Sunday, September 2, 2012

Focus on Fur babies!

So it has been a crazy month- ok a crazy summer- but within the past month I traveled to Oregon and back, co-taught a week-long Smartboard class with Marsha, threw together my Pinterest-crazed classroom, started a new school year with 50 new fifth graders, went camping in Minnesota, and adopted a new puppy.  Are we crazy?  Yes we are.

You already heard about Portland, and if not- click here.  I hope to write a post soon about Smartboard stuff  and the start of the school year, but for now, let's focus on fun.  Last weekend we drove up to Sakatah Lake State Park in Minnesota to camp with friends and family.  We had a great time!  It has been so long since we had gone camping!  We took Bailey of course, who was able to reunite with his first love and soul sister, Daisy.
Camping with Sam, Josh, Jolleen, Erin and the Howk Family!
Bailey and Daisy- 8/12
As some of you know, we were saddened to find out that Bailey's removed tumor was considered cancerous. :( We will have to wait it out to see if the cancer returns, but until then we are choosing to think positive and focus on the future! He has recovered from his surgery and is back to running the trails every night, playing with his cousins Spike and Sanchi almost everyday, and is getting regular dose of being a ridiculously spoiled and pampered dog.  Can you tell? 
Bailey's camping throne
After our camping trip we had an unexpected turn of events, and her name is Ginger!  An opportunity fell into our laps and we fell in love with this little lady!  We welcomed her with open arms into our family, although it was much sooner than I thought we would be ready to welcome another pet into our lives after our loss this summer. But I am happy she is here, and I am in love.
All tuckered out... 
Pretty girl!
Bailey just looks thrilled. 

Welcome Ginger!!!

Portland or Bust!

Multonomah Falls, Portland, OR
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to travel out west to Portland, Oregon.  I was out there once as a kid to visit my mom's brother and family, but I have been long overdue for a visit.  Just last year, my friends Steph and Chris moved to Portland from LA and this beautiful Pacific Northwest location was the perfect backdrop for our annual Miami friends college reunion.

Coming off an exhausting two week trip from Italy and coming home to loads of bad news- our dog Kona passed away and then three days later found out our other dog, Bailey, had emergency surgery to removed a burst spleen, which we found out was cancer. On top of all of that, a new school year was rapidly approaching in a week, and I felt like my classroom still needed a complete makeover. Although this trip was planned for months, I was guilt-ridden as to whether or not I should leave my family during such a tumultuous time.  After some emotional days and nights, Sam convinced me that it was ok to leave, visit friends and family, and take time to have some much-needed fun with my best friends.

I departed for Portland on a Tuesday and spent two days with my Uncle Dave- my mom's brother- Aunt Kathy and my cousin Katie. We had a great time!  We ventured out on a road trip through the beautiful wooded area of Portland, visiting Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge, and crossing the river into Washington for a lovely lunch by the river.

The Columbia River Gorge

Multnomah Falls
On the second day, we ate the awesome McMenamin's Kennedy School!  If you are in Portland, go here.  It is the coolest place- an old turn-of-the-century school- remodeled to serve as an entertainment venue- a hotel which includes a great restaurant with an outdoor courtyard, a movie theater, several bars, and more.  It is a very unique place with hallways sporadically decorated with local artwork.

Hallways of the Kennedy School 
We then met a group downtown for the Portland Underground tour, which was very interesting since I really knew nothing about the history, old buildings, and the underground tunnels beneath this progressive city!
Uncle Dave and Aunt Kathy on the Portland Underground Tour! 

After our downtown tour, I met my girlfriends just in time for another epic Miami Reunion! A group of about 8 ladies (and don't forget our Miami men!), some of my closest friends are from my college days.  We are quite a crew!  Sometimes I wonder what forces of nature brought us all together in that "hidden corridor" of Symmes Hall of Miami University.  We all are very different individuals, but compliment each other so well.  We are like pieces of a puzzle that fit together so perfectly.  Sometimes I think they know me better than I know me.  Now, 15 years after we met as strangers, most of us have stayed very close and connected despite the fact that we live all over the country.  There are friends of this group who reside in Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, LA, San Francisco, and Oregon. When we get together- hopefully once per year- it is just like old times.  It feels like home.
All of my girls at the Box Social, Portland, OR (and Chris too!) 
As we gathered at Chris and Steph's new house, we geared up for a weekend full of fun outdoor adventures- just my style!  The first day we were there we hit Cascade Brewing Company where I tried my very first sour beer.  Awesome.  I was amazed that there was actually a type of beer I had not tried.  Sour, fruity, and good.
Sour Beer! 
We also took an easy hike through a park where we had a distant view of the local volcanoes from the top- Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helen's were all visible from the top of the trail!  Here are some pics from our hike...

Eli looking HOT. 
Karen, Betsy, Steph, Abby, and Eli
Karen, Laurie, and Betsy
Steph and Eli
What a view! 

We even enjoy the ride over...
Later that night we had a great time on the Brew Cycle!  These are popping up in many cities, but this was my first experience and it was quite a good time!  It is basically a giant cycle, steered by a sober employee, while we pedal to three local microbreweries.  Steph had even prepared a songlist featuring the songs from our old-school college days!  We were able to connect our ipod to their speaker system and jam out as we pedaled down the streets of Portland.  So much fun! Two of the microbreweries we stopped at included Lucky Labrador and Bridgeport Brewing.
Our limo for the night!
Steph and Bets
Laurie on The Brew Cycle
Karen, Steph, and I at Lucky Labrador 
A Portland shout out to Iowa... 
Abby and Betsy at Bridgeport Brewing
Up to no good... 
We even had some hula hooping fun on the streets of Portland! 

The following day we walked to Pine State Biscuits for breakfast.  Unique and awesome.  Get there early. I had this delicious andouille sausage corn dog with spicy mustard.  Hell yeah!  That is what I call a breakfast!
Andouille heaven...
Then we headed to the Sandy River with tubes in tow to float down the river! Our cooler even had its own tube.  Priorities, y'all.
Seven hot bitches... 
Some other great places we dined were The Jade Teahouse, Pok Pok Noi, as well as The Box Social for a cocktail, and Salt and Straw featured huge portions of unique ice cream flavors.  All were very good!
Delicious meal at The Jade Teahouse
Abby and I at the Box Social 
Overall, it was a wonderfully fun weekend with great family and friends, and I was so glad I went. I miss my girlfriends so much.  

Then it was back to reality... 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More classroom pics

Here are a few more updated pics of my classroom.
Student supply center
So Clutter-free (Thanks to The Clutter-Free Classroom!) 
I love my tree! 
Ignore the ugly dehumidifier...
New organized bookshelves!  
LOVE my SMARTboard! 
Update of the filing cabinet- now with labels! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School....

As always, I am sad to see summer go. However, after a day or two back in my classroom, the creative  juices start flowing quickly! You may or may not know, that elementary teachers are perfectionists, and I am no exception.  We often spend weeks throughout the summer, reorganizing, seeking better efficiency, brainstorming new ideas to help students succeed, investigate initiatives,  furthering our education, and try to decorate our classroom to make it a fun, stimulating learning environment for our students.  

Gone are the days of the lone blackboard.  Since I first started teaching, it has been the unspoken expectation that the walls should be used as much as possible to display not only student work, but should be used as an actual learning space. So we fill every square inch of it whenever possible. 

Normally, I am in and our for weeks preparing for the coming school year.  This year I got into my classroom much later than normal, due to my extremely busy summer and my room was one of the last to have the carpets cleaned. However, once I got in the door, my creative juices started flowing! 

Thanks to Pinterest, I got several projects done and I must say, I love the way my classroom is turning out this year!  Here are some of the projects I stayed in my room to create until the wee hours of the morning! Check it out... 

I was inspired by my friend Nancy, and I "refurbished" this filing cabinet by covering the drawers in material and using spray adhesive to anchor it to the edges and back of the drawer. (I didn't trust myself with spray paint and couldn't find any fun contact paper...) I think it turned out pretty well, and it beats the ugly brown eyesore!  I plan to attach labels on top of the material.  This worked better than trying to cut a hole for the label below.  It just didn't look "clean" enough for me.... 
I was on a roll... 
I got this idea from my friend, Marsha (Yet another teacher/Pinterest-addict).  I simply used borders to create a place directly on my whiteboard to write homework for students to copy into their planners and agendas everyday.  Thanks to my Smartboard, I find that I use my whiteboard very little anymore anyway... 
This is a cart that houses all of my board games and manipulatives.  It looked very cluttered, and I wanted to give it a clean, organized look.  I chose to "cover" the games with a curtain of material, anchored by Scotch heavy-duty double-sided tape and a border. It can easily be moved aside to allow student access. 
I also had these big ugly brown cabinets that are about twenty years old.  I got tired of looking at them and also wrapped them in material, adhering them with Elmer's spray adhesive.  Love it! 
Do not spray to close or you will get "wet" spots such as these... Spray evenly from a few inches away! 
I also had ugly brown sink doors.....  not anymore! 
I have very few places to display student work.  I have one bulletin board, which is already in use and my walls are concrete block so little to nothing sticks to them well.  After some thought, I decided to turn another section of my outdated whiteboard into a magnetic display board.  I did this by taping lightweight material to the board with clear packaging tape and then taped a border around the edge.  I plan to use magnets on clothespins to display student work on the board!  A creative use of resources! 
I have continued my camping theme for a second year in a row.  Thanks to a friend, I also rediscovered, where I found some awesome products from The Clutter Free Classroom, which is on the way.  I will post again soon with some of this awesome stuff and more pictures of ideas for the classroom soon!