Thursday, November 13, 2014

The WHY...

My administrators asked us to write a simple statement declaring why we chose our profession.  This seems like a pretty cliche task.

We are exactly 6 days away from Thanksgiving break.  We are looking a little haggard, tempers slightly shorter, peers more annoying, emails increasing, etc., etc., etc.

So this felt like a small relatively mindless task I could produce in moments, during the commercials of reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

I found that I turned the TV off and all my attention was on the reflection of my choice to be an educator.  I wish this was a required essay for student teachers and then we could mail them back to them after they had been teaching for 5 years, then 10 , and 15years in the trenches.  To see the changes in who we have become as the potters of the clay we mold.  My response to "The Why" is as follows:

I am addicted.  I am driven by the moments when my young scientists arrive to a conclusion that had previously been an enigma.  I am motivated to see the growth as their dendrites form pathways from trying new and interesting things.  I am fascinated by the struggled and frustrated faces trying their best and busting through the ceilings they create for themselves or have been placed upon them by others.  I am infatuated with the failure of lessons with the promise of a new idea waiting to be implemented.  I am renewed by the sweet smiles of excitement at the beginning of each bell.  I am addicted to falling in love with a new batch of scientists each year and fostering a relationship that makes me tearful on the last day of school.  I have been in a classroom for almost 2,000 school days and I have yet to break the addiction, I refuse to find sobriety in a job that is less important than molding the minds of young people.

To my fellow educators I wish you a snow day, coffee in real coffee mugs, warm fireplaces, time with family, bellies full of home cooked meals, and homes filled with laughter this season.

Rest and rejuvenate your souls, minds, and bodies, our work is hardly over and the desks will be filled with promise and hope.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Leadership Training: Days 3 &4

These past two training days certainly appealed to me so very much!  Number crunching and geeking out on data.

I love numbers because they are not up for interpretation, negotiation, or emotions.  It is what it is and there is not much you can refute about facts based on numbers.  I LOVE IT!  So these two days looked at using data to guide instruction just about had me standing in my chair shouting in true baptist form "Preach It, Brother!".  All decisions in your classroom should be purposeful, intentional, and prioritized.

I enjoy structure.  It allows me to run an effective classroom with policies and procedures that create an environment for my students to be successful.  However, there are times that I neglect the simple tasks.  So one of my largest struggles is expressing the WHY to my team, students, and even myself at times.  But really when I thought about it is the most simplest of truths.  Why we do EVERYTHING in our classrooms is so that all children can learn and grow to their full potential.  The team planning, organizing of supplies, purchasing of materials, allowing for controlled chaos, and the like are all for the kids who just hasn't got it quite yet, need the additional challenge, or a new way to look at something.

Looking at data has always be a pleasurable task for me.  Even when my scores are at an all time low I feel such great hope in them.  They tell me where to go next with my kids, if instruction was effective, and what is our greatest strength/weakness.  At its very essence it is purposeful, intentional, and prioritized.

So to help beef up my team's planning I will be instituting some new techniques.  We will begin using a UbD (Understanding by Design) template to really delve into what the state requires of our students.  Here is the template.

In addition we will be following a new agenda so that our planning is purposeful, intentional, and prioritized.  Are you seeing a theme?

Before planning teachers submit all of their great lessons and resources to a common area so that we can look at what we already have access to and evaluate what needs they would fill and the instructional gaps that still need to be filled.

Below is our planning guide.  I will write a blog following up on this process.  If you see any areas that could be changed be sure to email me so that I can put that on our next attempt at this style of planning.

5th Grade Science
Earth Science Extended Planning

Planning Frame
·         We Will unpack the TEKS and align instruction to fulfill the TEKS and ensure success for all students.

·         I Will evaluate lesson components presented in planning to see if they meet the needs of my students through regular instruction, extension of learning, or intervention.

Re-establish Team PLC Meeting Norms

Why are we here?

Celebration related to the Why.

Norms for Presenting Lessons
1.       Presenter: hand out paper copies or direct team to location of your artifact (1 min.)
2.       Presenter: tell the gist of the lesson component (2 min.)
3.       Presenter: How would you use this piece in your classroom (1 min.)
4.       Presenter: supplies needed to complete this lesson (1 min.)
5.       Team members: “I likes” related to the resource and the TEK it intends to fulfill (2 min.)
6.       Team members: “I wonders” possible considerations or adjustments to component presented to meet the needs of your students (2 min.)
7.       Team will make notes for their own reference and personal planning time and place item into the Case Study Matrix. (1 min.)

Based on Our Planning, Our Next Steps Are…
1.       Possible Materials Needed:

2.       Additional Lessons/ Resources Needed:

3.       Professional Development:

Parking Lot (space to write down your thoughts while everyone is presenting their lesson ideas):

Case Study Matrix

Readiness or Supporting
Data based on Pre-Assessment for this TEK
1st Period:
3rd Period:
4th Period:
5th Period:
What is it we expect students to learn?

How will we know when they have learned it?

How will we present this material?

How Will we Respond when they don’t learn it?

How will we respond when they already know it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Keepin' Up with the Jones' in Suburbia

So here it is.  Let's get really open and honest.

I live in a nice neighborhood.  Certainly not starter homes but not mansions either.  We have a nice school down the street.  We have community pools and several other nice amenities.  A typical nice suburbia neighborhood.

When I changed schools to be in the district in which I live and for my boys to attend the neighborhood school I envisioned something along the lines of an updated version of Ward and June Cleaver.  Normal families with normal jobs.  Normal kids with normal evening activities.  Go to church on Sundays.

Some of that is true for every family and maybe even all of it for others.

Here is what I have learned in roughly 6 weeks of attending various activities in my daily life.

  1. My pastor is right.  It is harder to be a Christian in Suburbia than in a far off deserted place with minimal resources.  The temptations to find things to fill your soul are endless.  When you have nothing but God you tend to spend a lot more time with him as opposed to random activities that give the allusion that your family "has it all".  I find it more of a struggle to come to HIM now in a better financial and living situation than when I was a single mom living on frozen chicken nuggets.  We try to manage everything.  Especially the things out of our control.
  2. School parent meetings.  When you are a teacher but attending as a parent you are in a very sticky situation.  You are there to be an involved and concerned mother.  Prepared to host parties, cut out laminated posters, and collect box tops.  As a teacher you watch the blood bath that is crazy parents and you have to fight every urge to not come across the table and choke the other mother who does nothing more than live on her elliptical machine that faces the front window.  It is the real Desperate Housewives.  If you enjoy that kind of brain candy go volunteer at your kids' school, you will be in diabetic coma by the end of it.
  3. Problems.  Every one has them.  What goes on behind the door of a two story stone faced brick home is no different then the government apartments down the street.  Families are in turmoil and struggling.  Food, finances, time at work, time at home, raising children, and activities are being juggled behind every closed door to some degree or another with varying severity.
  4. Teaching is hard.  No matter where you are.  The emails don't stop.  The meetings are regular and irregular all at the same time.  Kids are learning.  Documents are piling up.  There are challenges everywhere.  The grass is not necessarily greener on either side.  It is just a different kind of grass.  Every yard has its issues and a beautiful shaded part.
  5. Change will grow and break you.  For some reason I feel like this year has been a bit of an upheaval in our lives.  My new job and the boys starting a new school.  I feel completely right in the decision to change both of those last year.  Sometimes waiting to see God's plan is frustrating.  The waiting game has never been anything I am good at.  I am by nature a very impatient person.  Most of the time in my life when bigger changes were made I felt broken during the process.  Struggling and drowning.  Waiting to understand the journey but in the end He always reveals to me exactly my purpose.  Often times waiting for that moment takes every ounce of my being, but my hope is in Him and His plan.
  6. I am imperfect.  Not just a little imperfect but completely flawed.  I think we all are.  But my intense desire to keep up with the Jones' at work, at home, at my children's school, in my craft room, etc....  The list goes on.  I need to stop trying to kill myself to attain perfection but be very judicious with the time and talents I have and reach out to others with varying time and talents to supplement my own short comings.  I hate asking for help.  I think because of the years I was pulling myself up by the boot straps I try to be very independent.  Maybe I should work on that.  Along with an ever growing laundry list.
  7. My fat girl habits are coming back.  I eat and drink way too much coffee when I am stressed.  For that very reason I will be enjoying a liquid diet next week to remind my brain and body that we all need to be on the same team fighting for the same cause.
So that is all for this evening.  My postings have been sporadic at best.  Life has caught up with me but the cathartic-ness of blogging is ever so sweet when it happens.  To all my other go-getters and peeps trying to #GetOnMyLevel, keep at it your life and the ones around you are worthy of your efforts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leadership, new and improved

Last year I was an epic failure in the way I tried to lead the science department.  Sure there were somethings I did right but for the most part... Epic failure.  When I took my new job I was under the impression that I would be just a member of the team not the leader.  I was thrilled!  No responsibility beyond myself.  Failures and successes would be of my own.  Wrong.  I found out on move in day that I had been chosen to lead my new teammates into the battlefield of education and win victory over standardized testing.

I was asked to join a PLC leadership training.  Two days to figure out why I sucked as a leader previously and become a new and emproved version.  I immediately felt like the speaker was talking specifically and almost exclusively to me.  Here are a few of my take aways from those two days.

1. Don't try and perfect a plan.  The Wright brothers made a plan and almost immediately executed the plan with the full expectation the plane might not fly YET.  All members of the team were expected to arrive to work with five replacement parts for the aircraft and ready to crash planes.  I loved perfecting a good plan but rarely felt prepared for the aftermath of the crash because I was confident in "the plan". This year I will work with my battle buddies (my teammates) to put plans into actions and crash planes with replacement parts at the ready, even prepared to fly an incomplete plane and assemble mid air.

2. Don't try to move someone who has made up their mind.  It is the quiet thinkers that need the most encouragement.  They are sitting on the fence deciding on the right course of action.  They are ready to make a change and just need to see enough of a benefit to make the move to join you in your desire to make a plan, crash some planes, and prepare to fix them.  I wasted countless hours hating and complaining about the steadfast rocks within my habitat that I never noticed the sweet birds on the fence waiting to make up their minds.  I will look to the fence first from now on.  The rocks decide to be birds once they realize they are alone and if they don't... Well heck you are a bird and have flown away from the rock anyways.

3. Expectations must be outlined and norms set.  I have rules that I enforce in my classroom with ease but have never thought once to have norms in a meeting.  Stupid!  Teachers make the worst students. For real, stick me next to my bestie in a staff development and good luck getting anything productive out of either one of us.  Setting norms as a group creates comfortable perimeters for all and allows for the most productivity.  I will be setting norms in my classroom this year with my kids and with my teammates so we have the most time to crash planes.

4. I might have the title but we are equally yoked in the team and all have responsibilities to one another.  In the past I have felt that if one of the teachers I was leading didn't have the scores they had hoped for then it was my fault, I had not lead them or our students to success.  We kept our scores a top government secret and often times wore them as scarlett letters of shame.  In the words of my mother-in-law, "it is, what it is".  We will own it ALL as a unit.  No Teacher Left Behind.  We are a team and we will succeed and fail as such.  One of my teammates said that we should get Phoenix tattoos if our kids score 95% or better.  Being a team player I agreed and added to that I would also get my teammates names on the Phoenix.  I agree to the goal but mildly regret adding my aggreance to the tattoo.  My teammates get me so fired up about the work we will be doing together that I get carried away.  I fear I will end up getting coaxed into other outlandish things throughout this year.

All in all I am so blessed to be given another chance at leadership.  We have several more leadership training sessions and I am so excited to hear more ways to get my battle buddies and I closer to our Phoenix tattoo. To my previous teammates... I am sorry I failed you and I am grateful for the lessons I learned in that journey the hard way.  Best wishes my fellow educators to a week filled with meeting and chaos.  Hug your battle buddies this week and get prepared to crash planes.  The children with be here ready for a first class seat in one week!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My New Habitat... before pics

Desk Area
cabinet area
white board
This year I will be starting my 10th year of teaching.  I have taught in 4 districts, and 5 schools.  That is a lot of mobility.  I know that.  Every move I have made has been to put my family in a better position financially, geographically, and/or logistically.  This year I asked God specifically to use my family.  So that when we pass on we are used up and He was able to use our gifts to His glory.  My church family has so many amazing things going on in my hometown.  I know that my spiritual gifts can be put to use in those movements.  My children have never attended their home campus because logistically it was a nightmare for Stud Muffin and I to get them to and fro.  So in May I applied for a science position at my local intermediate school.  Ironically, I attended this intermediate school as a student.  When I interviewed for the position I was not completely convinced that I was able to convince these administrators to hire me.  I felt like the interview went well but I was sweating through my floral dress the whole time.  My car refused to start in the parking lot and carpool commenced upon trying to depart from my interview.  I just wanted to get home and get out of my sweaty dress.  I felt like that was God's way of saying "Not this time kid." Truly, I was fine with that.  I LOVED my old school.  The principal, hands down was the best administrator I had ever worked for.  I was part of the family in that school in a way I had never felt at any other school I had been in.  I was comfortable and doing good work there.

teacher work area
I had not even pulled back into my neighborhood which is within a few miles of the school when I was called and offered the job.  I asked the principal if I could have the weekend to discuss the opportunity with Stud Muffin before I made my decision.  As my honey cooked out hamburgers I watched my boys play in the back yard as we discussed the possible job change and how that could effect our family.  A group of boys rode by our house on bikes.  The look in Beans' eyes was of utter longing.  Longing to have friends in our neighborhood, bike rides, sleep overs, and trips to the pool with friends from school.  The decision was made.  I called Monday to accept the position.

NOT my new class pet!!
I was surprised by the timeless appearance of my new campus upon moving in.  The school, for the most part, had not changed much from when I had attended  the school almost two decades ago. With the exception of my very first job, I have been blessed to be in a brand new school.  Seriously, every classroom I have ever taught in has been no more than 5 years old at most.  Pristine walls, new desks, matching chairs, and stain free carpet were the makings of my domains.  I spent hours looking for the best way to attach anything to painted cinder block.

glass cabinets
Because of my love for labels and organization I immediately went through the room and supply closet with a fine toothed comb and another teacher who has quickly become one of my favorite co-workers for his wit and sarcasm.  I have met my two other teammates and have fallen into budding friendships with them as well.  I am feeling more at home in my new habitat.

I miss the pristine quarters of my old school.  The feelings of comfort I found with in the campus.  The deep friendships I had developed with my peers.  The familiar sounds of the building and the children with in it.  I miss the steadfastness of my old principal.

other half of glass cabinet area, the two most friendly janitors ever
Despite my ability to make decisions easily and carry out a plan quickly, this change has surprised me.  I will continue to teach science and be in a leadership role.  The job for me has not changed much over the past 6 years.  But something about this place feels different.  I am intrigued by the possibilities and the newness of this old school.  I learned how to play the clarinet and tuba in this building.  I got in my first fight in this building.  I played basketball in this building.  I ran laps in the bus loop of this building.  I completed my dyslexia classes in this building.  I served my one and only Saturday school punishment in this building.  A school that once felt so small to me now feels gigantic.

Stay tuned as I navigate the waters in this new adventure and prepare for the school year ahead.  I am where God wants my family and I to be and the anticipation of what this year holds is exciting!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Arriving and Departure

I am starting my 10th year teaching.  I am have always taught science, so to stay true to my form I will describe todays setting as I instruct my students to describe an observation in a way that someone could see what you see in their mind's eye by just reading your words.  So here is my attempt.

I picked up my Grandpa Cozy from his house this morning.  The sun was coming up over the houses and he and my Granny are sitting on the porch in their metal patio set.  Grandpa is dressed in all fleece, grey fleece pants and black long sleeve shirt.  He looks small and frail.  He still towers over me but looks like his flesh is hanging onto his bones.  I remember as a child him having a small beer belly from eating fried fish that he caught on his boat in Lake Texoma and drinking Coors from the old tan colored cans.  His body shows the years.  We get in the car with a bag of neccessary items for his comfortable travel.  I would equate it to a bag I would take with me when my sons' were small.  He walks with a cane at a cautios pace.

We drive and talk about everything from the lake being 20 feet low and the type of engine in my minivan.  Interupted by only the GPS directions coming from my phone.  He tells me that the PET scan is only of his chest.  That either it is a serious lung infection or cancer.  He says if it is cancer "then it is all over."  He has beat cancer before.  When I was a teenager.  I remember hearing the fear in my Dad's voice when he told us about it then.  I heard that fear in his voice this week when he asked me to take Grandpa for his scan this week.

We are in the waiting room.  Grandpa fills out pages of paperwork.  I fill in his name and date and leave him just the signatures.  He squints through his bifoculs to read the fine print.  He is the most well read and intelligent man I have ever known and probably will ever know.  His photographic memory allows for decades of information to reside within his small frame.  I see his gold rimmed teeth from dental work done long ago.  The lighting is dim and the dark shades on the window allow for little natural light.  The furniture is dark heavy wood and beautiful with floral print and accompanied by tall backed leather chairs with metal studds lining the outline of them.  Magazines.  Lots of magazines covering every genre.  The one of local pets looking for their forever homes and the one on caring for cancer strike me the most.  They beg for my attention.  Grandpa talks nervously.  He tells me that my husband and I are a good match.  I trust his intuition.  He has been in love with with my Granny for over 53 years, with 3 wars, numerous deployments, 3 kids, and moves around the country that mirror nomadic native americans.  The music is the same as what plays on the speakers at Massage Envy.  It is soft but draws your attention.  I am sure it is supposed to soothe the patients and family.  It is failing however well intentioned it may be.

We continue to talk of whatever strikes my Grandpa of conversation worthy.  He then tells me that one of his Vietnam friends had gotten a grave prognosis recently.  The gentleman decided that the illness would take too long so he took a gun and shot himself.  I looked at Grandpa in complete shock.  I sternly look him in the eye and say "Well that isn't an option".  I reasure him that he has beaten grave prognosises before and that this time could be no different.  And in the next breath, before I can catch my thoughts, I tell him that if he doesn't that it is okay too because he has lived an incredible life and it is what it is.  He agrees and tells me after this he is taking me to lunch, my choice.  I am not hungry.

They call Grandpa back.  I walk him to the door and hand his care over to a nice young man.  I give him Grandpa's bag and kiss him on the cheeck and tell him to be nice to the nurses.

A woman in her 40's comes out with a gauze wrap on her wrist and sips on hot chocolate given to her by the receptionist.  She goes out to her car to get her jeans so she can change and be ready to go to work.  They hand her a set of CD's and said the doctor will receive a copy but these are incase he wants a hard copy.  She asks if the doctor will call her or if this was it.  The look of hope in her eyes is the same as a sweet dog when families look upon her in the shelter cage.  The nurse tells her that the doctor will call her soon.  The family walks past the dogs cage and saddness sets in.  Same for the lady.  A while later, a young man in his 20's comes out with his messenger bag.  Filled with books, iPad, and dangling car keys flopping over the side of the bag.  His wrist is bound as well.  He is dressed in green plaid lounge pants and green shirt from Canada.  He is chipper as he drinks his hot chocolate.  He receives his CD's and exits shortly there after.  

There is now a young man in his late 30's here.  Brown leather flip flops, blue striped swim trunks, and blue polo.  Black glasses perched atop his head.  He has a wedding band on.  He is accompanied by his father.  He strikes me as the italian mofioso type.  His laptop cords are stored in a Crown Royal bag.  I pray for him and the two other patients, and especially my grandpa.

We come into this world and leave it much in the same way.  Bags filled with neccessary comfort items, anxious relatives in waiting rooms, nurses delivering both good and bad news.  Waiting.  Waiting to hear if we will bring our loved ones home, ways to help them be comfortable after procedures, round bellies that shrivel with the absence of life.  Time is short.  The delivery waiting room is filled with nervouse laughter.  The PET scan waiting room is filled with hurried phone calls and silent prayers.

May God answer the silent prayers of these patients and their families and grant us all peace and comfort in receiving news, regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One year post op check up! Body Composition Analysis

My doctor, Dr. Stephen Hamn, the stomach slayer!

The pics at the doctor's office when I was approved for surgery

Statistics of the 1 year Body Composition
Body Composition Analysis
1/16/13- 2 months pre-op
3/6/14- 1 year post-op
BMI (body mass index)
BMR (energy expanded to maintain normal function at rest)
1968 calories
1476 calories
Fat Mass
141 lbs.
47 lbs.
Fat % of total body Weight
Fat Free Mass
121.51 lbs.
103.51 lbs.
Total Body Water
89 lbs.
76.01 lbs.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Non-food Presents for Motivation

We are a culture that celebrates everything with food.  Birthday and Weddings cakes are a staple.  Family BBQ's in the spring and summer.  PTA's that stock the teacher's lounge with goodies.  Its all done in kind gestures but good gravy...that's a lot of food that is not exactly nutritious.  Too keep my eye on the prize I bought myself a bracelet at the beginning of my sleeve journey.  I bought the bracelet before my surgery.  For every ten pounds lost I bought a bead.  I focused on finding a symbol of something that was an NSV (No Scale Victory) that I accomplished with those ten pounds lost.

blue stone bead- 10 lbs. lost during pre-op diet, bead is the birthstone for March, the month I had my surgery

diamond ring- first 10 lbs. lost post op, able to get my wedding rings back on, hadn't been able to wear them for years

pink flamingo- still on liquid diet, found the wonderful world of Thin Ice snowcones from Bahama Buck's

big blue stone bead- color of my first ever fitted ladies tee, my spirit shirt for my son's baseball team

50 beads- that was for my halfway point goal of losing 50 lbs

pink stone bead- color of my new tennis shoes, wore my previous pair out with all the walking I did

boot- able to wear those cute riding boots that are so popular, I was never able to get boots on my calves before that

pearl crown bead- able to get my white bath towel (not bath sheet) to wrap all the way around me and close after a shower

paint pallet- Stud Muffin and I repainted every bit of trim in our house

cross- but for the grace of God go I, my weight could have killed me easily, 100 lbs. gone

white stone square bead- for the first pair of Miss Me jeans I was able to wear, from a size 20 to a 10, love my sparkle butt jeans!

Find a way to celebrate your success without food.  What better way than jewelry?!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One Year Surgiversary- 365 days and 119 pounds gone for good

Weekend before Surgery
One Year Post-Op

A year ago today I had the gastric sleeve surgery.  It has been 365 days of trying to figure out who I am and deciding who I wanted to be.  I know it sounds ridiculous considering I am 30 years old and that I should have been figuring that out before now but for the prior years of adulthood I have been hiding behind my excessive weight.

Food was my drug of choice.  I used it to celebrate, fight back emotions, and in general cope with life.  As I look at the photos side by side I am amazed at the transformation.  Honestly, until today I have not looked at the pictures side by side.  It is humbling, shocking, scary, heart breaking, and joyous all at the same time.  I don't recognize the woman on the left but I don't see the woman on the right in the mirror.

In this year I have found my own sense of style in clothing that does not hide my body behind layers and larger sizes.  I have worn dangle earrings and cut my hair short.  I always felt like dangle earrings drew too much attention to my face and that super short hair made my face look fatter.  In a year I went from huffing down the hallway at school to being able to complete a 5k in less than an hour with energy to spare.  From insecure of my attractiveness to completely confident that I am worthy of my husband's flattering compliments.  I went from trying to teach from a chair to walking a trench in the carpet around my classroom.

I have learned how to channel my emotions into something other than carbs and sugar.  I have become more open about my past and my present in hopes that I might help someone else along the way.  I took a huge leap of faith and gained so much.

From the bottom of my heart I owe so much gratitude to a multitude of people.  I appreciate God opening the doors and windows through which this was possible.  For my amazing husband who did nothing but encourage me through this whole process.  To my boys who were patient in my transition to healthier eating for the whole family.  My parents have been hugely supportive from my beloved ice cream maker to encouraging words.  My extended family has been so encouraging through this change also.  My in laws have been so uplifting in this desire to change my health.  To My Jennifer, I can't say enough how grateful I am for our friendship.  My school family has done nothing but encourage me through kind words, workouts in my classroom after school, answering random health questions, and in general just flat out loving me.

I went from type 2 diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol to a young at heart and smokin' hot bod of a 30 something mother of two boys and wife of a Stud Muffin.  This has been one of the hardest years of my life in dealing with all the demons that made me feel like it was acceptable to hide inside my own body.  I wouldn't change it for the world.  I would wake up every single day and make the same decision to alter my body to get what I have gotten in return.  I have added years to my life and a new sense of self.  For these 365 days and 119 pounds gone I have been blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Baby Quilt

I made 5 inch blocks of blue jeans and cut out a hexagon from the centers.  I cut 5 inch blocks of chosen fabric to go between the jean blocks.  I used 4 1/2 in blocks to go in the hexagon windows that I sewed down with a quarter inch seam allowance.  Sew blocks together and quilted with X's across the fabric blocks and the tied center of hexagons with embroidery floss.  Super easy and relatively quick compared to other quilts. I made it for a sweet friend who is expecting her first grandchild in the summer.

6 years of wedded bliss...making major love history

Hard to believe it has been six years with my Stud Muffin.  In that time we went from a single mom and a bachelor into a happy family, moved into our first home, had a baby, moved into a bigger house, grown closer spiritually, closed gaps financially, endured sickness and health.  These years have FLOWN by.  I feel like we are always on the go.  So for the next few moments I am going to reflect a bit on the crazy fast road we have been on.

I knew God made Stud Muffin for me on our very first date.  Something about the way he looks at me still melts me like a popsicle on the fourth of July.  I love how we make up words to songs to make each other laugh.  I hate how he constantly has music playing, but the absence of it would break my heart.  He loved me at my heaviest weight and loves me still at my smallest.  His affections for me have not changed even though my appearance has.

He has supported me in all my dreams and is not afraid to pull the reins back when I am going too far out.  It is not that I am submissive to his authority (I struggle with the word submissive) but more so I am comfortable in his guidance even when I don't agree with his views.  I am certainly more adventurous and loud than he is.  He has more space in the closet because he has more shorts and hoodies than you can shake a stick at.  I like his repetitive sense of style.  He looks smokin' hot in a baseball cap.

I swell with pride when I see him being a father to our sons.  I love how he will hold up the baseball hit stick for the boys on a lazy afternoon while I sit in a lawn chair with Agnes at my feet.  I like how he leans on the fence at Beans' baseball games while he keeps score.

I like sharing with each other the different books we are reading on our Kindles.  I appreciate his passion for reading and history since I am definately the math and science leader of our household.  I am grateful for his willingness to help with housework.  I hate how he trims the bushes back in the
 yard.  Two words...Edward Scissorhands.

Most importantly I am yours and you are mine and I am beyond blessed by that and excited to see what the future years hold for us.  Love you always, SM.

Scrapfest 2014- Spring Edition

I have a dear sweet teacher friend that I have been friends with since 2008.  We met each other during the interview process at our former school district. Shannon and I immediately bonded over our love of scrapbooking. Every year we spend a long weekend together scrapbooking, chatting, and snacking.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.  Her eye for design and risk taking with color inspires me.  Here are some pages of a memorial album I did of my sweet friend, Robby, who was killed in Afghanistan three years ago in April.  It has taken me that long to get to where I could look at those pictures and newspaper articles without crying.  In the darkest part of my life I was able to share with him my secrets and he loved me like a sister through those hard times.  He was the first person I told that I was pregnant with Beans.  I was so afraid of the judgemental looks and harsh words.  He hugged me, kissed my forehead and said "you are strong and will get through this."  That gave me courage to tell others.  Though no one was as kind about the news as he was.  I miss his friendship and sense of humor.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The "Lady Lair" aka my craftroom

Hello, my name is Mrs. G and I am a craftaholic.

During Spring Break my mom got a few days off.  So out of her extreme love for me she helped me clean up and reorganize my "Lady Lair" (Stud Muffin's words not mine) aka my Craftroom. So here is the finished product of an entire days worth of work.

Scrapbooking Oasis!

I use the old desk coils to organize my photos when deciding on scrapbooking page layouts.
This is my carry all tote with all of my essential scrapbooking items.  The adhesive runner is my favorite and is the Scotch one that you can get at Hobby Lobby or Michael's.
I keep all my scraps in a tote under the desk for use on other pages or to hoard them till it is overwhelming and then I donate them to a friend at work who makes a lot of cards or the art teacher for her various class projects.
This is an Ott Light desk caddy and is just about the coolest thing ever.  Great for holding all my sewing notions and has the best light ever.  Big Fan on this product!
This is the slayer of fabric, the queen of thread...this is my Pfaff Hobby 1020.  She is the coolest machine.  The clear attachment is a Sew Steady and gives the feel of a drop down machine without it actually being down inside of a table.  The table itself houses my Great Grandmother's 1970's sewing machine that she bought when she retired.  It was brand new and top of the line.  I believe it sewed nothing more than some doll clothes for my mom's baby dolls if that.  Either way I open up the desk and let her do some sewing on small projects but my Pfaff is my go to quilting work horse.
Random items and signs.  They either are about crafting, being a queen, or pink.  All things near and dear to my heart.
I love patterns!  But they had gotten a little over whelming.  So now I store them in binders in sheet protectors by genre so that I can locate just the pattern I need pretty quickly.  Baskets are filled with fabric by genre: holiday, baby, quilting, tulle and other specialty fabrics.  I also have a whole basket dedicated to just ribbon.
This is my scrapbooking shelf.  Boxes contain stamps, inks, embelishments, fibers, etc.  I also keep photo boxes labeled with each kid's name of photos just of them that I print but end up not using in their scrapbooks.
Three of my favorite memorabilia items.  Shaddow boxes of both Bean's and Chum's coming home from the hospital outfits and then their newborn scrapbooks.  I also have my bouquet that my mom-in-law made for me and my tiara from SM and I's wedding.  Also a coursage from the Bad Prom Run I did with a great friend of mine.
Mom-in-law made the lids to the mismatched glass jars.  I LOVE THEM!  One has buttons, another has Scrabble tiles, and the third has ribbon scraps.  Because if they are in pretty jars its not hoarding...right?!
Paper organized by color and then a basket to help contain pages that I have already started to gather the components to make assembling scrapbook pages quicker.
Super cool Thirty-One organizer helps me keep current patterns and such in one nice and neat place.
This is the very small closet in my craftroom.  The best part is the hanging organizer has sewing projects nicely organized in each of the cubbies.  The top shelf stores batting, filler, retreat rolling totes, etc.
This is my cutting table.  It has two storage shelves which house my quilting kits that I have purchased and a few cutting notions in a basket.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my Lady Lair!  Happy crafting!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I miss my Swedish Fish...

Swedish Fish Candy 2-Ounce Packs: 24-Piece BoxDuring this time of year, testing season for my fellow teachers, I rely heavily on a mass consumption of Swedish Fish candy.

There is something magical inside of them that calm me like an addict getting their fix when they have been detoxing.  Its not good.  I recognize that they are VERY poor food choice for me.  Even though they are a fat free food....

I work primarily with struggling learners.  That is my job.  To take the children who are not learning in the traditional environment and tailor an educational plan that is different for them than their peers.  It is a challenging job and one that I love very much.  I wish that differentiation was a thing in the 80's-90's.  I probably wouldn't have hated school so much.  But the pressure of getting those kids to find success on a standardized test is daunting.  I leave it all on the field/court/classroom every day.  To help in my survival I usually have a 5 lbs. bag of Swedish fish to keep me company all spring long (really I have to buy a new bag every week).

This is my first spring without my beloved fish and I am struggling to maintain a semblance of stability.  How do we let food have such a strong strangling, suffocating, consuming hold on us?

Jennifer and I were talking and I think it boils down to this.  Food is a legal and necessary drug for survival.  It can give you highs, lows, and false sense of security.  However, you must consume food to be able to survive.  Ultimately, not choosing good nutritious food will kill you.

It is a constant battle to make good food decisions.  Surgery did not cure the mental aspect of the disease of obesity.  This week I have been reminded that I might not be showing the physical signs of my disease any longer but in no way am I in remission.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Life Verse...Staying Yoked Up

I remember saying this verse during evening prayer at Episcopal Church camp as a child.

Matthew 11:29-30
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.30"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

There have been so many times in my life that I have struggled through the choices I have made.  The road I was on was of my own choosing and often time I found myself frustrated and in utter despair.  There are times when I would shake my fist in anger at God and question his reasoning for such frustrating and terrifying situations.  When I am honest with myself it is the times that I unyoked myself from God and was determined to pull myself through those dark times that I was the most frustrated.  I would finally get so fed up and anxious that I would ask God to take my burdens and push me through those times that I ever felt any relief.

The only adage of "Misery loves company" is true.  When life got miserable enough I would crave His company and once I finally yoked back up with God the road I was hoeing became much less of a burden.  The work was still hard but is more tolerable when you have an ally to harness up with.

I find myself more convicted to keep those ties with God constant in times of joy and ease because I know that no life is without trials and if I just stay yoked up with him that I am much more prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Art with Food Butts

I found a random canvas in my craft room the other day and felt like being crafty.  So here is what I did...

I had some butts (not sure of what you really call that part of food) of celery, lettuce, and an apple that was going bad cut in half.  I had purchased my Bountiful Basket and had chopped up my veggies so these bit were just going to go in the trash until I felt inspired to do some painting with food.  Just like we did in preschool I used some random paint I had at home and stamped on the canvas with my food butts. :)  I then used a rubber stamp of a cross and stamped the canvas with that as well.  Probably not my most favorite thing I have ever made but I had fun doing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Adopting my dog daughter, Agnes

at the shelter
No lie, I cried and threw a fit like a toddler when Stud Muffin and I found out that Chum was going to be a boy. I had already decided on the name for my embryonic daughter, Lillianne. Her nursery theme was going to be "tea party dress up". Picture it...adorable ruffles, tiny china tea sets perfectly displayed on a shelf on the wall with gorgeous vintage hats hanging below it. Lots of pink. When I saw the sonogram of Chum on the monitor it was hard to deny that we were in fact going to be welcoming another son into the world.  I was so upset that I let my mom and Muffin pick out his bedding.

When I was 26 we had Chum.  By 28 the cervix and uterus were continuing to be drama so we decided a partial hysterectomy was best.  I had my tubes tied at Chum's birth because we were certain that two was enough for us.  But when the news came that hysterectomy was on the horizon I was a bit devastated that the remote possibility of having a child was now gone forever.

I had wanted a dog for our little family since we got our first house our first year of marriage.  Muffin said that the timing was bad and that we just were too busy to have the added responsibility of a puppy.  So I waited for another 2 years.  When Chum was potty trained well I broached the subject again but now with a list of 100 reasons why we should get a dog.  The girls I worked with help me compile what we believed was sufficient enough evidence to support the adoption of a fur baby.  Muffin disagreed.  Finally on April 14, 2012 with my body one month shy of being void of a uterus Muffin agreed to let me look.  I think he could tell that my heart was hurting over no more snugly babies.

I took Chum to the animal shelter in our town.  I had found the cutest dachshund on petfinder named Penny.  And what luck that she was already spayed and doing well with potty training.  They believed she was about a year old.  I figured if this dog was able to handle Chum then she could handle anything.  The two bonded quickly that Thursday afternoon.  I took Conner with me on Friday to the shelter to meet Penny and they immediately enjoyed each others company.  I knew she was the pooch for us.  So I asked if we could take her for the weekend to see how she would do in our home and with the boys outside of the shelter.  The workers actually said that they preferred for people to take the animals for a week or so to see if it was a good match as opposed to taking them and then returning them later to be adopted out again.  Within the first 24 hours I called the shelter and gave them my credit card number over the phone to pay for the adoption because we would not be returning her.  Despicable Me was and still is the most popular movie at our home.  So since she has black fur and is very sweet and playful we decided Agnes was her real name.

She is the princess of our home for sure.  At first Muffin was very stand off with Agnes and would say "I will bond with her on my own terms."  Whatever...she melted his icy exterior and now my Muffin walks my sweet wiener dog on her pink leash with her pink collar and harness (even her poo poo bags are pink) every weekend first thing in the morning.  She has been such a blessing for our family.  She is a companion for my boys in ways that only a dog can be.  She sleeps either in our bed or with Beans in his.  She will sit next to you keeping careful watch when you are sick.  When I am in need of a baby she will lay in my arms like and infant and humor my need for some snuggle time.  She sleeps on a quilt when we are at work and is always happy to see us when we get home.

I think breeder dogs are fine but there is something special about a shelter pup that just exudes appreciation and love.  I might not have a daughter in the traditional sense but I am pretty pleased with my dog daughter.