school.  She was so shy and quiet.  She hardly spoke a word to me, and when I spoke to her she would get all red in the face and almost panic.  Over the course of the first few months, she had several struggles and often gave up because she felt that it wasn't worth trying.  Not defiantly, but stressfully.  She would get upset, frustrated, and sad when she didn't understand.

Since Christmas, however, a different girl has been emerging.  The quiet, fragile girl that avoided being put on the spot by any means necessary has really come out of her shell.  She's now answering questions during group discussions, she's asking questions when she doesn't understand, her grades are coming up lightening fast, and she's even asked me on several occasions for extra work to do to continue helping her grades.  She's also one that has constantly asked to do a paper over if she didn't make a grade that she was happy with.  She is one of my students that gets pulled out for intervention, and she has told me several times that it's one of her goals to where that doesn't have to happen anymore...and she's very close to making that happen.  She's also one that would panic whenever we did our quarterly testing, and even though I was seeing AMAZING gains in her, it never reflected in her test scores due to her anxiety.  Yet, the last test she took (last month) she reflected a growth of more than an entire grade level since the last time she took the test.  

Her personality has really blossomed, also.  I mean, she's always been pretty social with her friends and has always had plenty of friends... but like I said before, with me she would avoid speaking at all costs.  Now, she's always cracking jokes, sharing with me stuff that's going on in her life, and comes to me when she needs someone to talk to.  She has a smile that lights up the whole classroom and everyone loves being around her.

I'm not singling her out because she's the only student like it in my class, or because I play favorites, but her story is one that has definitely been emerging within ALL of my students this past couple of months.  She just happened to be one of the first to make such drastic changes, and has sort of "lead the front" on inspiring other students to follow suit.

I've shared on several occasions that I don't believe my job as a teacher is to teach.  In fact, when I make a list of my job responsibilities, teaching happens to be quite aways down the list.  I look at my job as being a person that inspires kids to do better and be better.  To create and follow dreams.  To break out of their shells, to recognize their own potentials, and to take ownership of their learning.  My job is to simply hand them the tools to build their futures.  (Oh, I like that..and I'm copyrighting it right here and now.)

My job as a teacher is to simply hand my students the tools that will help them design and build their own futures. - Me.

Today's Terrific Tiger has really embraced that about me, and herself.  She was a girl that would give up in the blink of an eye, and realized that giving up would get her nowhere.  That, sometimes, she had to push past the discomfort, ask for help, and understand that she had it in her the whole time.

Again, she's not the only student in my class that has or is understanding this about themselves.  And all of my students have grown SOOO much over the course of this school year.  I don't need any tests or data or grades to tell me so, I've seen it with my own eyes.  I've been blessed with the opportunity to witness it firsthand.  And, those moments are the ultimate reasons I absolutely LOVE doing what I do.

I couldn't be a teacher without my students.  I couldn't grow as a teacher or learn as a teacher without them.  My students are more than just my job, they are the foundation to my goals and future just as much as I am for them.  They make me want to be a better person, to work harder, to find new ways to challenge them, and to discover new tools to put in their toolboxes.  

I'm good at my job, but that means nothing if the students don't respond.  My way isn't the guide in the classroom, their way is the guide in my classroom.  My students map out the way we are going to travel, and I just create various paths to get them where they need to go.  And, like I keep telling my kids, there are always MORE than one way to get where they need to be.  I will "reinvent the wheel" each and every year, heck, each and every month if I have to.  Because one thing I will ALWAYS stand by is that a classroom NEVER works with a "one size fits all" mentality.  There are many sizes that need to be offered, and I'll juggle and create and offer as many "sizes" as I need to in order for them to succeed.

Today is going to be a TERRIFIC day...and the fact that it's a Friday just makes it even more terrific.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Back to Life


It's been a long week, but with everything that's been going on, it has been a good week.  Life is good.    The kiddos in my classroom have been really buckled down and focused, and that's a tough feat this time of year.  Something about the spring coming makes them get squerly and restless.  But, apparently, the fact that the weather can't decide that it IS indeed spring, yet, has helped me keep them a little more grounded than usual.

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day.  I had to leave school early to take Butter to an appointment, so Hubby had to pick Jelly up.  After Butter's appointment, I drove back to pick up Peanut from track practice.  And on our car ride home, we all three shared the stories about our day, and had a good laugh about all that's good in the world.

It's really nice to get that time with them every day.  The car rides.  It seems like when we're all in the car together, we can have a daily share session.  We discuss school, funny stories about our day, upcoming events and plans, and if there's nothing else to talk about we just sing along to the radio and have a good laugh with each other.

For that 45 minutes in the afternoon, there's hardly any fighting or arguing.  Peanut and Butter are getting along.  Peanut and Jelly are getting along.  Butter and Jelly are getting along.  Everyone takes it in turns to say what they want to say about their day, and then we move on to the next.  Sometimes I just sit and listen, sometimes I get to offer some advice, sometimes I'm the one sharing, sometimes Peanut and Butter are advising each other, sometimes they're giving Jelly advice, sometimes they are giving me advice.  We all just enjoy that time together.  Make it count.

And despite the fact that I've put over 32,000 miles on my car in about a year and a half, I know that those miles are meaningful.  

It's the little things, like car ride conversations, that make my life happier.  This time of year is a stressful time.  Our testing is fast approaching, and the one thing there just doesn't ever seem to be enough of is time.  We're down to there being only a little over 5 weeks until our state test, and only 8 weeks of school left.  That's just CRAZY!  

So much to do, and so little time.

And one thing I haven't stopped doing is looking for new ideas and projects to use in my classroom to keep the kiddos focused, while still making sure we're getting in all of the objectives we need to cover before the test.  

I've discovered that the Minecraft project is EXTREMELY time consuming.  In order for us to really have a chance to get the most out of it, we need a few hours in the computer lab each week AND a couple of hours in the classroom so that planning and ideas can take place for implementation in to the game.  While the kids are SO excited about getting this opportunity, and will have fun and learn regardless of how much time they put in, I can't help but feel like we got started a little too late for it to really show the possible potential that the game can offer.

So, what I've realized is that the time my class will spend on the Minecraft project will be a tiny glimpse at what next year holds for implementing Minecraft in to my classroom.  If nothing else, the kids will use the game for the remaining 8 weeks to review skills, and I will use it as an incentive to stay focused and buckle down in our preparations for the state test.  

What I've discovered is that just the opportunity to play for an hour or so a week can be enough motivation to do everything I ask them to do throughout the week.  And, if all the kids get out of it is some time to destress, collaborate, and have a little fun... I'm OK with that.  We won't be able to build the great empires I thought we'd get to, but that doesn't mean that there won't be some major benefits coming out of the time we do get.

But, I'll spend my summer building the curriculum plans for implementing the game in to my classroom as soon as the year starts next year, and by this time next year....there will be AMAZING things that would have taken place over the school year.

Another amazing tool that I discovered yesterday, a little too late in the game.. is  It's a website that gives the kids a beginning placement test, and then focuses on the skills they are struggling with.  AND it covers math, reading, language arts, and test prep skills.  Oh, and did I mention that it's COMPLETELY FREE???

Mrs. P actually told me about the site several weeks ago, but it just happened to be yesterday when I finally got around to checking it out.  I can enter all of my students in to the program, and each student's skill selection will be different and focused on what they need rather than me putting in what I think they need.

I had a couple of my kiddos try it out, yesterday, and they seemed to like it.  I even added Butter to my roster and he took a placement test last night.  He's going to start using it to help him study and focus on some of the math concepts he's struggling with.  I decided to have a go at taking the math placement test and came out with a grade level of 8.4.  I guess that's not too bad for a 4th grade teacher.  I, apparently, still remembered how to do some of the stuff I learned in school.

Each week, my kids get an hour of computer lab time (not related to our Minecraft time).  That's the time I'm going to have the kids working on Mobymax.  They will take the placement test today, and then each week they can work on test prep skills that the program designs for them.  

What I like about it is the fact that the system is Common Core aligned, and is similar to the new tests that the students will start taking next year that will ALL be on computer.  Why not give them a few weeks at building their math skills while learning how to operate some of the functions they need to know to do on computer?

Next year, I plan on asking for a paid subscription.  That gives me access to printables, IEP goal plans, and more reward and game options for the students when they complete their designated tasks.  

With all these new technology resources, I have a feeling that next year is going to be a whole different ball game for me.  I've been CRAVING more technology usage for my class, I'm just kicking myself that it's March when I start using all these fantastic resources.

But, oh well.  At least I'm building a nice, big tool box to use in the future.

One thing I'm going to do, though, is try and stay focused myself.  Not pile too much on to my plate, and remember what's important this time of year. 

I think I can do that.  

But, right now, I think I should be getting ready for work.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave

OK, so right off the bat let me get something out in to the air:

I am a coward.

There.  I said it.  I am.  I talk to my blog about my problems instead of confronting an issue head on.  Or, in words of others "air my dirty laundry" on the web.  Tomatoes/Tomahtoes.  Still, after saying everything that I did yesterday, I was presented with the same question by a couple of people..

Why do you talk to your blog instead of talking to the person directly?

The question was asked to me rhetorically by the select few people that actually know what's going on in my life.. because they know good and well why I don't confront the issue head on.  Because, really, I use my blog as a way of communicating. It's my way OF confronting the issue.  I hate confrontation.  I hate fighting.  And, in person, I just never know the right words to say.  I know that my mom or other family members may read my blog, and then it's out there, they know how I feel, and dialogue can start from there.

Or, at least, that's what I thought might happen.  Dialogue did start.  And dialogue ended with me having to take my brother and sister off of my Facebook page and threaten my mom that if my brother didn't stop calling me or texting me, I'd have to call the police.

Yeah.  That's the kind of dialogue that took place.

And you know what?  I know it's my fault.  I know that when I choose to express my personal feelings on my blog, I'm could to end up hurting some feelings, upsetting a few people, and ruffling some feathers.  Yet, I've read yesterday's blog over and over and over and just don't see where I came off as being the nasty, lying, and hateful bully I was accused of being.

After everything I said yesterday, I received a text from my mother... and you want to know what it said?

"How do you know that I am healthy and have overcome this because funny thing is I won't even know for about 3 months."

I was speechless. And, yeah, I was angry.  I had put my feelings out there with the INTENT of hoping my mom would hear my plea of needing her, yet that's what she got from the whole thing.

And then the accusations started flying about me lying to the world, and how she couldn't believe I could be so nasty and hateful.  Urm...what?

I didn't write yesterday's blog with a single ounce of anger.  I didn't call anyone any names.  I didn't sit and spew off anything about me hating my mother or say she was a horrible person or made her out to be a nasty, hateful person.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I stated SEVERAL times how much I LOVED my mother.  

AND, I was actually asked by a couple of people how often I call my mom to just see how her day was, ask her how she's doing.  

Truthfully?  I don't anymore.  I used to.  In fact, it was quite common for us to talk EVERY SINGLE DAY.  

That stopped a long time ago, WAY before she was diagnosed with cancer.  And the reason it stopped was because every phone call consisted of how she was doing and how her days were going.  I got tired of listening to all of the problems she was having, I got tired of hearing about how her days were so full of running here, there, and everywhere.  Well, let's rephrase that.  I got tired of the conversation ONLY being focused on those topics.  When she did find out about her cancer, I went back to calling her every day to see how she was doing.  I was there for her at her doctor's appointments, I went and visited her every day in the hospital when she had surgery, and called her every day after she got out of the hospital for a couple of weeks.

And, then I stopped, again.

Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.  Maybe I shouldn't have cut off the phone calls again.  Maybe I should have called her more on her chemo days or the days following.

I'll admit that I was a bad daughter for not doing those things.  I'll take full responsibility.  Regardless of how I felt, I should have put those feelings aside and at least checked in on her more.  I'm not completely innocent in all of this.  She is my mom, and I couldn't imagine going through something like that.  I should have been checking on her more and ignoring my selfish feelings during that time.

Yet, at the heart of it all, I did what I did because the truth is, there's always SOMETHING.  OK, cancer is the worst and definitely NOT something to take lightly.  But, before the cancer there were other continuous problems I'd hear about, other things she was dealing with.  

I'd like for someone to ask me when the last time my mom called to ask ME how my day was or how I'm doing...and then actually LISTEN to what I had to say.  Because, honestly, I couldn't answer that question.

And here I am again, sitting here spewing off my "dirty laundry".  But, instead of sadness fueling my post, there's now feelings of anger.  I am angry.

I am angry that my little brother and sister decided to go off on a tirade on my Facebook post and try and make me out to be some kind of nasty bully.  I'm angry that my brother felt the need to call me over and over again, leaving nasty voicemail messages on my phone.  I am angry that my brother felt the need to call Butter over 100 TIMES last night, and then he turn around and accuse me of turning my son against him and that I was just jealous because Butter loved him more than me.

Urm..Butter didn't answer the phone because he didn't want to get involved.  He's 13 years old for crying out loud.  He doesn't want to get in a situation where he feels like he has to play sides, or listen to nasty stuff be said about his mother.  And he came to me ASKING for me to do something about the continuous phone calls.  He was trying to have a conversation with a friend, yet couldn't get a word out because the phone was constantly beeping from it ringing over, and over, and over, and over.

I commend him for being the mature one in all of this.  Wanting to stay out of it.  By HIS OWN CHOICE.  I would NEVER and have NEVER told my kids to not speak to their grandparents or their aunt and uncle.  It doesn't matter how much fighting or upset is going on, my kids would never be brought in to a family fight.  

Which, I think, boiled my britches last night.  Why on earth I was receiving those messages from my brother and sister is beyond me.  It doesn't concern them.  I should not feel attacked by two teenagers who think they know everything.   

Yet, I'm the one being accused of involving my children.


And, I know what they're going to say.  They are defending their mom.  Standing up for her. Because I'm such a bully and I'm treating her so badly.  Fair enough.  I get that.  But, don't then turn around in the next breath and accuse me of being a horrible mother because my son chooses to stay out of the drama and doesn't want to listen to his mother be slammed and hated on, or be put in a situation where he needs to defend me or agree with them.  And absolutely DO NOT attack my teaching career or the type of teacher that I am.  That's taking it too far.  Yes, between the hours of 8AM and 3:30PM, I have 25 children.  But, NEVER have I EVER put the 22 non-biological children before my own.  I can take personal attacks about me, but don't speak on something you know nothing about.  You have no idea what kind of teacher I am.  

But, after all of this, I go back to saying what I originally said:  I'm a coward.  Talking to this blog is sooooo much easier for me.  I can say what I want to say, the way I want to say it, and be done.  

Not a single person who read yesterday's blog (not related to me) and gave me feedback made the slightest inclining that my mom was a bad person or a bad mother.  Not a single person thought that AT ALL.  They all understood that I was feeling a little lonely.  That I missed my mom.  That I wanted to have real conversations where there was equality on both sides.. Here's how my day was and let me hear about yours.  

And that was the intent.  

Unfortunately, the wrong people understood that.

But, it is what it is.  I have to accept that.  I have fractured the relationship far worse than it was before, and I can take that responsibility.  

Am I going to apologize?  No.  I will never apologize for feeling a certain way.  Just because someone disagrees with the way I'm feeling doesn't make my feelings invalid.  They are there.  They are justified. And I stand by them.

What I can say is that this will be the last blog about this mess.  I'm letting it go... moving on.  I'm done.  Starting tomorrow, I'll be going back to blogging about things that make me HAPPY.  And there are far more subjects on that topic.

And, I'm sure everyone will prefer reading about them, anyway.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone!!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Woman Within

For the past few months, I've been doing some soul searching.  Trying to discover who I am, my role, my purpose for being on this earth.  I've been trying to break out of my shell and reinvent myself.  Try new things, take a few risks, put myself out there, and make myself a little more vulnerable to what's going on around me.  

I've reached out to make new friendships, and let a few start to sizzle out.  I've began looking in to my motives behind the desperate need for acceptance, to fit in, the have that close knit of friends I've always wanted.  

I've examined and compared the woman that I am and the woman that I want to be.  And, I can honestly say at this very moment in time that the two aren't very far away from each other.  I am happy.  I am strong.  I've discovered a lot about myself that I can embrace and accept and develop and grow.

Yet, I still have a desire to keep going, keep growing, keep developing...and I don't know if that will ever change about me.

Over the past couple of months, I've found myself opening up to a couple of people...letting them really know everything about me.  The good.  The bad.  The scary.  The embarrassing.  The shocking.  The real me.  I've shared things with them that I haven't really ever told anyone else.  I've found myself reaching out to them in my time of need, in times where I just need SOMEONE who will listen.  And, thankfully, they've let me in, been that ear, and also the voice of reason.

And, at the heart of all this self discovery, and acceptance and embracing of myself, I've let one thing fester, refusing to confront the one thing that motivates my doubt, my fears, and my sadness.

That would be the relationship I have with my mother.

Yesterday was her birthday.  And, yesterday morning, I picked up my phone, found her number,  entered the words "Happy birthday" in to my text screen, and hit send.  A few minutes later, the response of "Thank you" came back.

And that was it.

That was the start and the end of the conversation that I had with my own mother on her birthday.  And, it has caused me to be tangled up in guilt and shame.  Who treats their mother that way on their birthday?  It doesn't matter what hardships we're currently going through, or feelings that I'm currently having, how do I let a day like my mother's birthday slip by without so much as a quick phone call to say "Happy birthday, Mom. I love you"?

I guess I do.

My passive aggressive way with dealing with everything that's going on inside of me.  Taking the advice that I've received by the few people I've consulted about my inner issues, and morphing it in to a childish act of ignoring rather than facing.

Because, you see, over the course of the past couple months, with all my soul searching, with all my vulnerability, with all the examining of my motives and actions, I've discovered that the relationship I have with my mom is at the heart of everything.  It has shaped who I am, who I want to be, and how I am currently living my life.

Yet, the one person who should hear what I have to say, to listen to my concerns and my issues, and be the receiver of what's really going on inside just happens to be the last person I feel like I can open up to.

And I know it's because she's a person I love very much, is very important to me, and I don't want to hurt her feelings by telling her how I really feel.

So, instead, I stay silent.  Bottle it up.  Try to ignore it.  

But, no matter how much I try, I can never really move on without letting it out.

Over the course of my life, my mom was always the person I went to in a time of need.  She would listen, give me advice, help me face my own mistakes and learn from them.  Very similar to the way I parent my own children.  Teaching them to stand on their own feet, but letting them know that I'm there to catch them if they fall.  I'm there to kiss any boo-boos that are inflicted either physically or emotionally.  That I will stand by them in their decisions, offer my perspective, but ultimately let them follow through even if I know they may fail.  Because, sometimes failure IS an option in order to succeed.

And, I always LOVED that relationship that I had with my mom.

Yet, that part of our relationship died a long time ago.  The woman that would listen to me, support me, encourage me, and lift me up when I was down disappeared.  And, what replaced that relationship were bitter feelings of resentment, abandonment, and loneliness.

I never confronted the issue, however, I just allowed it to die.  Allowed the relationship to fade.  And, even tried to pretend that I was imagining it, that I was overreacting, or that I was being selfish for being an adult woman that still needed her momma when my mom had other children that needed her.

I vividly remember the day of my college graduation. The day that my mom hugged me and told me how proud she was of me.  And, the flood of emotion and happiness that gave me.  I wanted nothing more than for her to be proud of me, to show her that I managed to overcome all of my obstacles, and follow my dreams.  

I vividly remember the day I gave birth to Jelly.  Having her in that delivery room calming me down, rubbing my back, telling me everything was going to be OK.  And the minute Jelly was born, her reaching down, hugging me, and telling me how proud she was of me.  She had tears in her eyes, and I could just feel the pride beam off of her...I had brought another grand baby in to the world, and she was there to be a part of it.

And, then, that's pretty much the last of those heartwarming stories I can share.  

A few years later, everything changed.  Maybe I changed.  Maybe I pushed us apart.  Maybe I was the one that let our relationship fade. 

But, now, I avoid speaking to my mom.  Which is hard and horrible to admit, but it's the truth.  I avoid speaking to her because there is only ever two topics of conversation: Her health and the foster kids.

That's it.

No matter what the original topic of conversation... it ALWAYS quickly moves to one of those two subjects.

I can call and say:  Hey Mom, guess what?  I've decided to go back to school and get my Master's degree.

And, I can bet my bottom dollar that the response would be:  That's nice.  So, guess what happened today when I took {insert foster child name} to their doctor's appointment?

Or, I can call and say:  So, Mom, I'm having a really hard time dealing with [fill in the blank]

Her response:  You'll be OK.  So, [foster child] might be leaving in a few days.

And more recently:  Hey Mom, I'm really stressing about [whatever the situation]

Her response:  OK, so I've been feeling really sick lately, and I'm having a hard time staying awake.

Complete deflection from me EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.

I honestly can't tell you the last time I tried to talk to my mom about a situation and actually managed to keep the conversation focused on me for more than maybe 2 minutes.

And, I now know, that's the reason I have the feelings I currently have and just refuse to confront them.  Because, honestly, I doubt that they would even be heard.  

I love my mother.  With all my heart.  I just have been trying to learn to accept and understand that our relationship just isn't the same, and probably won't ever be the same.  The woman that I counted on for EVERYTHING isn't the same person anymore.  She is the that person for the children that are currently in her house.  They are her top priority.  They are numero uno in her life.

Apart of me has reasoned with the fact that maybe she feels like I don't need her anymore.  I have a great life, a fantastic career, three beautiful children, a great man by my side... and maybe she feels the same way I do, that they all come before her.

But, that's not true.

I want a mother.  I want a grandmother for my children.  I want to be able to pick up the phone and tell her about MY day and hear words of encouragement, praise, advice.  Does a person ever really outgrow those things?

I find myself being the person that I am, because of those feelings that I have towards my mom.

I am involved in EVERY aspect of my children's lives.  I want to be the one they come to, talk to, open up to.  I am there at every ball game, every event, volunteering for anything I can do that benefits what they are involved in.  

Every day, I ask my kids how their day was, listen to them, and let them share and vent and get excited about EVERYTHING.  

And, I find myself telling them constantly to tell me if they EVER feel like I'm rejecting them or that their priorities aren't important to me.  It's something I want to know.  Because I NEVER want my children to feel the way I feel.

It breaks my heart that only one out of my three children have a strong relationship with their grandmother.  Yet, it's the truth.  Two of my children never ask to go to Grandma's house.  They never ask to go spend the night, or go for a visit.  And, both of them, if given the choice, would rather stay home when I do go.  


But, it is what it is.

I know that there's nothing I can do to change it.  I've put myself out there a few times, but it hasn't helped. It hasn't changed anything.  And the sad truth is, I don't think it ever will.

I just have to keep going on with my life, doing what I can to make sure that my kids will ALWAY be my top priority... no matter how old they get.

It is now the woman within me.  To learn from my own life, and make sure that I make the necessary changes to ensure that they NEVER feel the way I feel at this moment.  

When my kids are grown, I want to be the first person they think of when they need someone to talk to.  When my kids have kids, I want my grandbabies calling me every weekend asking if they can come stay with me.  I want my kids to know that everything they do with their lives will be important to me.

And, that especially holds true for Peanut and Butter.

I don't ever want to get to a point where they feel like I favor Jelly more, or that she's more important to me because she's the youngest and still living at home.  No matter where they are, what they're doing, I want to be involved.  

I love my mother.  I really do.  More than words can describe.  I am happy that she is finally healthy and overcome a horrible disease.  I am happy that she found happiness by becoming a foster parent.  I am happy that she has a strong relationship with my two younger siblings, and two grandchildren that she now has full custody of.  

And, nothing will ever change those feelings that I have for my mother.

But, what I've come to learn by the advice I've received, the situations I've been through recently, is that I've done all I can.  I can't dwell on this anymore.  I just have to move on, let it go, and focus on my family and my happiness.

I hope she had a good birthday.  I know she was surrounded by the people that she loves.  I know it wasn't right to send a quick text... but, regardless of the childishness or passive-aggressive approach, it was a way of telling her that the quick, nonchalant way of me sending my blessings is how I feel EVERY DAY.

I hope that one day, she understands the pain that I feel.  I hope that one day we can put all of this behind us.  But, right now, I am going to be the woman that I am...the woman I want to be... and live my life the best way I know how without letting the pain get to me anymore.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

We Don't Have to Win it All to Feel Like Champions


I am very happy and extremely surprised to report that I am able to walk today with a minimal amount of hobbling.  Sure, my thighs are feeling a little tight, my arms feeling a little heavy, but the fact that I was able to get out of bed without screaming out in pain is a MAJOR victory in my book.

It tells me I'm still able to do things I didn't think I'd be able to least without it putting me on my back for a few days.

Yesterday was an amazingly exciting and fun day, and I'm so happy that I decided to take part.

Our volleyball tournament started at 9AM.  The day was made up so that we would play against three different teams in our "pool" to get an order in which we would then play teams from the other pool.  Then, the winners from those games would go on to play against each other in a single elimination style to get a champion.

So, right away, we knew we'd be playing at least 4 sets.  

The first three sets were made up of two games, first to 25.  

The first team we played beat us.  10-25 and 15-25.  But, we weren't really warmed up.  We needed to find our groove, that was all.  At least, that's what we told ourselves.

Then, we played a team of teenagers.  I will say right now, I was extremely intimidated seeing these young, athletic competitors walk out on to the court.  They were half our age, so I'll admit that I was totally ready for them to wipe the floor with us.

But, you know what?  They didn't!  OK, so they beat us, but only by a few points.  The final scores were 25-20 and 25-23.  MUCH better than our first game.

So, we had four losses (games) to kick off the day.  We then had an hour break, so we decided to all go and eat an early lunch together.  It was so nice to sit down and eat a meal with co-workers on a day that wasn't a meeting or being at work.  We laughed, we chit-chatted, and we relaxed.  

Being able to have a little fun with the principal (soon to be assistant superintendent) and teachers from different grade levels was so nice.  A way to network, branch out from my normal group of people, and get to know them on a more personal level.

Once we were done with our lunch, it was back to the gym for another game... the last in our pool.  And, thankfully, we won both of those games.  That set win put us in third place in the pool, which matched us up to play the team in 2nd place on the other pool.

And, I'll go ahead and admit right now that I was expecting that game to be our last.  Playing against the team in 2nd place on the other pool meant that they'd won more games than us and when I saw that they were all young players, I just figured we'd play our game and be finished.  

But, you know what happened?

We got out on the court and did indeed lose the first game.  But, then something happened inside of us.  We were focused, charged, and ready.  And we got a WIN on the second game, meaning we had to play a third set to determine a winner.  And we WON the third set!!  

We knocked out the other team from the playoffs, and moved on for a spot in the top four.  

Talk about excited.  After having a morning of being beaten by two teams and then coming back to beat a team that had done much better than us that morning was an AMAZING feeling.  So, then, we were going to be playing the team that had beat us already that morning for a spot in the semi-finals. 

The score you see in the picture is from the first game of that set.  WE BEAT THEM!! 25-23.  Then, they managed to get a win in on the second set, meaning another third set to determine a winner.  And, we started out strong, taking an early lead.  

We played HARD, and I really thought we were going to take the victory, but they managed to slide in a win at the very end beating us 15-13.  But, talk about a close match!  It was one of those edge of your seat, anyone could win type of situations.  And, I'll take that any day over a clear victory for them.  We gave them a run for their money the second time around, and we really could have beaten them.  It was just a little bit of bad luck on our part that we didn't.

So, the team made up of a few teachers and the principal that had gotten together one time to practice since forming the team managed to tie for 3rd place out of 8 teams from the county... several of which were made up of young, athletic, players.  And, that in my mind is an AMAZING victory.

Not saying that our team wasn't young and athletic... but...well... our youngest player is in her late twenties, and the only one to be in the twenties.  And in terms of athleticism, I know that I for one have not done any amount of exercise in MONTHS and even then I wouldn't consider myself "athletic".  I haven't been in any kind of shape in years.

It just goes to show what a little team work and motivation can do.  We may not have come out the champions of the tournament, but we walked away champions in our own right.  Kinda, sorta like the underdogs getting in a chance to prove our capabilities.

And what yesterday showed me, once again, is that I really enjoy competitive team sports.  I love being part of a team, I love competing, I love running around and being physical.  

I'm not a young sprout, anymore, I have to understand that.  And if I continue to sit on my behind and let the fat pile up on my behind, the chances of me ever dropping the weight will deteriorate to no chance.  I really have to start making myself remember how much I love the thrill of exercise, and physically demanding challenges.  

I set a goal a few years ago to compete in a Mud Run.  Well, that goal will never happen as long as the weight on the scale keeps climbing.  It's now or never.  

While waiting to play, yesterday, we were able to watch a few competitive teams play that were part of a different tournament.  One of the players was easily in her 50s, and to see her dive for the ball and run around with her team, and jump was amazing.  And, it hit me that I will NEVER be like that if I continue to allow my weight to corrupt my physical abilities.

I could TOTALLY be that woman, in her 50s, being athletic and physical.  I just need to start doing something NOW... not when I feel like it, not when I think the time is "better".  Tomorrow never comes, right?  

So, to recap... our team walked away champions in our own right.  We overcame amazing obstacles, worked together, and managed to put a few victories under our belt.  And, another victory that came out of it was reinforcing to me that I'm not passed the point of no return.  I'm still able to keep up with the best of them, still able to run around, move, work up a sweat.  

And that's what I need to keep doing.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Yeah, I'm Gonna Play Volleyball All Day


It's currently 6:30AM on a SATURDAY.  Which means one of two things... I've finally reached that point in my life where it's completely normal to wake up before dawn on a weekend OR I've volunteered for something that's requiring me to wake up WAY too early on a Saturday.

And hopefully, you already know that it's choice B.

I don't think I'll ever reach that time in my life where it will EVER be completely normal to wake up before dawn on a weekend.

Once again, I've volunteered to be a part of something that's going on at school.  Well, not really AT school, but with other faculty from school.  I, along with six other faculty members, all volunteered to create a volleyball team in order to play in a county tournament that's being played for some kind of fundraising thing.  

I have absolutely NO idea what the money is being raised for, I just volunteered because I thought it would be a lot of fun.  Which is just what I do.  I have this weird addiction to there a support group for that?  I may need one.

Every time I see an email from my boss or a staff member with the subject line:  Volunteers Needed, I've replied and accepted before even reading what the volunteering is for.  I swear, one day I'm going to end up finding myself strapped to a chair allowing stuff like spiders and cockroaches being poured all over me... because I volunteered to do it, and didn't bother to find out what I'm volunteering for.

Anywho, I did know what I was volunteering for when it came to this endeavor.  I thought it would be fun.  A way to spend a Saturday moving, doing something physically demanding, and having a lot of fun in the process.  

I've spent the past two years watching Peanut play volleyball, and I think it's great that today she gets to watch me.  And when I say great, I really mean hilariously embarrassing for her, and probably extremely annoying watching me do everything I'm not supposed to do.

I'm not a volleyball player.  I've played a little before, back when I was in school, but nothing like what Peanut does or what my other team mates did when they were in school.  I can watch a volleyball game, know what the rules of the game are, understand what's supposed to happen... but actually do it?  Well, I guess we'll see.

Yesterday, after school, we had a practice.  We practiced serving and receiving and setting and spiking. All terms I'm perfectly familiar with, it's just DOING them I struggle a little with.

And, after an hour practice, I walked away with this little doozy...


Oh yeah, a nice, purple and red and swollen thumb.  Nice, right?  I'm proud of it.  It's been far too long since I've had any form of injury that resulted from playing a sport.  Thankfully, this morning the swelling has gone down and it just looks like a normal bruise.  

Driving home, it was great to be able to discuss my practice with Peanut.  She and I both agree that doing this is good for me and her.  I will finally get to understand what it feels like to be out on that court and hear people hollering and yelling about what we should be doing.  I was a bad offender of that when she was playing.  I'd be yelling for them to communicate or watch the middle or get their arms ready...and I'd hear the long groans escape from my mouth when those things weren't done.  Today, I'll be able to understand how hard it really is to do those things, and hear her yelling at me about what I should and shouldn't be doing.

Our first game starts at 9AM this morning.  The last game starts at 3:15PM.  That's a long day of volleyball.  Depending on how we do, we have the potential of playing 7 games.  We have to make it in to the top 4 teams for that to happen, though.  I don't think they are playing to place all 8 teams that are involved in the tournament.  But, that's a possibility, so we may all end up playing 6 or 7 games.

If I'm able to move at this time, tomorrow, it will be a huge miracle.  

I think there's a huge possibility that I'll be spending my time hobbling around with ice packs tomorrow.

But, it's all in good fun, and I'm excited about it.  And, I better go wake up Peanut and Butter.  They are coming along to watch all the fun, today.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Gonna Have to Start Going to Bed Earlier

I don't know what's been wrong with me this week.  I've been staying up WAY too late every night, and that's causing me to NOT want to get out of bed the next morning.  So, that's the reason for my skipping days here and there.  I'm not getting up early enough to write my blog.

The past few nights, I've been up until at least 11PM... and this gal needs more than 5 1/2 hours of sleep to function.  Which means not getting up until around 5:30 each morning.  Thirty minutes isn't long enough for me to write a decent blog post, so I've just skipped those days.

This week has been CRAZY busy, though.

Tuesday I was at the math training.  Wednesday I started my Minecraft blog and then got all caught up in Twitter, networking with other educational bloggers and Tweeters to get some traffic to the blog.  Yesterday was Butter's birthday.  It's just been pretty hectic both in and out of school.

I wish I could say we did something nice, last night, for Butter's birthday.  But, we didn't.  We've decided to hold off until tomorrow and Sunday to celebrate.  I did manage to sneak away from work and order Butter a plate of chocolatey goodness from the local candy store/bakery.  So even though we didn't actually do a big celebration, he did get to enjoy chocolate chip cookies, Oreo and peanut butter cookie balls, dipped pretzel sticks, and a giant brownie.  Nothing says Happy Birthday like a good chocolate/sugar coma, right?  Hubby and I also bought him a video game he's been wanting, but he got that this past weekend.

It's hard to believe my boy is 13.  He's growing up so fast.  All my kids are.  He's grown up so much over the past couple of years, both literally and emotionally.  And regardless of the rough times we've had over the years, he's pushed through and has become such a sweet, caring, mature young man.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be spending the day PLAYING volleyball.  Yep.  You read that right.  Playing.  Not watching...actually on the court, hitting the ball, a part of a team, playing.  I'm taking Peanut and Butter along with me to help out.  Teachers, staff, and other adults from the county are getting together to have a charity volleyball tournament.  

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I volunteered.  I mean, I'm not exactly a volleyball pro, nor really in shape for an entire day of playing volleyball.  But, then again, maybe it might inspire me to get my big behind off the couch and start taking advantage of the warmer weather to lose weight, once again. Lord knows I've tried SO. MANY. TIMES.  But, now that the weather is getting nicer, I can start going out and walking again.  I'm still planning on participating in the Race for the Cure next month, and even though I won't be jogging or running it, I will still need to be ready to walk 3+ miles.

Which doesn't really go well with the fact that after I spend the day playing volleyball, the kids and I are going to out and eat dinner to have a little birthday celebration for Butter.  Hubby and Jelly are going to have a Daddy/Daughter day tomorrow.  Not really sure what they're going to do, but the other two kids and myself are going to get to spend some time together.

On Sunday, we are all going over to P-Momma's for Butter's actual birthday celebration.  We'll have the cake and candles and singing and all that stuff.  We haven't seen P-Momma in TOO long, so all the kids are excited to go over and see her.  They love going to her house.  They get spoiled rotten while they're there... so why wouldn't they?  And, with the weather being nicer, they'll be able to play outside and stuff while the adults get to catch up and visit.

I am WAY overdue for a P-Momma catch up session.  So much to tell her!

But, with a day of volleyball and a day of P-Momma's house, that won't leave a lot of time for working. So, no doubt I'll have a couple of late nights over the weekend in order to write out all of my lesson plans and enter in all of my grades.  But, by this time of the year, I've managed to figure out how to make that process as simple and quick as I can.  I've actually done pretty well at getting a head start this past week during my plan times... so I shouldn't have to spend TOO much time working over the weekend.

Yesterday, I got blindsided with a letter from the IRS.  Gotta love letters addressed from them, right?  They decided to audit my tax return not from this past year, but from the year before...and I didn't report the bingo winnings I had on my 2012 tax returns, so now I owe them a nice chunk of change.

It's my fault for forgetting to claim them, but it also chaps my behind a little because even though I had a very lucrative bingo year in 2011, I didn't get to keep ALL of that money.  I split the winnings with my Mom.  So, now I have to pay out a couple hundred dollars even though we evenly split that money.  But, not much I can do about it. I have to pay the back taxes and the fine and the interest they've added on.  

Lessons learned.

One, make sure I claim any bingo winnings that need to be claimed, and two make sure that if I win a sum that has to be claimed, I take out money from the amount to pay for taxes BEFORE splitting the money.  So that way I don't end up winning, but losing out on an even share.

Not that I get to play bingo very much these days, but food for thought for if and when I do play and win a couple thousand dollars.  I had completely forgotten about winning that money, yet stuff like that always comes back to bite me in the behind... so it's only right I PAY for the mishap.

OK, time for me to get ready for work.  It's going to be a fun day in the classroom today, and I'm going to enjoy it.

Everyone else enjoy your Friday, m'kay?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Creation of The Minecrafted Classroom


Well, I did it.  I created the new blog, and it's up and ready for anyone interested in checking out my classroom Minecraft project.  You can have a little looksy by going to  I've got the first post up, and I've shared a little project overview to give you an idea of how the project is going to play out.

I'm pretty happy with the name I picked.  Simple, yet creative.  And, it came to me when I was got in to bed on Monday night.  I had to make a note before I went to sleep, so that I wouldn't end up forgetting about it.  

If you're friends with me on Facebook, then you have probably already seen that I've linked that blog to my Facebook account also.  So, if you're interested, you'll be able to keep up with it in my Facebook feed.  If you're not friends with me on Facebook, then you can click on the link.  And, being that I now have my very own blog for the project, this will probably be the last time I talk about it on this blog.  But, I wanted to share it with anyone who's interested.

Getting the word out, you know?

Yesterday, I spent the day at a Common Core math training.  It was good.  A lot of great resources and ideas for implementing different math learning strategies in to the classroom.  We spent a good portion of the day checking out websites and trying out some of the activities to take back to the classroom.

I both love and hate training days like yesterday.

I love them because they give me a TON of new ideas to use in the classroom and websites to check out and resources to look in to to buying for my classroom.  I hate them because they give me a TON of new ideas to use in the classroom and websites to check out and resources to look in to buying for my classroom.

It requires some extensive time wading through all the resources and ideas to get an idea of what I can and can't use.  Most require some creative planning.  Others require preparing and gathering materials such as manipulatives, printable templates, etc.  And some require purchase, which costs money, that I'm sure the district would pay for but that also takes quite a bit of time.

Not that I'm not willing to do all of that, but it can be pretty overwhelming.  I walk out of the training confident and ready to try out all these fancy new ideas, and then get stuck in the rut of trying to find the time to get everything ready or find that one lesson I so wanted to try.  

But, even if I don't get to do much with the stuff I learned this year, I plan on spending some quality time wading through all the materials over the next few weeks and sorting it so it's easy to find to try out a few things this year and ready for really diving in to it next year.

One thing I've already decided is that next year I'm going to completely redesign myself and my teaching.

Well, that's not true.  What I mean is, I'm going to completely bring MY teaching style and personality out.  I've already started the transition, but trying out new ideas such as the Minecraft project and the way I've been teaching reading.  But, I really want to take on the task of completely overhauling my current ways of doing things, and create specific units of study that spread completely across the subject areas.

One of the biggest misconceptions with Common Core is that it's a new style of teaching.  That's not true.  It's a new set of learning standards.  Standards that are focused more on streamlining the education process so that kids all over the country are pretty much on the same page with what they are learning and what they are expected to know by the time they graduate college.

The standards are written to connect each grade level to the next by deepening the learning.  Linking a chain, if you will.  A student in kindergarten that's learning the kindergarten standards will continue to see the same standards year after year, but on a much deeper level.  

The best analogy is a stair case.  They start out on the bottom step, and just keep climbing up a stair at a time until they reach 12th grade.  Everything connects to the year prior, somehow in some way.

What common core is NOT is a set of rules on how teachers have to teach.  Just like teachers have been using state standards to teach up until now, the common core will be the same thing.  Just different guidelines or skills that the students have to know.

Instead of knowing how to add two numbers together, the students have to understand the PROCESS and MEANING of adding two numbers together in the sense of connection to place value, and that repeated addition becomes multiplication.  They have to apply that understanding to real world concepts and practices so that they are able to identify the purpose of addition.

I know that there are many people out there who just think Common Core is a waste of time.  They think that it's pointless or too hard or creating steps that aren't really needed.  But it's not about the steps, more about the depth of knowledge.  Trying to eliminate the "don't use it you lose it" mentality so that the students continue to use and build on skills they already know so that they can use them and apply them to their adult lives.  Either career or college readiness.

Critical thinking, problem solving, independent understanding, and application.

And moving back to what I said about redesigning my way of teaching, I mean bringing in more opportunities for self discovery, real world application, and spreading my "one size DOES NOT fit all" mentality completely across everything that I do.

Right now, I'm barely skimming the surface on how I'd like to see my classroom run. I spend a lot of time teaching in front of the classroom, reading directions to the students, showing them how to do everything step by step.  We switch from math to reading to science to social studies.

But, in my dream classroom, that wouldn't happen.

Sure, I'd spend SOME time teaching.  I'd spend SOME time modeling.  But, there would be no need from transitioning from one subject area on to the next and on to the next.  My math, reading, science and social studies would all fit in together.  Applied learning that incorporates all subject areas and focuses on a specific unit of study.

My senior year of school, I had to create a unit of study for my senior project.  I was, at the time, working with 2nd grade students.  I was given the topic of Force & Motion.  Not an easy topic to spread across all content areas, especially for 2nd graders, but I did it.

The objective for the entire unit was that, by the end, the students could all explain the laws of motion.  

Our math was focused on measurement.  Measuring how far an object traveled when force was applied.  Discussing the different forms of measurement to get the best results.  Our science worked with our math to perform experiments to test the effects of force, friction, and gravity.  The students worked through the scientific method, making hypothesis, performing the experiments, and documenting their results. Our reading and social studies focused on reading about Sir Isaac Newton. Students learned about who he was and what he was famous for.   They applied creative writing when they had to write their own stories about having a super power of taking away gravity or no friction.  They wrote friendly letters to Sir Isaac Newton about a benefit that his discovery had given them.  Spelling and grammar came included with the writing process and vocabulary terms that we used.  

And at the end of the unit, each student shared their learning experiences through a presentation of their choice.  Some students created a football documentary, showing how a football is thrown and how the laws applied to the ball. Some students created a talk-show, with Friction and Gravity being the guests and discussing their impact on the world.  Some students created a little puppet show.  The results were remarkable.

THAT'S what I want to do.

It will take some work to get there, but I think I can do it.  And I think the Minecraft project will be the kickpoint I was hoping for.  It will at least give me a pilot run, this year, while I'm still doing everything else that I need to do.

Lots to think about, that's for sure.

But, right now, I have to get ready for work...