Posted in Kids, School, Thursday Thoughts

Thursday Thoughts

Hello and Happy Thursday. How is your week going?! We are in that transition to back to school (yay!) which means earlier wake up calls, the hustle and bustle of making lunches and packing backpacks, and the rush of getting out the door. While that all can be exhausting, I’m here for it!

Today, I’m reflecting on the last 355 days at home for virtual learning as I know it’s a time the kids and I will always remember, and this post will be perfect to have those thoughts all in one place.

Virtual Learning:

  • March – May 2020: We all mastered Google Meet and Google Classroom. We lived in two weeks chunks of time while decisions were made at the state and district level about in person learning. Most days, the kids could sleep in before joining their class Google Meet at 10:00. They were on with their teachers for about an hour before completing their work for the day. Even a field trip and field day took place virtually. We missed out on fun events like the school carnival. I heard the sadness in their teachers’ voices as they said goodbye for the summer. None of us realized how long we’d be out of school.
  • August 2020: Back to school was delayed a few weeks, and we started school on August 26 rather than August 12th. Leading up to the first day of school, we drove through the car line at school to pick up materials and meet the teachers from our car while wearing masks. We decided to send the kids to a pod (at my friend Amy’s with their school friends…mostly girls, much to Hayden’s chagrin!) two days a week. “Back to School Night” was held via Zoom.
  • August 2020-March 2021: Synchronous and Asynchronous instruction were the new “buzz words” for the year. We mastered Zoom, Canvas, and Google Classroom. The kids’ school day was much more structured, and they spent most of the morning on Zoom. They had a 1.5 hour chunk of time for lunch and would often play with their friends in the neighborhood or at the school play ground. They would get back on Zoom in the afternoon for the last hour of the school day. Parent/teacher conferences we held via telephone. We lived in bigger chunks of time while waiting for decisions on return to in person learning. The number of school activities the kids missed out on is endless: field trips, lunch bunch, spaghetti/puzzle night, chorus concerts, academic team, clubs, the books fair, and more. January 2021: Their school schedule basically remained the same, but with an earlier start time and a bit more structure with the goal of prepping for a return to in person learning. Late February 2021: We learned that K-2 would begin on February 22 and 3rd-5th grades would start on March 3.

What we thought would be a few weeks in March and April of 2020 turned into months…and almost of a year of learning at home.

Real talk: I actually teared up typing this time line…I can’t believe we’ve made it through this time. There have certainly been ups, downs, learning curves, tears, frustration, and more.

Thankfully, they have amazing teachers who have hosted virtual lunch bunch, dropped off gifts on front porches, met with students individually who were struggling academically, made phone calls home with words of encouragement, waved as we drove through the car line, and so much more.

At the pod, the kids were able to read in groups, play games, bake, have holiday parties, learn about the election process, go roller skating, and experience many more fun activities.

Memories at home learning provided us…

and some things I will miss about at home learning...

  • The kids showing me what they are working on and asking for help.
  • Meals: enjoying leisurely breakfasts and lunches. (Bonus: Hadley now can make a quesadilla and soup on her own. Hayden has mastered heating Spaghetti O’s on the stove and can make a mean grilled cheese!)
  • Hearing their awesome teachers and the sweet replies of their classmates.
  • (also) Hearing Hayden and Hadley’s thoughtful responses when sharing answers with their classes.
  • Friday Chick-fil-A lunch
  • Time outside with them during “recess” and going for walks
  • Flexibility and maximizing our time: I’ve been able to start dinner in the slow cooker at 10:00 am vs 7:00 am, they’ve completed chores on a break, and we’ve been able to schedule ortho appointments during lunch break.
  • Extra Homer snuggles
  • Impromptu play dates during recess or learning at home with friends
  • Pajama pants as suitable school attire!

That being said, it’s time. It’s been 355 days since they’ve walked into their school building. They only have nine weeks left in the elementary school building they’ve attended since kindergarten.

Real talk (again!): I’ve also said that their age during this time has been a blessing. They are old enough to work pretty independently, but are young enough to still need me. I will treasure this experience forever, but I’m also happy to release them to the elementary educational professionals ๐Ÿ˜‰

I asked them both what they will miss about at home learning and why they are excited to return to the building. Here are their responses:

Hayden:

I will miss being at home with Homer all day.

I’m excited to actually be in the school building to learn with my teachers and friends.

Hadley:

I will miss being able to stay in my pjs while learning at home.

I’m excited to see my friends and my teacher in person.

A few photos:

First day at the pod: August 26, 2020

Last day at the pod: March 2, 2021

First day of 5th grade: August 26, 2020

First day of in person learning, 5th grade: March 3, 2021

Back to School Breakfast (again!)

I decided to have another back to school breakfast, and was able to put this together pretty quickly thanks to a trip to The Dollar Tree (thanks, Amy, for the idea!) and a few items from my “Back to School Breakfast tub.

I love these little lunch trays from The Dollar Tree, and I assembled an easy breakfast of donuts, yogurts, Cuties, and juice boxes.

I got them each a little notebook and the “Star Student” tags were perfect for the lunch trays.

Other Back to School Breakfast posts:

When they enter the building, they go through a thermal scanner to have their temperatures taken, there are plastic dividers at their desks, they will eat lunch at their desks, they have to stay with their classes at recess, and some of the their specials teachers will come to them.

I received emails from both kids within the first couple hours of school ๐Ÿ˜‚

Hayden was telling me he’d forgotten his watch, and could I bring it to school (the answer was no) ๐Ÿ˜‚, and Hadley’s email brought tears to my eyes. She said she was so happy to be at school and that her teacher cried happy tears!

Their assistant principal sent me pictures of them at their desks. Hadley looks so happy, and I’m proud of Hayden for “going with the flow.” ( I know that’s not easy for him).

Hadleyโ€™s teacher shared this photo with me. So far, Hadley has been pretty consistent with her plans to be an elementary school teacher ๐Ÿ˜Š

I know school will look so different compared to when they were last there on March 13, 2020, but I’m forever grateful for the school administrators, teachers and staff who have made this transition from at home learning to in person learning as smooth as possible. The school sign said, ‘Welcome back,” there were lawn letters greeting them with sweet “back to school” wishes, and so many wonderful teachers were outside waving and opening car doors at car line yesterday morning.

Everyone was smiling: students, teachers, and parents, and even a mask couldn’t hide the enthusiasm that returning to the school building after 355 days has brought to everyone.

My wish for the kids: “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

(read: mom loves you, but bye!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

The weight of the pandemic, as a mom and as a teacher, has been very difficult…probably more difficult than I have realized at times. Getting my kids back to school yesterday was a huge step towards normalcy, and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Next week, students start to return to my school building, and Iโ€™m so looking forward to that next step as well!

Thanks so much for reading today’s post. I hope you’re having a great week. I know mine sure has taken a turn for the better!

Posted in Kids, School

Distance Learning Routine

Well, we’ve been doing distance learning for one week now. We are not pros at this, but we’ve been implementing a few tips/tricks/routines over the past week to get us in back to school mode.

Last week, was a lot of “get to know you” activities with their teachers and classmates. They also had Zooms and videos with their specials teachers about supplies they’ll need and tours of classrooms. I was really impressed with all that the teachers planned to keep the kids engaged. Their virtual classrooms are impressive with links to Zoom, the schedule, the 5th grade website and more. Also, my kids were in small groups via breakout groups and teachers incorporated mini breaks throughout the day which became the perfect time to grab a snack, gather supplies, or quickly fill me on what they needed to do next.

This week, they’ve been taking pre-assessments for math and reading while also beginning regular coursework with their teachers.

And, so far, juggling between the tutor’s house and the days they work at our house has been going very smoothly.

Hayden working on a class assignment.
Hadley, hard at work, while Homer supervises.

Distance Learning Routine:

  • Technically, the kids need to wake up a little earlier on days they go to the tutor’s house, but I’ve been keeping bedtime and wake up time consistent no matter which day it is. For the at home days, they are just a little less rushed or have more time for morning work or to complete a household chore ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • During the regular school year and even summer, I have them get dressed, make their bed, and brush their teeth. Even if I know it’s a lazy day in the summer (or on the weekend), or an at home learning day, I still think it’s important for them to get out of their pajamas and get the bed made.
  • I have them log on about 30 minutes before they are supposed to just so I can see what’s due for the day. That way at the end of the day, I can ask them if they’ve turned in “x, y, and z.”
  • I also have them make sure they have their supplies ready for the day. The Chomebooks are in their rooms with their other supplies, but we keep all the textbooks on a shelf in the hall closet. So, I have them grab what they need to start the day.
  • Since they are on their computers quite a bit, I try to limit technology during the day. So when they have a bigger break, I may let them watch a show while eating lunch, but no Xbox, Ipod, Ipad, etc. during that time. Their break in the middle of the day is time for lunch, recess, and then typing or reading. So, I make sure they understand how to use that time: relax/take a break, eat, play outside, type/read.
  • I try to have a couple of snacks out for them to grab when they need them. I had thought about packing a lunch even for “at home” days, so they wouldn’t need to interrupt me for help with that, but we haven’t done that yet. I either have had a natural break from work to make their lunch, or they are pretty self-sufficient with making lunch. Hadley will even make soup or Spaghetti O’s on the stove for them!
  • They know they don’t have to always stay in their rooms while working! I do like that their desks in their rooms are “home base” for supplies, and they start their morning in their rooms for morning meeting and specials. Then, they usually bring their computer to the kitchen table for typing or Hayden sat on the couch with his computer for the end of the day meeting. I don’t want them to feel confined to their rooms, and they’ve done a good job being quiet if the other is still working.
  • While their teachers follow the same schedule, sometimes one class may finish before the other. Also, I didn’t want Homer being loud and barking while they are on their Zooms. So, we put Homer in the kennel during their main work time in the morning and afternoon. Homer likes his kennel, and when life is normal, he’s used to being there during the day.
  • Lastly, and I’ve only done this one time so far, but when they logged off for the day last Friday, I had them tidy up their work spaces. They made sure their Chromebooks were plugged in, put away supplies in their baskets and cart, stacked their books up to put in the closet, and pushed in the desk chair…similar to what they would do if they were in school.

We are far from having distance learning/virtual school mastered, but so far this routine has been good for us. Also, I’m so happy with our decision to send them to the tutor two days a week. It’s good for all of us that they have that option, and they’ve been enjoying their time there too.

How’s school going for your kids (and you!) so far this year? I’d love any more tips and tricks to add to our routine.

Happy learning!

Posted in Friday Favorites, Kids, School, Traditions

Friday Favorites: Back to School Edition and Other Faves!

Hello and Happy Friday!! I’m linking up with Andrea and Erika for this week’s Friday Favorites post!

Can my first favorite just be surviving this week? ๐Ÿ˜‚ Seriously, it was a doozy filled with school, activities, and more. That being said, I’m very glad that we are back on some kind of schedule. So far, we’ve had one learning day at the tutor’s house and one learning day at home (with me!). The kids really do have a handle on the technology, and thankfully haven’t needed much help. Their teachers are doing such an amazing job, and I know they are putting in long hours to help their students feel welcome and to make their lessons engaging.

We have a pretty free weekend, and I think we all need it to recharge and relax.

For today’s post, I’m sharing some of our favorite back to school traditions as well as some other faves from the week.

Favorite Traditions:

First Day of School: 5th Grade Pics

I shared more about this in yesterday’s post, but we always take a back to school picture (or two) with the chalkboard!

We also take a picture in front of their school sign. We did that again this year as I couldn’t let Covid ruin my five year tradition!

Wednesday was a day at the tutor’s house, and she had a sign for them to hold up for a picture. It’s the 2020 version of my back to school chalkboard!

Back to School Breakfast:

Every year, I have a Back to School Breakfast for the kids. I’ve been reading Andrea’s blog for years, and loved her Back to School Brinner idea, but tweaked it for breakfast. I may move to the Brinner idea next year when the kids start middle school.

ready for the first day of school
breakfast is served…
Hayden’s place setting
Hadley’s place setting

The kids seem to enjoy this tradition, and I do too! I feel like traditions like these get us all excited to start back to school.

Books:

For the breakfast, I typically give both the kids a new book. Amazon always comes through with books with their grade in the title!

My big 5th graders!

Cookies:

I started getting the kids these sweet little cookies a couple of years ago. I’ve purchased and taken cookie classes with Maddie of Maddie’s Cookie Co., and her cookies are amazing. I’m always so impressed with her designs, and the cookies are delish!

This year, I got Hayden and Hadley the mini cookies (hoping they will share with mom and dad ) ๐Ÿ˜‰ as well as the backpack cookie with their name.

I even picked up a sweet treat for their tutor. An apple cookie with her name on it.

Flashback Friday:

I don’t know why I do this to myself (๐Ÿ˜ญ), but it is fun to look back at the first day of school through the years.

Kindergarten:

1st grade:

2nd grade:

I think this is my favorite back to school photo of them โค๏ธ

3rd grade:

4th grade:

4th

Other Faves:

Other favorites from the week:

Hadley’s dance studio used the month of August to make up for April and May classes. They brushed up on their recital routines in preparation for Wednesday night’s recital.

Their routines (Hadley had hip hop, jazz, ballet, and tap) were videoed, and we will receive a DVD. I hate that we didn’t get to see the performance in person, but I know the DVD will be fun to watch and a 2020 keepsake!

Hadley’s hip hop performance was first, so I snapped a few photos before we headed to the studio.

Then, she had ballet, and then tap and jazz.

It’s always difficult to choose which professional photos I want printed, but I settled on these two to share with family:

I love watching Hayden play baseball. To be honest, we are just lucky to have (finally) had a season. He grew so much as a player and a pitcher this season. He also loves playing short or first, and it’s been so fun to watch his team play. At times, he’s too hard on himself, but I hope that translates into just wanting to continue to be a better player.

His team finished second in the standings for the regular season and then unfortunately lost in the semi-final round of the tournament in a close 3-1 game. There’s nothing worse than little baseball boys bummed after a loss, but Hayden did his part, and I reminded him to celebrate the successes they had as a team this season!

Ready to throw a strikeout!
Up to bat!

For Sunday’s first round game, Hadley wore Hayden’s jersey from last year. He rolled his eyes when he saw her, but I hope he knows she’s his biggest fan (when she pays attention to the game) ๐Ÿ˜‰

As with the dance pictures, it was hard for me to choose which of the two professional photos to get copies of, so I purchased both! ๐Ÿคฃ

The red plate is another favorite tradition in our house. Since school started this week and dance and baseball wrapped up, the kids each had the plate for a meal on Thursday to celebrate their hard work and successes during this past dance and baseball season as well as getting the hang of the 5th grade!

Thursday lunch
Thursday dinner

Favorite Kid Quote:

I finished the third season of Selling Sunset on Sunday, and Hayden caught the tail end of the final episode of Christine’s wedding. The wedding was beautiful and over the top. Hayden said, “That’s a wedding? If I was getting married, I would just have it at a church with food.” Boo lives a simple life.

Favorite Sweet Treat:

I made a quick trip to the grocery store yesterday and saw “break and bake” Pillsbury Oreo cookies. So, I made those for Hayden and Hadley as they wrapped up their second day of virtual school. They were delish.

Favorite Mom Meme:

I saw this meme a few weeks ago, and ain’t it the truth?!

Friday Funny

I occasionally play Words with Friends, and my dad wins most games we play. I was winning the latest game, and he said he was sending me to my room if I played on the triple letter! haha For the record, I did win that game!

If you made it to the end of this post, thanks so much for reading! Lots of favorites this week.

What are some of your favorites from the week?

Weekly Recap:

I hope you have a great weekend! See you back here on Monday.

Take care,

Posted in Kids, School

First Day of School: 5th Grade Pics and Interview

Well, we did it! We all made it through the first day of school!

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, we are starting back virtually, and we decided for the kids to go to a tutor (our friend who is former elementary education teacher) two days a week. Well, the first day of school was a tutor day! So, the kids were up around 7:00, ate their Back to School Breakfast, got dressed and then let me take their traditional first day of school pictures.

As I snapped the first day of school photos, I couldn’t help but think:

Time sure has flown by….and here they are on their last first day of elementary school:

We still shopped for back to school outfits. Hadley was adamant about a denim skirt and the shirt (both from Target) was perfect for the first day of school.

I thought Hayden would wear one of his new Vineyard Vines t-shirts, but instead he busted out the new VV polo…looking sharp on his first day.

We did pit-stop at the school for a picture in front of their school sign. We’ve done that every year for five years, and no way was I going to let that tradition slide ๐Ÿ˜‰

We went to the tutor’s house Monday night, and she has everything set up so sweetly. You definitely get the elementary school vibe as soon as you step foot in her basement.

Monday night at the tutor’s house.

When we arrived yesterday, she had a cute sign for the kids to use for a photo, and then took a group photo.

Hadley and one of her besties had the same Target shirt on!

Throughout the day, the tutor sent some photos. I love this thought as the students came down the stairs.

There’s no escaping the group of girls in this pod. Hayden’s the only 5th grade boy, but there are a couple younger boys to play with when they aren’t learning!

Seeing these photos brought me such peace throughout the day. I’ve been anxious about starting the year, but I know, from these photos, my kids are well taken care of two days a week, and I’ll bring up the rear on educating them them other few days ๐Ÿ˜‚

As I got ready for the day, I found Homer on my bed…I think he was wondering where the kids went. He’s had us around for 5 1/2 months (I can’t even believe it’s been that long!)

Then, I went to school. I almost worked from home, but realized I’ve had a first day of school…in a classroom…for 35 years. I didn’t want to stop that streak!

It was odd being at school with very few staff members, empty parking lots, and quiet halls. I hope a we are all back together soon.

Last week, I decided to do a back to school interview with the kids. Here’s what they had to say:

Back to School Interview:

Hayden’s Thoughts:

  • This year, I’m excited about: talking to my friends and seeing them when I can.
  • By the end of the year, I want to: be better at math.
  • My favorite subject is: Reading
  • I love learning about: Social Studies
  • I am great at: PE class
  • My favorite school cafeteria food is: nacho
  • If I was the principal for the day, I would:take a day off
  • When I grow up, I want to be: a golfer, an umpire, or a commentator
  • The best thing about school is: recess
  • My first day of school was: weird but ok

Hadley’s Thoughts:

  • This year, I’m excited about: having one of the best teachers, and to learn at my friend’s house (pod/tutor)
  • By the end of the year, I want to: have to gotten better at math
  • My favorite subject is: grammar
  • I love learning about: different people’s countries and cultures
  • I am great at: spelling
  • My favorite school cafeteria food is: chili with noodles
  • If I was the principal for the day, I would: would give extra recess to everyone
  • When I grow up, I want to be: an elementary teacher (1st or 4th grade)
  • The best thing about school is: getting to see my friends and having a partner
  • My first day of school was: amazing and interesting

We wrapped up the day with a dance recital (performances were taped in class, but I still had to get Hadley ready with hair, makeup, and getting her costumes organized), and a tournament semi-final baseball game!

Today, I will be home with the kids working while they learn! Wish us luck ๐Ÿ˜‰

Posted in Kids, School

Virtual Start to the School Year

We got the word about a month ago that our district would start the school year virtually. I was (and still am) bummed that my kids are starting their last year of elementary school without being in the classroom.

That being said, I completely understand why this decision was made. Our COVID numbers continue to be high, and with a district as large as ours, there are too many factors that are difficult to control. Also, at least with an all virtual model, teachers aren’t having to instruct students who are both at home and at school. I’m hoping it’s a somewhat smooth start to the year as teachers and students are accustomed to online learning from the spring.

The district has reevaluation dates about every six weeks to make decisions for the school year. So, we are learning virtually until at least the beginning of October.

Teachers are encouraged to come to school when they can while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines to teach from their classrooms.

Thankfully, one of our friends is a former elementary school teacher, and started a pod of intermediate grade students. The pod is mostly 5th graders with a few 3rd and 4th grades as well. My kids are going to go to her two days a week, and my sitter will hang with them one afternoon a week, so I can at least go to school 2.5 days a week. I’m happy with this plan, and I feel like it will be good for all of us to get back in a routine and out of the house a bit. Also, when we do get back into the school building, I think this new routine will ease us easier into that transition.

In the spring, the kids had a morning Zoom class meeting and then time to work on their classwork via Google Classroom. This year, the district had all elementary, middle, and high schools come up with a detailed daily schedule. So, at the elementary level, they will be busy all day. There’s a morning meeting, time for student choice, math, specials, literacy, keyboarding/handwriting, DEAR (drop everything and read), science, social studies, and a closing meeting. Again, I appreciated the more relaxed schedule in the spring as we were trying to figure everything out, but this more structured schedule is more like a normal school day, and I think we will all appreciate that!

Once I saw the detailed schedule, I knew they kids each probably really needed their own work spaces rather than the kitchen table. Hadley already has a desk, so I figured Hayden needed one. He told me he didn’t want one, but after reading Amanda’s post, I loved the desk she had for her son. I laughed at her comment that desks in August are as hard to find has toilet paper was in March! So funny and proving to be true. ๐Ÿ˜‚

The exact colored one she purchased wasn’t available, but there was one left of the 39 inch desk with the white top (which now I can’t even find on Amazon). I went ahead and purchased it. Hayden was actually excited when it arrived. He purged an entire bookshelf that we then moved to the basement in order to make room for his new desk.

He was pretty excited after getting everything organized.

Again, from Amazon, I bought him this desk sorter to hold pencils, scissors and more.

My friend went to Ikea recently, and I asked her to pick up two of these white carts. I have a utility cart from Ikea that I love, but it was out of stock. When I saw these white carts on wheels, I thought they’d be perfect for the kids to store their school supplies. Ikea never disappoints, and I’m very impressed with these carts. They were easy to put together and roll effortlessly. This way the kids can roll them to the kitchen or office if they want to change up their work from home view ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then, I purchased these colorful baskets to organize markers, pencils, dry erase markers, and more. When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that they fit in the top rack!

Hadley has a hand me down desk (that I painted white years ago) from my bedroom set from when I was a kid. So, we just reorganized her space as sometimes the desk is a “catch all” area, so she will have room for her laptop and space to work.

Both kids picked out the desk lamps during our Walmart school supply trip a couple weeks ago.

Also, her desk chair (and Hayden’s) are from my first ever kitchen table. When I moved into my first apartment, my Gma bought me a table and chairs from Pier 1. #rippier1 We sold the table years ago, but still had a couple of the chairs. They are comfy, but I wasn’t sure about sitting in them for hours, so I purchased seat cushions for the kids. The two pack of cushions worked out perfectly.

We spent last Thursday getting the kids logged on to their new Google Classrooms, and they also viewed the videos from the teachers about themselves with tours of the classrooms.

Star student ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been “in my feelings” a bit about the start of this school year, but I’m trying to embrace this continued extra time with them. And, I can’t believe as a teacher I’m able to work from home. Teaching is just one of those professions where that’s not really a normal option. Since I am a homebody, I’ve enjoyed working from home, but I’ve also liked being in my classroom off and on the past couple of weeks.

I think this new routine at the tutor’s house combined with working from home will make for a good start to the school year.

I pray they see their classrooms this year. Whatever this year ends up looking like, I know we’ll all try to make the most of it.

Y’all, tomorrow’s the big day. We’ll still have the back to school breakfast, take the first day of school pics, and I will pack a note in their lunchboxes (since the first day is a day at the tutor’s house) wishing them a great start to 5th grade! โค๏ธ

Speaking of which, I think Iโ€™m going to take a day off from blogging. Thereโ€™s always so much to do the day before school starts as well as the day of!

See you back here Thursday.

Posted in Family, Friday Favorites, School

Friday Favorites

Hey, hey! We made it to Friday. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week has about done me in. Juggling my school life, the kids (and their activities), multiple appointments (doctor, ortho, etc) and more, I’m just drained. It always takes a couple of weeks to get into the “back to school groove,” and, at this point, I’m the only one actually back to school! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

I’m happy to see the weekend, and I hope to recharge a bit before Monday.

As always, I’m linking up with Andrea and Erika for this week’s Friday Favorites post.

Favorite Pic:

Haydenโ€™s baseball season will be over in the next couple of weeks. I love that Travis helps coach his team. Iโ€™m not sure Hayden knows how lucky he is to have a dad who wants to be involved as well as help him grow as a player. This pic is priceless to me. โค๏ธ (and, yes–they do bump heads sometimes like most father/son relationships…but I tell them to keep it on the field. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Favorite Kid Quote:

Hadley asked Alexa to set a timer for 2:45. Alexa said, โ€œA timer is set for 14:25.โ€ Hadley looked at me and said, โ€œSheโ€™s talking Army time.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚

Favorite Show:

Iโ€™m late to the Selling Sunset hype. Iโ€™m almost ashamed to admit it, but Iโ€™ve watched two seasons since last Thursday. I love this show. Just enough drama and friendship…plus they show (& sell) amazing homes!

Favorite Book:

Unfortunately, I havenโ€™t had as much time to read lately, but Iโ€™m loving 28 Summers. Hopefully I will get it read in time to chat about it in my August book post.

Back to School Favorites:

Last Friday, we decided to get school supplies and back to school clothes. I always take the kids to pick out their supplies. It gets them excited about the school year, and it’s always funny to see Hayden pick things out in five minutes while Hadley spends seven minutes picking out the cutest folder.

Then, we headed across the street to Vineyard Vines. Hayden is pretty low maintenance with clothes, but he likes Vineyard Vines t-shirts and polos. I was going to take him anyway, but VV was having 50% off for teachers and students, so I let him pick out an extra shirt!

I took Hadley to Target this week where she picked out a couple of shirts and a jean skirt to wear on the first day.

I told Travis it was his turn to partake in the Back to School “fun”….so he took them for new shoes on Sunday. They were gone a couple of hours, Hadley called me twice and sent me 15 text messages from Trav’s phone. haha!! Hayden is apparently a high maintenance shoe shopper!

This year, the kids’ school had a drive thru “Meet the Teacher,” so we drove through, picked up supplies, and chatted with their teachers. I am bummed this is how they are starting their last year of elementary school, but the school is definitely making these events as special as possible.

Then, last night, they had a Zoom Open House where they were able to meet all the 5th grade teachers and chat with classmates.

There were a couple of treats in the bag…but mostly textbooks! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Another favorite for me (and probably only me) this week has been getting organized. Hayden’s desk arrived, and Hadley already has a desk. My neighbor went to Ikea a couple of weeks ago, and I asked her to pick me up two of these rolling carts. They are perfect for holding their supplies for school, and can easily be rolled to the kitchen or office if the kids prefer to work there.

Favorite Purchase:

There’s a Bath and Body Works by Vineyard Vines, so after that shopping, we stopped in Bath and Body. I knew their three wick candles were on sale, so I picked up a fall scented one. It’s making me so happy!

Favorite Family Fun :

Cousin Wyatt turned 6 on Wednesday, and we got together for his birthday. For his party, he had a huge inflatable water slide. The kids had tons of fun and were worn out.

Happy Birthday, Wyatt!

I got them to pause for three seconds for a picture!

Hayden meant to wear his sports goggles, but insisted on keeping his regular glasses on while going down the water slide. Later, my brother sent me this pic saying Hayden looked like Squints from Sandlot. I’ve thought that since Hayden picked out those glasses, but it was funny to see the pic for comparison.

and here the cute cousins are in 2015 for Wyatt’s first birthday party. Time flies!

Favorite Food:

Last weekend, I made Andrea’s Peanut Butter Pretzel No Bake Bars. Hadley helped me make them; they were so delicious! They provided us dessert for a few nights.

Favorite Mom Meme:

Guilty as charged!

Bonus Fave: Flashback Friday

Hadleyโ€™s prepping for her dance recital. Her studio is going to video the routines next week while everyone is in costume and “dance ready.” This is Hadley at her first ballet class in 2015. So sweet!

2015

I love when this 2012 pic of Hayden pops up in my Facebook memories…PJ shirt, undies, shoes and a shovel. #pinchycheekcute He was helping dad in the backyard!

Weekly Recap:

Now, if you need me, I will be trying to keep my head above water and counting down the minutes to the weekend!

Thanks so much for reading!

Posted in Me, School, Tuesday Talk

Tuesday Talk: Teacher Life

Hello! I can’t believe it, but it’s already the third Tuesday of the month. So, I’m linking up with Ashley and Erika for their Tuesday Talk link up where you chat about whatever you’d like to talk about!

With school starting back up, and eighteen years in education under my belt, I thought I’d chat about why I chose to be a teacher.

To be honest, I always wanted to be a teacher. I played school a lot as a kid…but I remember liking setting up a desk area, organizing my teacher supplies, writing and coloring and then being done with it. No real teaching going on. (I also used to do the same thing as a kid playing with Barbies. I’d set up Barbie’s house, get Barbie and her friends clothed and organized and move on to the next activity!) The creative side of my brain lacked at that point, but my organizational/Type A brain made up for it.

This says so much about me…of course, I actually like the teaching part too!, but I make my classroom feel like home. I want students to feel comfortable in my classroom while learning and interacting with their peers. I always feel so much better about school starting once my classroom is unpacked and organized.

classroom the past few years
until I moved down the hall last October

I always generally liked school. I understood the importance of getting good grades and having a plan for the future. I struggled in school with math, but I always loved reading and writing.

My mom was a middle school Language Arts teacher for 31 years. I remember visiting her at school, drawing on her classroom board, and helping her grade papers. Her best friend taught Reading right next door to her. They even shared a wall that opened, so they could co-teach their classes.

My love for reading and writing combined with strong role models as teachers set the tone for my future plans.

I loved elementary school, and had wonderful teachers. Once I got to middle and high school, my English/Language Arts teachers always stood out to me fostering my love for learning and my desire to be a teacher.

I remember sitting in my first education class in college and the professor asked us to introduce ourselves and share why we chose the field of education. I shared that I’d always loved school and had so many wonderful teachers who made an impact on my life. I wanted to do the same for my future students.

I was shocked when so many shared about wanting to be teachers because they’d such a negative experience in education. They had teachers who weren’t passionate about their jobs, didn’t take the time to get to know their students, or were uninterested in helping students achieve their goals.

I realized right then how truly blessed I was to go to the schools I went to and have the teachers that I had throughout my educational career.

I hoped to create lessons that excited my students, build caring relationships, and provide opportunities for young people to grow and achieve in my class.

Also, I’m a planner. Even when I chose my major in college (and never once switched majors), I knew that some day when I was married and had kids how great it would be to the extra time in the summer with them. My mom was always home with us in the summer, and we rarely had a sitter. So, I knew those summers off would be necessary to recharge, but they would also be a good set amount of time to have quality time with my family.

Of course, experience is key. You can only read so many textbooks or plan so many lessons, but it’s the experience of being in the classroom, tweaking lessons, working with students, differentiating instruction, and thinking on your feet that really helps your classroom and your students feel like yours.

Every single year, in March, I make notes in my lesson plan book of what I want to do differently or strategies and activities I want to implement the next school year. Not that I can’t try some of those strategies or activities at the end of the year, but in August, teachers set the tone of their classrooms. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m forever learning. I want to know more and do better each and every day.

College and practicum opportunities didn’t prepare me for the heartache and worry that comes with being a teacher. Sometimes, your lesson plans shift because teenagers need to talk. There are kids that are more resourceful than you are because they’ve had to bounce from house to house. There are students who are sad, angry, and lonely…and school is the only place that soothes those worries. There are students who are hungry, and their only two solid meals of the day are the breakfast and lunch that the school cafeteria provides.

Through the years, I’ve gained perspective and sympathy. Also, it didn’t take me long to realize that most class periods needed to include time for interaction, and that sometimes the class content needs to wait. It’s more important to meet the students and their needs where they are because they deserve that.

Of course, I feel an immense amount of pride seeing my students overcome obstacles, master content, and succeed at their goals. I love nothing more than seeing a student walk across the stage at graduation, tell me about their post-high school plans, and come back to visit me and fill me in on what they’ve been up to in the next chapter of their lives. I hope I’ve made an impact on my students while encouraging them to try their best and be life long learners while keeping a plan for their future in mind.

I think we all know and agree that educators everywhere came together last spring when the country was (and continues to be) in crisis. Teachers packed backpack meals for students who would otherwise go hungry, made phone calls home, visited students (from a distance) to check in on them, created curriculum and provided instruction for a variety of learners who did and didn’t have the resources to learn from home. I feel blessed to be in a profession that comes together through thick and thin for the sake of our students.

Through my 18 years in education, I’ve earned one Bachelor and two Masterโ€™s degrees. I’ve taught at four different high schools. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a literacy coach. I’ve been an interventionist. I will always fight for my students, work with my peers, and take pride in my profession.

Oh…a couple more things I’ve learned through the years…

to always write my lesson plans in pencil…and there’s no tired like teacher tired (especially during the first few weeks of school!)

I know it may be a school year like we’ve never seen before, but I have faith in the teachers, the students, and the parents. We’ll get through this year together, and we’ll make the most of it.

Other School Related Posts:

I hope everyone has a great school year!

Posted in Let's look, School

Letโ€™s Look: Your Desk

Hello! How’s your week going? I’m getting in the back to school groove myself this week (in a very 2020 way!) Yโ€™all, today should have been the first day of school. Real talk: Hayden and Hadley aren’t mad about having a couple extra weeks of summer ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s the second Wednesday of the month, so I’m linking up with Shay and Erika for their Let’s Look series.

So far this year, we’ve looked at…

  • January: your bed side table.
  • February: your winter wardrobe.
  • March: what’s inside your purse.
  • April: Easter at your house.
  • May: your weekend.
  • June: what’s in your carry on bag.
  • July: your summer wardrobe.

**I must have skipped March and July.

The topic for August is, Let’s Look: at your desk.

Of course, my first thought is my desk at school. On my desk at school, I have:

  • Files and folders with school info, lesson plans, committee notes, and more.
  • Desk calendar: My lifeline. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have appointment and meeting dates and times as well as things I need to remember to complete.
  • Supplies: Tape, stapler, paperclips, binder clips, scissors, and more.
  • MU pencil holder: This used to be my brother’s (I think!) and I’ve had it on my desk for many years. It’s where I usually keep extra pencils for when a student needs one.
  • Family photos: I like school to feel like home, so of course, I add a few pics of my loved ones. (Fun fact: that smaller photo of Travis has been on my desk for all 18 (this is year 19!) years of my educational career!)
  • Books: I keep a couple of my favorite books that I reference from time to time on my desk.
  • Inside my desk: I keep more supplies in my top desk drawers like: pens, my favorite Paper Mate felt tip pens, my hall passes, notecards with student names for easy group sorting or calling on students at random, sticky notes, Expo markers and more. In my larger drawer, I keep file folders with school and student information.

2020 at Home Desk:

Well, I’m going to be working from home 2-3 days a week, so I needed an at home desk situation.

We actually have a desk in our “office,” but it’s where we keep Trav’s work computer and the kids’ schoolwork and laptops. So, I try to move out the way and set up my own space.

When I sprawl out at the kitchen table, I have:

  • My laptop: of course, I need my laptop most of the day to check and respond to emails, complete work tasks, and engage in Zoom calls.
  • Pad of paper: I love colorful notebook paper. I usually use my blue one for meetings and notes and my pink one for my to do list or casual notes.
  • Paper Mate felt tip markers: I use the markers daily in my lesson plan book and for taking notes and writing down ideas and to do lists!
  • Pencils: I prefer to write in my lesson plan book in pencil (besides dates and appointments)
  • Sticky notes: These come in handy for quick to do lists. Once I have a longer list of tasks, I usually break those tasks down onto sticky notes for morning and afternoon.
  • Lesson plan book: As an interventionist, I don’t have my usual schedule of English 1 and English 2, but I still use a lesson plan book to keep a schedule of what students I need to work with, which teachers I need to contact, meeting dates, and my own kids’ activities.
  • Coffee mug: (or something to drink). Coffee in the morning and water in the afternoon. Maybe a Diet Coke as a treat!
  • Glasses: if my tired eyes need them.
  • Pictures: Like at school, I figure a few pics help my space feel more homey…even at home! (I probably won’t put the pics out every day, but it makes the space feel more official ) ๐Ÿ™‚

I was able to unpack my room at school this week which always makes me feel better about the start of school. I sure hope I get to use it soon!

Don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts. Next month’s topic is Let’s Look at Your School Pics.

Thanks so much for reading! Have a great day.

Posted in School, Traditions

Not Just a Mom: Back to School Freedom

Hello and Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Ours was actually pretty laid back with only a baseball game on Saturday. We started our weekend early on Friday by going for a family hike (more about that tomorrow!). Saturday afternoon, Hayden had a baseball game, and Saturday night we had a patio get together with neighbors. Sunday had me soaking in my final day of summer.

Speaking of which, today is my first day of school as far as teacher responsibilities go. For now, I’m working from home as much as I can until we get in a groove with the kids once they start back virtually.

I’m linking up with Lauren, Ashley, and others for their Not Just a Mom series.

This month’s topic is “Back to School Freedom.”

Well, I donโ€™t usually gain any freedom when school starts back as I swap my two kids for about 150 high schoolers ๐Ÿ˜‰

This year, those two kids are starting the 5th grade virtually as I work mostly from home as well. So, understand these pandemic circumstances I donโ€™t think I will have much freedom.

That being said, since we are talking about back to school, I thought Iโ€™d share a few more in-depth details about our traditional Back to School Breakfast on the first day of school.

Iโ€™ve mentioned this tradition a couple times recently, and I know it may seem like a lot of work, but I wanted to take a minute to share the methods behind my madness, and that really the cute breakfast set up only takes a few minutes.

Back 2 School Breakfast 2019 (4th grade)

Decorations:

Hayden’s breakfast place setting:

Hadley’s breakfast place setting:

I have a couple of these chalkboards from Hobby Lobby that I use for their first day of school photos.

The kids have had these clipboards since preschool, so I use one to display the Back to School Breakfast sign which is glued on to wide lined writing paper. We had pads of that paper when the kids were learning to write.

I have this basket as a decoration on our built ins, so I just borrow it and add a few apples for decoration. I put the muffins on a cake plate for decoration but also for them to grab and eat before getting ready.

Specifics on a few decorations:

A: Years ago, I printed the Back to School Breakfast page from Pinterest. (And, as I mentioned above, I just glued it on a piece of wide lined paper.)

B: I purchased the paper apples from Amazon. There are quite a few in the pack, so I just use one each year to write their grade.

C: I also got the This School Year Will Be the Best! book from Amazon years ago. When the kids were little, we’d read it together the evening of the first day of school.

D: Again, another Amazon purchase with the red and white checkered napkins. There are many in the pack, and I just fold one in half to sit on their plate each year.

E: The best pencils around. Dixon Ticonderoga! I just keep this same pack of pencils to use as a decoration in a mason jar for the breakfast.

F: I think last year was the first year I started using a folder and sticky note for a placemat after getting that idea from Andrea (which is where I also got the Back to School Breakfast idea. She does a “brinner” the night before school starts.) I had the sticky notes on hand and picked up the folders while back to school supply shopping with the kids.

G: The black plates and colorful cups I picked up a Target a couple of years ago.

Food:

My kids like these Betty Crocker chocolate chip muffins. I make them occasionally, and when I do, I usually make two packs and freeze some.

So, I make these the night before and serve with strawberries and yogurt. So, nothing fancy, but different than their typical waffle or cereal bar.

Goodies:

I’ve lucked out the past couple of years with these cute cookies from Maddie’s Cookie Co. here in Lexington. The mini cookies are perfect for a decoration on their placemat, and the perfect lunch or after school treat.

Amazon always comes in clutch with a book with the kids’ grade. This year, I found Tales of the Fifth-Grade Knight for Hayden, and President of the Whole Fifth Grade for Hadley.

Then, everything goes in this storage tub until the next school year! I truly am able to decorate in ten minutes because I just store everything in this tub.

So, those are just a few details of our traditional Back to School Breakfast. Do you have any back to school traditions? I shared how we prep for back to school in a post last week.

Enjoy these last few days of summer! I know we’ll make the best of this school year no matter if it’s in person, virtually, or a hybrid schedule.

Also, moms of little ones…don’t blink. I clearly remember taking this first day of kindergarten picture five years ago. (and wiping away tears as I dropped them off in their classrooms.) ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Now, my kids are on their last year of elementary school. How is that even possible?

Don’t forget to check out the other ladies’ posts and link up next month to talk about your skin care and make up routine.

Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week.

Posted in Me, School

Enneagram Backpack

Hey hey! We made it to Friday. I guess it’s technically my last Friday of summer before my teacher responsibilities start on Monday! I’m hoping to have a fun day with the kids today leading into a pretty relaxed weekend (with one baseball game).

So, back in the fall, I took an Enneagram test because I’d heard so many people talking about it. I posted a bit about my results and thoughts about the test in an About Me post in September.

I’m a 5w6. Type 5 means that I’m an “Investigator” and I have some 6, “Loyalist,” tendencies. I don’t live or die by these descriptors, but when I see something about Enneagram references, specifically with 5’s and 6’s, I usually like, “Yep. That’s me!”

Recently, I started following @cathartic_word on Instagram. Erin is an artist and her graphics are fun and beautiful! She creates various ones specific to Enneagram types focused on ideas like, “Road Trip Essentials,” “Step Inside My Mind,” and “Enneagram Colors.”

Recently, I saw her “What’s in My Backpack” series, and thought , with school starting soon, it would be fun to look at 5w6 graphics. They are pretty spot on for what would be in my backpack!

Type 5:

graphic c/o @cathartic_word July 9, 2020
  • Headphones (noise canceling) :I don’t know that I need noise canceling headphones, but I do like quiet when I work. Headphones are perfect for drowning out extra noise.
  • Notebooks: I heart notebooks. I can’t ever have too many. I tend to use one notebook (or colored pad of paper) for meetings, another notebook for lesson plan ideas, etc.
  • Books (old and new): Give me all the books! Y’all I know I love to read. I also love to re-read some books and even mark them up with pen and pencil or dog ear pages!
  • Laptop: I need my laptop for all the things.
  • Phone (for research): Can’t leave home without my phone. And, I do use it to look up many things as well!

Type 6:

graphic c/o @cathartic_word June 8, 2020
  • Water bottle: I have been working on drinking more water ๐Ÿ˜‰ I do prefer to have a refillable bottle to use for my daily water intake.
  • Planner: I must have my planner. Always. I have my lesson plan book (with dates, meetings, appointments) as well as my desk calendar and my calendar on my phone to keep me organized.
  • Travel mug (or 7!): If I’m leaving the house in the morning (for school, early game, workout class), I always have a travel coffee mug.
  • Phone charger: I’m the type of person who panics if my phone battery is less than 70% ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, a phone charger always comes in handy.
  • Snacks: I often have snacks on hand for myself and the kids. You just never know when you’ll need something to tide you over until the next meal!

Weekly Recap:

That’s a wrap on this week!

Go check out Erin and @cathartic_word on Instagram! What would go in your backpack for your Enneagram type?

Have a great weekend!