Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stick a fork in me - I'm done

Notice how the ticker on the left is now on zero all the way across? That's because I freaking graduated!

My brain still hasn't wrapped itself around that particular reality yet, and I feel like it won't truly hit me until I start my job in January. Even while I was walking across the stage at graduation on Monday, wearing the cap and gown, shaking the dean's hand, and listening to them call out my name, I was still in a disbelieving fog.

I know I did the work. I know I attended each class and internship day. Still, I have been working toward this goal for so long (since 2005!) that the idea of being done is entirely too big for my brain to be able to unpack right now.

My grandparents and all of my immediate family were able to come to the ceremony hosted my the College of Education on Monday, which was awesome. This was a personal goal and an accomplishment I worked toward for myself, but knowing that the people I love were able to share in my achievement made the day so much more special.

We celebrated in many ways. Sunday we had a very small, low-key graduation party with just family at my parents' house. Then, on Monday I met up with some friends from my cohort before the ceremony at a bar near campus to hang out and revel in our achievement. Even though I don't drink, it was fun to see everyone and experience the collective excitement together before our big moment. After the ceremony the family went out to dinner together and I had some amazing cheesecake to celebrate a job well done..

Now that the celebratory dust has settled and I'm just hanging out at my house while Steve is at work, my mind spends a good deal of time thinking about my grandma Nora (the person who inspired me to become a teacher) and what she might say to me if she were here to see me graduate in person. I imagine she would be proud. Not just because I accomplished a goal I set for myself, but because I didn't give up on that goal even after so much changed in my life and it would have been easier to give up than to push through.

I'm so excited to begin teaching in January and to finally be able to say I am living the life I have imagined. Now that I have realized this one, I get to move confidently in the direction of a new dream. :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

I actually got a job

Thanksgiving break is upon us and very soon after the break ends it will be the end of the semester. It's a bit bittersweet since I've grown so attached to these children over the course of this fall semester. I'm going to miss them. It is sweet though to know that I am so close to achieving a huge personal goal. I have been working toward this particular goal for several years (since 2005) and I had to overcome a lot of personal demons along the way. There will be much rejoicing when everything is officially over.

One issue has made this semester particularly stressful. Of course I wanted to finish this journey strong and not slack off, but I was terrified that I would not find a job. We definitely do not have the finances to support another period of unemployment for me.

I said a lot of prayers this semester asking for help finding a job. As if in direct response, last week I received an invitation for an interview and by Friday I was the proud recipient of a job offer.

This job seems like it will be a great opportunity for me. I will be teaching hands-on science enrichment classes to students from Kindergarten to 5th grade. I will be working in schools all over Fulton and Gwinnett. This means I will get the opportunity to see a variety of schools, meet a large sampling of teachers and administrators, and teach in a wide variety of school settings.

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but seeing these different schools, and these teachers and administrators getting to see me teach, will likely help me a great deal when I am looking for a full time teaching job in the fall. It will be an excellent way to maintain my classroom management skills and build up my hands-on learning ideas.

I'm so grateful for this job and everything it means for Steve and I this spring. Not only is it a financial relief, it's a huge weight off both of our shoulders and is already lessening Steve's anxiety.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

job hunting is awkward

Hey I'm graduating in December, and this is crazy..... but here's my resume... so, hire me.... maybe.

Not gonna lie, that's kind of how I feel when I send out my resume these days. Each job posting I see for teaching gets me all giddy and excited about the possibility of actually being hired and having a grown-up job. Not only that, but to have a grown-up job in the field I love. That's not something everyone gets a chance to do.

It's also more than slightly nerve wracking since I know nothing is guaranteed. It is job hunting after all.

I never thought about all the various options available to me in education until I began my job search in earnest in the last week or so. Of course I want to teach, but there are various grade levels, there are public and private organizations, groups that specialize in specific content, groups that focus on specific learning disabilities....  the list goes on and on.

Not all of these places have job openings, but those that do are looking for passionate people with the degree to back them up.

I just happen to be one of those passionate, degree-backed people. Here's hoping for the best!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

it's about that time, folks

So.... I kind of abandoned this little blog of mine this semester. It wasn't intentional. I've been very busy doing teacher stuff and trying to finish my college career strong. It's not been easy.

There have been other things going on as well. Scary heath things I would rather not go into right now.... but yeah. It's been intense.

On a positive note, I have two weeks until Thanksgiving break (which is a whole week of absolutely nothing except holiday decorating, eating good food, and visiting family.... oh yeah, and a pesky doctor's appointment and little outpatient procedure, but whatever) and then just shy of two weeks after that until I am DONE.

Not done for the semester, not done for the school year. No sir, I will finally be finished with my undergraduate degree. I'll be the proud, slightly worn out, recipient of a shiny new diploma and Bachelor's of Science degree.

Yes, I will have spent nearly 8 years working for a big fat B.S.

I'll let you insert your own jokes related to that sentence. :)

I have already picked up my cap and gown, my honors cord (SUMMA cum laude, woot woot!), and spent the morning addressing graduation announcements.

It's weird knowing that I am graduating when I spend the entire week (and who are we kidding, a large part of my weekend) either in the elementary school teaching or working on lesson plans. I already feel like a teacher. I'm just missing the certification and the pay check.

Speaking of pay checks, I am applying to as many jobs as possible right now. I seriously NEED a job as soon as I graduate. So, if you know anyone.... a girl out. Just sayin'... summa cum laude over here... lots of great references.... super fun lessons.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

it's that time of year

No, I'm not referring to fall. Although I am happy about the beautiful weather and fall festivities, I am talking about the time of the year when my body starts attacking itself from stress.

Not kidding... not even a little bit.

I'm thoroughly enjoying my time at school teaching and I am having a lot of fun coming up with lesson ideas. The kids in my class are sweet and they are making great progress. However, there is a lot on my plate.

Between the lessons I'm planning, the two huge projects I'm navigating my way through, and keeping up with discipline/assessment/ESOL paperwork, I'm feeling a bit run down.

Thankfully I have an awesome cooperating teacher and a very supportive grade level who all do so much to help me out. I also have a supervisor who not only is an excellent resource, she also seems to know how hard it is to be in my position. Sometimes just that little bit of understanding is all I really need.

I have passed both of my observations so far with flying colors and I am all set to begin role reversal in a little over a week. I know it will go well, but I'm saying a lot of prayers anyway. I would appreciate any extra ones y'all might want to offer up. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

what a first week.

I just finished my opening school experience yesterday and my head is swimming. My students are sweet and challenging and I'm completely loving each of them in their own way. I'm finding that planning and implementing 5 days of instruction in a row is a challenge when you have such diverse learning needs to meet. Not that I thought this would be a cake walk , but there are about a million factors I never thought of when thinking about what student teaching would be like.

I also didn't realize the impact student teaching would have on my poor feet! My body is pretty much pissed at me right now. Although I did buy new shoes that look like they belong to an old lady just for the cushioning and support they offer. 

I'm learning so much already about how to be a great teacher. I've gotten some materials together that will help me in my own classroom one day and lots of helpful advice from the other teachers on my grade level. 

One thing that is not a surprise is the joy I find in facilitating literacy. My classes on emerging literacy and language development fascinated me, but watching it occur with actual students within a classroom is amazing. I was never really interested in getting an advanced degree before, but now I am almost positive I will be pursuing a masters degree in a few years once I have been a classroom teacher for a bit. I researched some programs yesterday and I am really excited about the quality of degree programs near me. One that has particularly caught my eye is the Masters of Education in Reading with an emphasis on emergent literacy.

I know what I'll be saving my pennies for!

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's almost time!

Tomorrow is the first day of pre-planning and I am really really ridiculously excited about going back to school. I know I've mentioned that this semester I will be in the classroom Monday through Friday and building up to two weeks of full time instruction. It's kind of a big deal. The biggest deal, really. It's the very thing I have been simultaneously looking forward to and running from since 7th grade.

When class assignments first came out I was excited to see that I would be working with 4th graders. You even got a sneak peek at my budding library. I hadn't received my room assignment or teacher yet, but I ws looking forward to it just the same. However, I'm no longer looking forward to student teaching in 4th grade.... because I will actually be student teaching in 1st grade!

That's right, I was moved to 1st grade within the same school. As much as I was looking forward to trying out my teaching style with the older kids, I am thrilled to get the chance to work with the little ones again. I have a TON of ideas for lessons and classroom management. It's going to be amazing.

Over the last week I have felt a lot of those old fears coming on. It's hard to shake those feelings when you let them rule you for so long and they tend to come up at the exact moment you would be the most vulnerable.I won't even go into specifics about how I was feeling because it's the same "I'm not worthy" crap it's always been. Thankfully, I was better prepared this time. I thought of the wonderful things my former cooperating teachers have had to say, all of the high marks I have earned in my classes, the teaching and management techniques I introduced that are still being utilized, and the biggest positive motivator of all.... I think of that gut feeling I got while spending the day with those kiddos in Mexico. 

No matter how terrified I get, I can always come back to that feeling and those memories to remind myself that I was made for this. Teaching is exactly what I was meant to do with my life and I can't wait to actually get in the classroom and be who I am supposed to be!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Our House Updates: the living room

As promised, I finally have some pictures for you of the inside of the new house! It's not perfect, and I suspect it will never be completely finished, but I like it enough to post pictures.

Here is how it looked BEFORE with the previous owner's stuff:
 (you can't really tell, but the paint color in the room is a sea foam green)

And this is what it looks like AFTER our move and modifications:

We painted three of the walls a light, buttery yellow and then more of a true gold as the color for the accent wall. That color runs through the paisley pattern of our couch, but it seemed too much for the whole room. Steve came up with the idea of using it for an accent wall and I love how it came out. We were also able to use a lot of artwork we already had on the walls, including our Quaker Wedding certificate which is in a place where we can actually see it on a regular basis instead of tucked away in the dining room like it was before. It's my favorite thing in the house, so I'm thrilled that it has such a prominent place now.

The sconces on either side of the TV were gifts from Steve's mom. She bought them thinking they would look nice above the couch, but they really seemed to fit on the TV wall better. It's what made the room feel more finished to me.

You can't see it in these pictures, but there is a large bookshelf in the back corner of the room, near the doorway to the back hallway. It isn't anything fancy - just a simple Walmart bookshelf - but it allows me to have books nearby. We do have plans to put some sort of chair in the other corner to create a little reading nook back there eventually.

Of course, the best parts of this room are things that were there all along... the incredible tile floors and ridiculous amount of natural light. :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

4 years

4 years ago today I was on my way to Disney World for my honeymoon. Yup, yesterday was our 4th wedding anniversary!

It's funny to me to think about our anniversary in years because 4 years just doesn't sound long enough for all the things Steve and I have experienced since we were married. Saying "4 years" to someone when they ask how long we have been married seems incredibly inadequate. Then again, by the reactions from people I meet at school you would think we had climbed Everest or something. 

Last year we went to Disney World (it's kind of our thing) for our anniversary, so we kept things really low key this year. Keeping with tradition, I recreated the meal we had at our reception for dinner (fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and green beans) and made a lemon cake for dessert since our wedding cake was a lemon cake. I look forward to this meal every year because it brings back such wonderful memories of sitting in our hotel room halfway to our honeymoon and eating the dinner our family had the event staff box up for us. 

I did try to jazz up the kitchen/dining area for the occasion which was a bit difficult to keep a surprise now that we have the security cameras up in the house. Steve likes to check on Finn and me throughout the day, so I had to set things up where he wouldn't see everything. lol. I think it turned out nicely!
I made the banner with construction paper and a sharpie. Not fancy by any means, but we both really liked it and it made the room feel special.

The card Steve got me said "on to the next adventure" and Steve had written his own message talking about the things he is looking forward to in the years to come. It was very sweet and very fitting for this particular anniversary, even if it did make me think of the couple from the movie "UP". There are a lot of really good things about to happen for us and there is no one else I want to experience them with.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Building a class library

Ever since I received my placement for the fall semester my mind has been running about a million miles per minute with different ideas and random thoughts about what the semester might bring. My Pinterest account can attest to that! I realized that I had a lot of ideas for little ones, but not so many for upper elementary students.

In the midst of my pinning and blog hopping, it hit me. My 4th graders will be able to read actual books! When I was in 4th grade I read some of my favorite stories and began to develop my individual tastes as a reader. That was the year I met Laura Ingalls out on the prairie, the year I read my first collection of Edgar Allen Poe short stories and scared myself silly, the year I started solving mysteries with Nancy Drew. 

I quickly realized that one of the best things I could do for my students would be to have tons of reading recommendations to offer with copies of the book to put in their hands. So, I cleared out the back of my car and headed over to my parents' house to sort through the books I left in my old bedroom when I moved out. 

After about 45 minutes of sorting through the boxes, I managed to find quite a haul:

You can't really tell from this picture, but I even had multiple copies of some books which will be perfect for reading circles. There are some excellent stories in here including everything from Anne of Green Gables to Animorphs; Hiawatha to Number the Stars.

There are a few more boxes I did not get to which have my collection of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and a few others.

Since I plan to loan these out, I realized I needed to catalog these books and label them as mine, So, I created this label to go in the front of each book:

Cute, right? I really like it and there will be no mistaking who these books belong to!

I am getting even more excited about my placement each day and I really can not wait to meet my students. I hope they get a lot of use out of my books and I hope I can hold onto this excitement when I am staying up late planning lessons and grading papers. :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hello there, 4th grade!

This morning I got an email from my program director with my placement for this fall. In an interesting turn of events, I will be teaching 4th grade at the school where I did my block two practicum! I am absolutely thrilled to be going back to that school. The administration was very welcoming of those of us from GSU and the teachers were great to work with.

I spent two mornings helping with 4th graders at that school last fall, so I think I will be okay. I had planned on being with the little ones for student teaching, but now that I think about all the things I can do with 4th graders I am getting very excited. Part of me keeps thinking back to my PTLS and the various activities my friends in the cohort were able to use with their 4th grade classes...

Another fun perk of being in 4th grade at this school is the fact that I could have some of the kids from my 3rd grade class last fall in my class again for student teaching! At the very least, I will be able to see several of them since we will all be in the same hallway.

This last semester of coursework is going to completely fly by. I am so excited to get started!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Anniversary excitement

This Thursday will be 4 years since Steve and I got married. It seems like a really long time and not nearly long enough all at the same time, if that makes sense.

I get really excited about our dinner tradition for our anniversary.  I'm pretty sure I have mentioned before that I recreate our reception meal for dinner on our anniversary every year. It was the one thing I could think of to make the day extra special even when we were broke as a joke in Savannah.

The meal itself is nothing fancy. We aren't fancy people and we wanted simple things we knew would taste good for our wedding. It worked out really well that day and it has been a great way to remember our special day ever since.

This year I'm particularly excited because I will be trying out a new recipe for our lemon cake dessert. It's an adaptation of a yellow cake recipe I have used for the last few years with a lemon curd filling and butter cream frosting. If it turns out well I will post the recipe here. Hopefully this one works out well because I have tried two other recipes in previous years and they were a bit of a disappointment. A good lemon cake recipe is difficult to find. :(

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th!

July 4th holds a lot of really great memories for me. When I was a kid we always did something fun with family and there were definitely fireworks.

As I got older, there were more fireworks and even a few outings to Stone Mountain to watch the special laser show and fireworks.

In college there were trips to a lake house and cook outs with good friends and lots of food (ahem- and beer).

These days the celebration is a lot more low key. No more drinking games and loud parties. No more special trips to parks or special events. However, one thing remains constant: time with family.

Yesterday Steve and I took Mr. Finn with us over to my parents' house for a small family gathering to celebrate our nation's independence. The two of us, both of my brothers, my sister in law, my parents, and all five dogs spent the day eating delicious food and enjoying each other's company while avoiding the rain which prevented setting off fireworks. Well, the rain and the fact that we left our fireworks at home by accident. :)

It wasn't anything particularly significant, but it was relaxing and comforting to take the time to be with family. This year has already been a bit tough emotionally for all of us and it has served as a reminder to me to be grateful for the people you love because you never know how much longer you have with them.

I hope everyone had a wonderful, safe, and relaxing holiday.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cirque Musica

Steve's company owns a performance venue in town, and every now and then the company gives complimentary tickets to employees. This past week Steve took advantage of one of those offers and surprised me with tickets to a performance of Cirque Musica, a sort of circus and symphony mash-up with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

First of all, I am a HUGE fan of the symphony. I haven't been since middle school for a variety of reasons (no one to go with and high ticket prices mostly) so this particular date was such an incredible surprise. Add in the fact that the performance included Cirque du Soliel style performances to compliment the music. 

The result was a really cool blend of circus and concert. There were acrobats, guys juggling each other, and a woman doing the ribbon wrap aerials. The violin soloist during the Tchaikovsky concerto actually flew above the rest of the orchestra on a wire.

I was completely enthralled the whole time. 

Toward the end of the show the performers took a break while the symphony played a Beatles medley. Steve and I were cuddled up under the stars (which made an appearance despite a forecast of rain) listening to world class performers play "Let it Be" while the lightning bugs flickered all over the lawn. It was so romantic... definitely one of those moments where I was thankful to be exactly where I was.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pinterest Binge

I am hosting a Pinterest party for my cohort next month and today I put together a small board with the options for our crafting at the party. The guests will "like" the pin they most want to create and I will provide supplies for the top two pins for people to make at the party.

At first I was just going to use pins I already had in my "classroom ideas" board. Then I realized how few I had pinned that were actual things to make rather than ideas to try. So, I went looking for new ideas.

Friends.... I am not even going to admit how much time I spent browsing pinterest and teacher blogs. There were so many great ideas! I found about a million new ideas for my future classroom and, more importantly, I found about 7 potential crafts for the party. It was seriously a pinterest binge. Now I just need to go to the dollar store and get supplies for all of the things I want to make. :)

In all seriousness, I am far beyond excited to begin planning for my classroom this fall. The email with my placement information should arrive in the next couple of weeks and I will more than likely begin pre-planning the first full week of August - just a little over a month from now! I can't believe I have just one more semester left before I have my degree and I will actually be a teacher. I have come a long way from that super intimidated pre-teen working with little ones in Mexico, and even further from that miserable young woman afraid of chasing her dreams.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Yesterday we had our housewarming party for our new home!

I have been so busy the last few weeks painting and getting the house put together for this party. The previous owners of our home left a lot of things behind and the house itself needed a bit of TLC before I could feel comfortable having people over. I know I keep promising before and after pictures, but I want to do a tiny bit of tweaking first.

Anyway, we decided to go ahead and have the party once the majority of the work was done. After all, we will more than likely never be completely done decorating. :)

We kept things really simple and light with both the decorations and the food. I used some of my Great Grandmother's mason jars in various sizes as vases and bought some simple flowers from the grocery store Friday afternoon.

I'm really pleased with the way they turned out! I put them in various places around the house such as the bathrooms, the end tables, and on the food table.

Using some large sunflowers helped fill out the arrangements without costing a lot of money.


That's pretty much it for the party decorations! I chose instead to focus on making some really good food. 

Of course I had to have some sort of cake. Parties without cake are just glorified meetings. I found two great cupcake recipes on Pinterest: Pineapple Cream cupcakes and Blackberry Chocolate cupcakes that were a huge hit! 
To the right of the cupcakes are tortellini skewers with some pesto dipping sauce, cheddar and pepperjack cheese cubes, and mini caprese salads. (Please excuse the plate and cup. I forgot to take pictures before people dug into the food!)

To the right of the cheese we had a creole dip for pretzels and the vegetable tray, and a cinnamon cheesecake dip to go with some graham cracker sticks and the fruit tray/tower. Later in the day we also had a tray of grilled chicken tenders that had been marinated in our favorite barbecue sauce. Steve grilled them over hardwood charcoal on his new grill. So tasty!

For drinks we had ice water and sweet tea in these cute 1 gallon dispensers from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

We also had fresh squeezed lemonade in our convertible punch bowl/ cake stand. It turned out so well! I had to juice about 36 lemons to make two batches, but I received a lot of compliments on it, so it was worth the fuss.

One thing that really helped a lot was purchasing two plastic drink dispensers from Walmart. They each hold about 3 gallons and have a spigot for easy dispensing. We were able to make the drinks the night before and chill them overnight which ended up being incredibly convenient. I would absolutely recommend it if you are hosting a party. That way, if you run low on drinks, you just grab the next gallon out of the refrigerator rather than having to make a new batch during your party. Ours were less than ten dollars each.

We received so many compliments on the house and had so much fun with our friends and family! I can't wait to host another party... which will most likely be a Pinterest party for my cohort at the end of July. :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Memorial Day weekend part 2 - coca-cola, fish, and CNN

Sunday, May 26th, was Steve's birthday so we really chilled out and relaxed. We went to church, grabbed some brunch, and then I made banana pudding for Monday's cookout while everyone else took a nap. Our day ended with a trip to the local dinner theatre to catch Star Trek: Into Darkness. It was excellent! Anything with Spock makes me happy. :)

It ended up being a really great idea to have a relaxing day between two such active days. We really hit the ground running on Monday!

Our first stop was the Georgia Aquarium. I had not been since it opened several years ago, and Steve had never been before, so it was a really fun experience. There are a few exhibits with "touch tanks" where a marine biologist tells you about a specific type of animal and you are actually allowed to touch the animal.
The first touch tank was full of manta rays. This one swam right up to Steve and kept opening and closing his mouth! Glenda said he was trying to wish Steve a happy Birthday. :)

It took us a few hours to see everything in the aquarium, but there were a few things (like the dolphin tales show and tree frogs) that we didn't take the time to check out. Instead, we spent a lot of time staring at the enormous ocean environment tank with the whale sharks and interacting with the penguins.

After the aquarium, we made our way over to CNN Center for lunch and a studio tour. There wasn't much to take pictures of, but it was neat to see the sets and production spaces for so many shows. Steve and I like a few different CNN and HLN shows and both of us have some background in journalism (mine was in middle school, but whatever) so seeing how the shows went from start to finish made our nerdy little hearts happy.

The grand finale was the World of Coca-Cola.

Fun fact, the World of Coca-Cola used to be in Underground Atlanta and moved to their new location in 2007. No one in our group had been to the new location, and I was the only one of the four of us who had ever been to the original location. This experience was totally new for everyone and we had a great time!

I feel like the World of Coke was particularly kid-friendly. The memorabilia was broken up into several smaller displays with a lot of interactive places and more modern things so that kids (and my ADD husband) won't get bored or burnt-out. There were also opportunities to get your picture taken with the Coca-Cola polar bear, huge Coke bottles designed by countries all around the world for the olympics, and an original 4-D movie with moving seats! I was very impressed considering the original location was basically a traditional museum where you just quietly walk through cases of old stuff.

Steve's favorite part of the whole tour was the tasting room at the end. There are fairly large hubs of fountain style drinks where you can taste all the Coca-Cola products produced from all over the world. Each hub represents a different continent and the drinks are labeled with the name of the drink and the country where it is produced. My favorite is from Peru. It's called Inca Kola and tastes kind of like bananas.

When you leave the World of Coke you get to choose a glass bottle of coke with a special label saying it's from the World of Coca-Cola as a souvenir. Pretty cool if you ask me. That's not to say they don't have a gift shop with tons of OTHER souvenirs for the coke fanatic, but those aren't included in the price of your ticket. :)

Once we finished drinking our fill of Coca-Cola, we made our way back to the car and headed home for burgers on the grill and home made banana pudding. All in all, the weekend was a complete blast! We are still recovering from all the fun even a full week later, but it was worth it. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend part 1 - Atlanta History Center

This past weekend was not only a holiday, but it was Steve's Birthday weekend as well! We had his mom and her boyfriend up from Savannah to celebrate with us so the weekend was absolutely packed full of fun stuff.

Although Savannah isn't very far from Atlanta (just a few hours in the car) there were a few big tourist destinations here that Glenda and Gary had never been to (and, as it turns out, some that Steve and I hadn't seen either) so we invested in an Atlanta City Pass for the weekend. If you are not familiar with City Pass, it is a type of all-in-one ticket that allows you to visit several attractions in one city for one price rather than paying individual admission prices. Ours turned out to be an excellent value for the price.

I decided to break up the post about this weekend into two smaller ones since there is so much to share!

The fun started on Saturday shortly after Glenda and Gary arrived. We pretty much jumped right into the car again and headed to Buckhead to the Atlanta History Center. This was the one attraction I had not been to before. I didn't even know it existed until about a week ago when we looked into the city pass. We had the option to either go to the Zoo or the History center and, since so many of our group are history fans, we chose the history center. The center is made up of a main museum with several different exhibits revolving around life in the Atlanta area. Then, outside the museum are gardens, the Historic Swan House (as seen in the upcoming movie, Catching Fire), and a working Antebellum Farm!

One thing that impressed me about the museum itself was the amount of things available to touch! They had signs like the one in the above picture asking people to touch various items throughout every exhibit. This one was a scale model of a home in Atlanta designed by the south's first woman architect.

My favorite part of the museum was the wing dedicated to the 1996 Olympics which took place in Atlanta. Those games occurred the summer after my family moved to Atlanta and our entire first year as southerners was full of Olympic preparations. We saw the torch being run through the city, my girl scout troop used the Olympic Mascot, Izzy, as our troop pen pal mascot, and my 3rd grade class did tons of Olympic related projects. The 1996 games really stand out in my mind as significant and it was so cool to see so much memorabilia. For instance, some replicas of the medals given at the games and a pair of shoes worn by Michael Johnson during one of his record setting runs at the games.

They had a separate display for each day of the Atlanta games in succession going around a track and I found this one particularly cool as it mentioned the Olympic Park bombing and the overwhelming amount of volunteers who showed up the day afterward to make sure the games could go on as planned. 

Another display showed the torches from all modern Olympic summer games since the beginning of the modern Olympic movement through the Atlanta games. Many of them were replicas or images, but a significant portion of them were actual torches. Steve called me a nerd when I got excited about the picture of the Dream Team from the 1992 Olympics in Spain. Clearly, he wasn't as much of a fan of Space Jam as I was. :)

Finally, I just want to remind everyone that this is how America chose to represent itself at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 games. Yes, that is a fanny pack in the official fashion design of the athlete uniforms. This is 90's fashion at its finest! lol

After we finished in the museum we explored the Smith Family Farm on the grounds of the center which was similar to historic Jamestown in that they have people acting out various roles on the farm so visitors can see how the place would have functioned. I felt so bad for the blacksmith and the cook since they had to stand over hot fires all day in those heavy clothes!

We picked a great weekend to visit the center because they had tons of war reenactors on site to answer questions and share historical information. People reenacting everything from the Revolution to Vietnam! We spotted this guy giving a talk in the barn on the farm.

The house on the farm and several other buildings are actual historical buildings that were brought from their original site and placed at the center once the family stopped living there in the 1960's. I thought that was so cool! The other buildings are replicas of the original outbuildings from the farm.

Our last stop at the center was the historic Swan House.

We found out after our tour that this house is being used in the movie Catching Fire as the location of a party for the returning victors in the Capitol. They will likely be using the more dramatic front of the house (the above picture is the back side of the home if you can believe it). We couldn't see the front of the house that day because there was a wedding rehearsal going on!

Anyway, the home itself was beautiful and reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey with the antiques and general grandeur of the home. I was really impressed because the tour is set up as if the participants are interviewing for a position within the household. The tour guide was dressed as a butler from the time period when the home was built and gives the entire tour in character! We even had to use the servant's stairs to go to the second floor. It was awesome!

Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside of the home, but I highly encourage anyone in the area to visit! We could, however, take pictures of the gardens. Aren't they beautiful?

There was also a little Victorian style playhouse near the home where the grandchildren would play.

We left after our tour of the Swan House because we had tickets to Medieval Times for dinner. Glenda and Gary had never experienced the cheesy and hilarious dinner theatre style event, and Steve and I love that type of thing, so we could not pass up the chance to go. They loved it! Our knight got beat in the first round, but it was fun regardless.

I'll put up another post later about the rest of the weekend fun!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

slightly unsettling

I have noticed one issue with the new place that might prove to be a real problem. There is a beautiful mature Oak tree right in front of our home and several mature Oak trees throughout our neighborhood.

Normally this would be a good thing. Mature tree are awesome and they keep our house in the shade a good portion of the day. The problem with these Oak trees in particular are the little friends the Oak trees attract.

I'm talking about squirrels.

I am terrified of squirrels.

I realize this is a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, but really, I hate them. Not in an "I hope you die" kind of way... more of a "put down the crack and get some help so you don't eat my face" kind of way.

When I was in school at Columbus State I read an article about drug dealers in suburban areas hiding crack rocks in garden beds when they were trying to make a speedy getaway. Then, squirrels would dig up the crack rocks and eat them, thinking they were the nuts they buried. The squirrel would then get addicted to crack and attack people looking for their next fix.

This story is completely silly and, in all likelihood, entirely untrue. However, my brain latched onto that concept of drugged up squirrels attacking people and my fear was born. However irrational it may be.

The drinking in college did not help this fear.

Between the squirrels in the front yard and the giant green spider by the trash can, going outside here is rough on my nerves. I should get bonus points in life for going running around here!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Settling in

So much has been going on at our new home! My laptop got lost in the shuffle and I had no idea where it went until we cleaned out some of the boxes and found it tucked under some things in the kitchen. Now I can finally update!

The move went fairly smoothly. Our movers were incredibly efficient and polite. If anyone in the Atlanta area needs movers, let me know. I would recommend those guys in a heartbeat.

Our first night in the new place we decided to treat ourselves and celebrate with some ice cream. Since the kitchen had not been unpacked yet (besides the silverware which was a last minute grab and rode in the car with us) we ate our sundaes out of red solo cups. We're classy like that. They still tasted great though! Birthday cake flavored ice cream with chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries. Yum!

Once we got everything into the new house I fell in love with the colors we chose for the paint even more than when I was actually painting. Our bedroom looks fantastic and I just need to find a new comforter and put up the artwork before I post the before and after pictures I promised. The living room also looks amazing. It only needs some artwork and some sort of chair in the corner before that before and after shot gets posted. I can't wait to show them off!

Upon inspecting the patio and consulting my friends, I discovered that there is a beautiful Jasmine plant growing on the lattice separating the trash bin from the rest of the patio space. It just bloomed for the first time yesterday and I am in love. I had been debating on switching out the Jasmine for some wild Honeysuckle I found recently, but these blooms quickly changed my mind. Check it out!

Aren't they beautiful?

Lastly, my parents and siblings came over yesterday to see the house and hang out for a bit. My mom, sister-in-law, and I all went to historic downtown Norcross to browse the shops a bit before picking up lunch for everyone. I fell in love with the most amazing shop at the end of South Peachtree street. My mom bought me some ceramic polka dot measuring cups as a housewarming gift there and I know I will definitely be going back very soon.

When we got back and had our lunch, my dad and older brother took Steve to Home Depot and picked out HIS housewarming gift... a grill! Ever since we bought the house (who am I kidding, since we had to give away our grill the first time we moved almost 4 years ago) Steve has been talking about being able to grill again. My dad bought him a huge grill that has one side for gas grilling and another side for charcoal grilling, with a side burner to use for sauces, baked beans, etc. He's just a little excited.

Steve grilled a couple steaks for dinner last night in celebration of his new grill and we have plans to make bratwurst tonight if the rain will let up. I think I will love not having to cook for a while. :)

Please ignore the junky looking tables and grill next to Steve in the above picture. Those were left by the previous owners of our place and are awaiting transport to the dump. They are not in good shape at all and I refuse to even donate them for fear they will fall apart any minute. You can see a bit of my Jasmine behind them though!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

the positive and not-so-positive parts of moving

I forgot how much work moving can be.

I have also never moved into a home that was previously occupied, at least not when I was old enough to remember, so I have never dealt with the mess left behind. Let's just say there was quite a mess in our case. Steve and I spent a full day on Monday cleaning the house from top to bottom and there is still a lot of work to do.

Not everything left behind was trash though. The previous owners were nice enough to leave us all of their window treatments and four bar stools like the ones below for the breakfast bar/peninsula in the kitchen.
I have spent the rest of the week packing the apartment and painting a few rooms in the new place. We had not planned to paint prior to moving, but the walls really needed a refresher and we wanted at least the living room and master bedroom taken care of before putting all our furniture into the rooms. 

Honestly, I feel that the ability to take a break from packing to go paint has been really helpful in keeping me from feeling burnt out. My sister in law even came over this morning to help out and keep me company!

I'll post some before and after pictures once the rooms get finished.

The movers are coming Friday so we will be running around getting last minute things put into boxes and bagging up the donations. In the midst of the craziness I will keep thinking about all the great things to come once we get through this transition: the housewarming party, gardening on our little patio, canning with my mom and sister in law in my awesome kitchen and taking a well deserved steaming hot bath in my big Jacuzzi tub!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My bank account just got a whole lot smaller

Yesterday was a really big day for Steve and me. We closed on our first home!

We own this beautiful townhouse as of 4:30pm yesterday and we will be moving in next week.

It has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a 2 car garage, and even a back patio where we can have a grill and a small garden. Basically, I'm in love.

One of the priests from our church is going to meet us at the house on Monday to say a blessing and then we will be doing all of the fun things that come with moving, like packing and cleaning.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Testing, Testing....1..2..3

Yesterday I received a very pleasant (automated) email from the testing service which scores the GACE. As you all know, I have been on pins and needles all month waiting on my score report to get here so you can imagine how happy I was when the email came a few hours early. In fact, it came during my classroom management class. I'll go ahead and admit that I couldn't wait and was very rudely reading my email during a classmate's presentation on bullying. :(

I couldn't feel too badly about missing the presentation though since I PASSED! And I did not simply pass the test, I kicked it's butt! I got all of the multiple choice questions in all content areas correct (even math!) and did pretty well on the short answer portion too.

Now all I have to do is graduate and the state will give me my certification. That is quite an appealing thought to ponder.

Although my testing nerves are over for the GACE, they have just begun to set in for finals. Those nasty buggers are next week. At least I only have two this semester.

Lastly, my students (by this I mean all of the kids at my school) just finished taking their CRCTs last week! I'm proud of them for making it through such a big test and thankful that I no longer have to pass the time during placement in the library. This week is my last one in my placement, so it's a bit bittersweet.

The sweetest part is knowing that I'll be starting student teaching in August!!! 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The end {of the semester} is near!

Quite a bit has happened since my last post.

Of course, as I said last time, we have a new Pope!

I know I'm new to this whole Catholic thing, but Pope Francis is just adorable.

Speaking of being new to the Catholic church.... Steve and I were confirmed at the Easter Vigil service a few weeks ago! We are now full members of the church. It feels wonderful!

Besides all of that excitement, the school semester has continued on and I have found myself elbow deep in projects and tests.

On March 22 I took the GACE which is the certification exam for teachers in the state of Georgia. My scores won't be available until April 20th but that doesn't stop me from obsessively checking the website to see if they posted early. It's a lot like waiting for grades to post at the end of the semester. I'm about 98% sure I know what I will see, but I still want the confirmation of actually seeing it officially posted. Until it is official my mind will continue generating worst case scenarios. For example, what if they invalidate all the tests for that date and I have to take it all over again? What if they lose my scores?

You know, completely sane and rational thoughts. :)

Also, I have been spending two days each week working with ESOL students and I am loving it! Those kids are awesome and so is being able to give a ton of individualized attention due to the smaller classes.

That said, I spent some time this week back in a general education classroom (1st grade) due to CRCT testing and I was reminded just how much I love being with the same kids all day. It will be a tough choice once I graduate.

Lastly, I had a meeting last week about student teaching. You know, my LAST semester of school. Nothing too exciting. ;)

I won't know my exact placement until probably early July, but (obviously) I am really praying for my first choice school and teacher. No matter what happens though I am just so excited to be at this point in my degree program. There was a time when I honestly did not think I would ever finish my degree. I thought becoming a teacher was something that just wasn't possible if I wanted certain other things in my life. It's looking like that just isn't true and I am so thankful.

Just a couple more weeks (3 to be exact) until I am officially done with this semester and on summer break!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papum!

This is a phrase I learned today when my RCIA sponsor texted me just after I left school for the day. Our text conversation went similar to the following:

her: Habemus papum!
me: still don't speak Latin... just tell me if the smoke is white or black. :)
her: white smoke! We have a pope!
me: !!!!!

Ever since Pope Benedict announced his resignation I have been swept up in the wave of curiosity and excitement surrounding the election of the next Pope. The last time it happened was during my senior year of high school when I happened to be studying the artwork of the Vatican in my art history course. It was a cool experience academically, but it didn't really go much further than that since I wasn't Catholic and didn't really know much about what being Pope meant.

Fast forward to today. I have spent months studying about the Catholic faith and preparing for union with the church and feel like I have a much better understanding of who the Pope is and what he represents.

Still, I was not prepared to be so overwhelmed by Pope Francis' address to the people today. He was so humble and so genuine in his words and actions. It made me wish that I could have been there in person even though the size of that crowd made me panic a bit just seeing it on tv. I'm looking forward to seeing what Pope Francis does with his position and which issues he chooses to take on.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I'm teaching in the field all week this week to implement my PTLS project. It's basically half of my grade in three different classes. No pressure. :)

The basic idea is to teach a mini unit on a social studies topic and integrate a literacy standard. My project is about understanding the origin and meaning behind the Iron Curtain. Yesterday the kids were American spies looking at and interpreting Soviet artifacts like propaganda posters and pictures from the gulag. Today we are playing a game to help us understand capitalism vs. communism.

Our grand finale on Thursday will involve watching Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" speech and then creating a wall in the classroom with paper bricks covered in reasons for US and Soviet tensions.

I'm pretty excited about it and hoping the students learn something. After all, that is the point of school.

Yesterday was a bit rough from a classroom management perspective. The kids were just kind of wild and, although I know there were many contributing factors there, I still feel that my lesson may have been ill suited to my particular class. I've tweaked today's lesson and hopefully the students will have a more constructive experience. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

feeling productive

Through a series of interesting events, I found myself with nothing on the schedule for today. It was strange to realize that I had all of this free time to spend as I wish.

Not going to lie... I was seriously tempted to go back to bed and sleep the day away.

Instead, I went to my favorite little coffee shop with my laptop and busted out the last of my lessons for my PTLS (Planning, Teaching, Learning Sample), created a pre-test about the iron curtain, and scooted over to the library to pick up some books for content research on the Cold War.

I'm kind of proud of all the work I got done before 3pm!

There are still more things on my list, but it feels good to power through some of the more daunting tasks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

pushing forward

Yesterday was a rough day for me. The stress of my program and trying to get some projects together played off of a lack of sleep and it got ugly. It was hard to focus in class. It was hard to connect to the passion I have for teaching.

In a word, it was really discouraging.

Today I woke up feeling similar and I had to work hard to make positive choices. I purposely dressed up for class and put on makeup. I stopped for some tea. Then I met with my adviser to finalize my plans for my ESOL student teaching portfolio.

It helped a bit and when I got home I managed to get some work done. I also registered for my certification exam.

I'm still not feeling 100% back on board, but I have to believe that this is just one of those things people deal with while they are nearing completion of a big goal. I just have to trust that this disconnect I am feeling is due to stress.

I took on so much this semester, but I'll make it through.

Friday, February 15, 2013

You really do need to floss

This is your friendly reminder to make sure you are not only brushing your teeth, but FLOSSING them regularly as well. I was at the dentist today (for compliments on my smile and a cleaning, of course) and heard the "you need to floss more" lecture several times from other rooms. While it can be entertaining to hear the excuses, I remember all too well what it feels like to be on the receiving end of those lectures and the consequences of not flossing regularly.

I know what you're thinking...

But if you think you don't have time to floss (5 minutes maximum each night) then you are in for a rude awakening when you have to sit in the dentist chair for hours with your mouth numb while they do a deep cleaning.... or a root canal... or a filling... or various other unpleasant treatments. 

Also, not many people know this, but if you floss regularly your gums will look healthier and the dental hygienist doesn't have to stab you with that sharp pick thing at each visit. It's only used when they feel they need to check for periodontal disease... which you can easily prevent through flossing. I would think most people would prefer less stabbings in their lives.

If you are still not convinced, I have a challenge for you. When you brush your teeth tonight give your mouth a quick floss and then smell the dental floss. If you are not completely grossed out by the nasty smell then I will never ask you to floss again. For the rest of you, I'm willing to bet the smell will be enough to motivate you into establishing a habit.

Keep in mind that water flossers are not as expensive as they once were. They are a great option for those of us who feel incredibly awkward trying to get to those back teeth with that tiny string wrapped around our fingers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent and other new-ish adventures

For those who were not aware, today is Ash Wednesday - the beginning of the Lenten season.

Over the last several years this day has not held much significance for me. I did not really pay much attention to lent or anything having to do with church. The truth is, even though I spent a lot of my younger days involved in church- teaching Sunday school, participating in weekly bible study, attending youth group, going on mission trips -  I hit a spiritual dry spell once I moved out on my own. I met people with radically different beliefs, sometimes none at all. I experienced new situations and feelings and I found myself really questioning my beliefs for the first time. The new life I wanted to live, and the people I had come to care for and wish to be accepted  by, did not fit within the beliefs I brought with me into this new phase of my life. So, I distanced myself from the church and rationalized my choices until I didn't feel guilty about them.

This year is different though.

You see, this year Steve and I are really embracing Lent and all that it means as candidates for confirmation within the Catholic church.

To keep an incredibly long story slightly more brief, I have felt a tug back to the church since leaving Savannah. In dealing with my issues I realized I wanted to get back that spiritual relationship I threw away when I started college. It felt like a really important piece to the puzzle once I began receiving physical and emotional healing of my various ailments. Unfortunately, none of the churches I visited felt right... they didn't feel like home the way it did back in middle and high school. I would come home angry and upset after the services and Steve didn't even want to attend with me because he felt so uncomfortable. 

The anger and discomfort wasn't even due to dealing with our baggage. That would have been understandable. Many times I just wholeheartedly disagreed with what the preacher had to say!

After seeing me come home so many times disappointed, Steve suggested the Catholic church. I was hesitant for many reasons... not the least of which being the experiences of friends of mine who are Catholic dealing with their own issues within the church. In the spirit of open mindedness, we tried it out and we were surprised by how much we didn't hate it.

We began the process of inquiry back in August and have been attending RCIA classes. We met with one of the deacons of the church to discuss our questions and anxieties about joining the church. We have been reading the Catechism and studying the teachings of the church. I have had coffee dates with my conversion sponsor once a week lasting hours on end due to my many many questions on theological issues present in the church. There have been debates and tears and all sorts of awkward moments since we jumped in at the deep end in August.

At the end of the day, with the help of some friends, Steve and I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic church is the place for us to rebuild our spiritual relationships and raise our family. So, now that we have the basic information and understandings of the church, we will go through some rites this weekend before entering into the final weeks of classes and getting confirmed at the Easter vigil mass. Catholic Lent is a bit different than what I have experienced in the past. The no meat on Fridays thing kind of threw me if we're being honest. But, we've got plans to attend a fish fry or two and I've been pinning recipes so we will survive.

Steve has chosen to give up meat on Wednesdays as well for his Lenten sacrifice. I have chosen to give up ice cream and replace my slightly trashy chick lit/ brain candy reading with some books on theology of the body borrowed from my sponsor. 

If you don't mind, please be praying for us as we go through this transition. We know not everyone will feel supportive of this choice, but it is what we feel is best for our family.

In thanks to the many Catholic bloggers who have offered some interesting perspectives over the last few months, I'm going to link to a favorite blog's "Little Holy Days" linkup. Maybe something over there will strike your fancy.

In other news: classes are going well. I'm completely overwhelmed most days, but I think that comes with the whole "last semester of classes" thing. Again, I will survive.