Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Domestic Diva

OK so while I'm not the world's best cook, I do know how to make some decently yummy and quick meals. Most days, I crave pasta and steamed veggies. Not burgers. Not pizza. Honest to goodness, I want to eat this everyday. So tonight I tried to make a pasta salad, and it turned out pretty well.

* whole wheat rotini pasta
* 1.5 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1.5 tablespoon mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip)
* salt and pepper to taste
* 6 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 (9 ounce) can solid white tuna packed in water, drained
* cooked peas and corn.

It's super easy. I just whisked the mustard, mayo, salt and pepper, and olive oil together. Then I added the tuna. Then I added the cooked pasta and peas and corn. It would have been better with lemon juice, but alas, I was out.

I went for a run and put it in the fridge while I was out. I'm currently downing it (I think it's good energy food) and it's pretty good.

Alton Brown, look out.

Praise the Lord!

So since before the wedding, my car has smelled like burning.

This is very troubling to Joel and me.

But after the wedding, straight away, we had to get my brakes fixed. So we waited until this month.

Today, I took my car to the Ridgewood gas station next to Whole Foods. And praise the Lord, it was just a few loose bolts and a leak. They tightened it all and only charged me $20! He said if it still smells in a week to bring it back and they'll change the gasket. Joel and I are SO happy because the mechanic was honest. He could have charged me for the gasket ($100) without trying to just tighten the bolts. Also, even with the changed gasket, it was less than we had budgeted and for that we are PUMPED.

Today I didn't get to any conferences, but I didn't have a planning period so I was running around a lot trying to prep for the next lesson.

Tomorrow we have a speaker coming in to teach us about soil. I've heard it's a really cool presentation, which is great because the one thing I have learned is that I love teaching science! (Nerd, I know.)

We had some ups and downs today but for the most part, I got through it.

I have some free time tonight to take a walk and make a yummy dinner. And lesson plan, of course :)

Monday, September 29, 2008


Yesterday was fabulous. We went to the gym first thing in the morning (I never thought I'd go to the gym at 8:30 on a Sunday morning but it's become a regular part of our schedule). We went to Sunday School and church, and then had lunch with my parents. We worked on Crown Homework all afternoon and then went to Crown. After, we got to shoot baskets in the church parking lot :)

It just was a great day. When I thought about being married before I thought about days like this. Not huge romance, but simple things that we got to do together that grew us closer to the Lord and to each other.

But my goodness-today I am tired!

I tried the "conference" idea. I announced it in the morning, and by lunch, nobody had signed up. But in the afternoon, six kids signed up! So during independent reading, I called kids to a table, and I told them they could tell me anything they wanted. I even got to talk to a couple of kids that I normally don't get to talk to.

This evening I was swamped with work so Joel (sweet hubs) cooked us dinner.

We're watching Seinfeld and then it's lights out early in the Orr household!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cranky Pants McGee

That is what the hubs and I affectionately call each other on our bad days.

Today was one of those days. Yesterday was early release and today, with a kink in the routine...my kids (mostly the ones I have for math) were terrible. Honestly. Wouldn't listen. Wouldn't work. Didn't try. I was so frustrated at one point I had to take a teacher time out in the hallway. I get frustrated when I feel like I can get them quiet but I can't get them engaged. I need to try harder, I know. I try to do games in math every single day, because I know that's how they stay engaged. But then they get so wild they can't play the game, or they don't have the skills to play it correctly. I just want them to learn. I have a very low group of kids for math, and I feel like they are just so used to not "getting it" that they don't give themselves a fair shot. I don't feel like I'm battling inability, I'm battling a lack of confidence. And maybe that's so much harder.

I want to start over. Thank the Lord it's Friday. I was zapped. I feel like I'm still in survival mode, but one thing I know for sure. A lot of my problems are because I stopped being a camp counselor. I became like other teachers I had seen, not forming those relationships with kids on the playground, thinking it was okay to yell in my classroom, not using those attention-getting techniques I used to be so good at. I need to start over. I need to rely on the LORD for my strength and patience, not myself or "best practices."

I think I'm going to start mini-conferences with my kids during morning time. Here's my idea:

I hate writer's workshop conferences everyday that last about 3-5 minutes. During that time, they read me their writing and we discuss strong and weak points. Well, during morning time, most finish early and get to read independently before the day starts. So maybe I'll start conferences in the morning, when they can tell me anything they want for a good 3-5 minutes. I bet I can get to all of them at least once a week. I feel like I just need to talk to them more about their lives. It means I'll have to get more organized before the school day starts but I think it'll be worth it.

This weekend I have a lot to do:
-Finish Crown homework
-Create word focus center
-Write a mini-grant for all the things I would like to purchase for my classroom
-Create some math centers (maybe this will be helpful to keep them all engaged)

Plus clean the house because this week we got nothing done!

This afternoon, I came home and Joel was taking a nap. So I curled up next to him (I love being married!) and konked out. We woke up 2 hours later, but we could have slept through the night. We were exhausted. Oh, Friday after-school naps. They are becoming the norm for us.

Tonight we are watching the debate (I'm glad it's actually happening).
So far, I've kept my political opinions (which are way strong) away from my blogging world, but I think soon they may start creeping out. So if you don't know me well enough to know what I think about the issues, you may discover them on the blog. I (ideally) think that we're all here because we want what we think is best for the U.S. and the world, and we have different ideas about what that looks like. So let's not argue, mkay?

OK, I really need to focus on the debate now. Happy watching everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

This book and this song...I feel like the Lord is speaking to me. I keep thinking-I just want to GO...but maybe I just feel like that would make me "feel better." I have a ministry...it's in my classroom. I told Joel yesterday that I know when I have days in which I teaching unto the Lord and days when I am being selfish. I used to really struggle with my choice to be a teacher. I thought because I was a Christian, I had to do something "churchy." Like if I wanted to teach, I should teach Sunday School or teach in a private Christian school. But Christians are called all over to be the salt and light. I have really forgotten that lately, settling into the work environment. But He's calling me to really fight for my kids and glorify Him with my words, actions, and motives. Am I teaching so that I can get a bonus for good EOG scores, or is it because I want my kids to have as many opportunities as they can? Is it because I want to impress my principal or because I want these kids to be able to read to their kids, to have more doors opened for them than were opened for their parents, to be able to make wise decisions in life and provide for their families? It's just absurd how selfish I can get.

In other news, Jennifer Kromhout, our photographer, gave us our wedding prints today. I love them! We are so thankful for her. Please check out www.acorn-photo.com!

And this is our wedding song:

I love fall...today we went to the Farmer's Market and bought lots of produce (and some bakery items :)) and now Joel is watching football and I'm listening to Jon Foreman...so good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whew! This week has flown by. In Erin Morin style, I'll make a list of the happenings.

1) I have officially finished my fourth week of school. It ended with a bang...er...a punch. Yes, two kids got in a fight in the last 5 minutes of the school day, and I hate the fact that I had to contact parents and send them home furious for the weekend. Other than that, it ran fairly smoothly. I feel like I got my head in the game this week and was able to teach more effectively. I got to know some of my students a little better, and that was a huge plus.

2) Thursday we spent the evening with friends separately, but Joel surprised me with yellow gerbera daisies, a book, a Newsweek, chocolate, and a card with Where the Wild Things Are! I love that our presents to each other always come from Quail Ridge Books and Whole Foods. They are perfect and small and exactly match our tastes.

3) Last night my parents and Joel's parents came over for dinner to celebrate my dad's birthday. I started cooking right after school, and I finished setting everything up right after they got there. That means some of the food got cold....but it was pretty good. The menu: Honey dijon chicken with curry, sweet potatoes with olive oil, tamale pie, salad with cranberries and almonds, and bread. I felt like there were many different flavors, but it wasn't bland, so that was good. Joel's mom brought a yummy carrot cake. I think everyone had a good time, and Joel and I got to just veg at night. I watched some of my TLC shows and we watched the season finale of The Closer, our new favorite show.

4) This morning we got up late, went for a long, long walk at Shelley, and talked the whole time. It was nice because with both of us working full-time, we are pretty tired when we get back. We still try to do things with friends at night and cook dinner together, but sometimes that crankiness is inevitable. I love Saturday mornings, because they belong just to us. It's that one point in the week that I know we will have nothing to do. We went to Whole foods (which will be our ruin), and bought me some soap and some lunch. I have a weird thing where I can really only use natural glycerin soaps. Other soaps don't moisturize enough, and body wash is terrible. The other kind I buy for special occasions (like our wedding:)) is the sandlewood soap from India that you can buy at Ten Thousand Villages. But Whole Foods has a line of soaps that smell really good and are pretty cheap. Today I bought rosemary and mint, olive oil and aloe, and lavender. Mmmmm. Joel made a delicious lunch and cleaned up the kitchen from last night. I changed our sheets to green and white (my favorite!) and cleaned the guest room. Now it's budget time. Ah, domesticity.

5) I am reading a new book, Three Cups of Tea. It is AMAZING. I highly recommend it. And it makes me want to travel again. I am terrified to up and leave Raleigh and my family and friends, but I just want to see the world. We both love learning about other cultures, and we hate being tourists. I just want to go and experience what other people live day to day.

6) This weekend is the Greek Festival. YAY! We have been waiting for this all year. We're going tomorrow after church. Then we'll start taking Crown Sunday evenings so we can learn to manage our money better. I'm a little nervous because I've heard there is lots of homework, and I feel like I have plenty of that! But I know it will be very beneficial.

7) The end!

Monday, September 15, 2008

My days are kinda long...7am to 5 today. I usually do work about 9.5 hours. BUT what I love about being a teacher is that I still get home at 5, and sometimes sooner. And if I didn't stay after school I'd get home at 3:45. That's awesome.

It does frustrate me a little that I feel slightly clueless about how to integrate all the things I want to do and have learned at Meredith are "best practices"....I just don't know where they fit in my day. How did I fit in my anti-bullying curriculum I did my thesis on? How do I incorporate the Jigsaw classroom when so many of my kids are below grade level in reading? How do I create a classroom community, and leave time for classroom discussions? How do I engage my students so that they are motivated to learn? I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water as is. I still haven't unpacked my stuff in my parents' house, or the classroom things I've collected over the years.

I know I'm only into my fourth week of teaching, I just wish I could have started out on the right foot.

On a more positive note, I got to have coffee with my beautiful maid of honor, Ashley, at Third Place. When I got home, the hubs had made a DELICIOUS cheesesteak for dinner, and really, I could eat them everyday.

The end.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I just want to say that although I have felt very yucky today, I am proud of my productivity. Thank the Lord for a burst of energy this afternoon!
I made pumpkin loaf, pumpkin muffins, plantain chips, and a hot meal for lunch. I also did three loads of laundry, cleaned up the house a little, and addressed some thank you notes. And I managed to get out of bed and eat dinner with some friends. Hooray! Today was not a complete waste, although I did stay in bed for about 5 hours this afternoon. Off to bed so I can wake up on time tomorrow!

The Saturday Post

So it's official. I'm sick. I've had a couple of very sick kids in my class this week, and I guess I just picked it up. I went to bed at 9:30 last night after taking something to help me sleep, and I woke up at 8:30. Man, it was wonderful to sleep so well. Joel had to sleep in the guest room because I was snoring (ew) and he really does not need to be sick.

Today, I have been baking like crazy. I guess I just got the baking bug, but I made a huge loaf of pumpkin bread with walnuts and powdered sugar, and with the leftover batter I made muffins. I also bought plantains to try my hand at Caribbean cooking, and I made plantain chips and some thicker fried plantains. Joel loves them! I also made a breaded chicken and baked sweet potatoes for lunch. Actually enjoying cooking (and being able to cook without burning down the house) has been my biggest surprise about being a wife. I guess I could have cooked before, but I thought I wouldn't have the patience to cook with everything else going on. But I try not to take work home with me, so I have plenty of time during the weekends to try making things. During the week I try to make at least 2 nice meals, but I definitely don't stress about it. This week, because I was sick, we went out to eat a little more. Joel is great about cleaning up after I make things, so it's a good partnership.

This week at school was great. I had more planning time, so it was nice to get my head around things. We had open house, and I felt like I was really in charge of the class, finally. I kept my cool when a parent challenged me a little about the way 3rd grade does math. She wasn't rude, but I didn't get flustered. I met with my mentor, who gave me some fabulous ideas for working with a student I have who is on a kindergarten level (remember, I teach 3rd grade). I made a notebook for him of activities that are very hands-on, but can be done independently and quietly. He is only in my class for part of the day in 15 minute increments, so planning a whole lesson just for him while I'm teaching the rest of the class isn't possible, as much as I hate to admit it. He goes to the CCR teacher pretty much the whole day. After he completes three activities, which include Leap Frog books, books on tape, word sorts, sight words practice, and math manipulatives, he gets to go on the computer for 10 minutes. There is a math game he loves to play, so I feel like all around he's getting extra practice in my class.

Yesterday, I had to call a parent about homework. I was really nervous, but I don't think I conveyed it. She seemed friendly but I think she got the message. It made me feel more like a professional, rather than a schoolteacher.

A parent also came into my class after school to tell me that her son (who isn't the best student and is definitely all boy) loves my class. I almost cried. She said he'd never said that about any teacher. It was SO encouraging. I've had to really crack down on discipline this week, but I think now my expectations are clear and the consequences are more enforced. I really have to be consistent. That's the most important thing. Well, almost the most important.

One thing that has surprised me about teaching is how difficult it is to have those little relationship-building conversations with my students. When I was a camp counselor, I had all the time in the world, and I didn't have to worry about getting the content in in time. So I was able to ask them questions, do more fun things, get to know them. Now, when I have down time in the class, I am desperately trying to fit in all the mundane tasks to prepare for the next lesson so that the management piece runs smoothly. Even at lunch time, I'm so busy cramming food in my mouth in the 7 minutes I have to eat lunch, I barely have time to speak. But that piece is the most important thing. So. I have to fit it in.

Some interesting things did happen this week, though. We talked about 9/11, and I had to dispel some fears about riding on an airplane or going to New York City on vacation. It was a difficult conversation to have, but we had a moment of silence and also read The Little Chapel That Stood. When they asked about the war or the terrorists, I told them to ask their parents. But I did make sure to tell them that not everyone that is from Afghanistan is a terrorist!

Most of my kids are on grade level for the math quiz I just gave-HOORAY! It's the first quiz I have given after something I have taught, so I wanted them to do really well ( I know that sounds very selfish...).

We finished Ramona Quimby, Age 8, The Paper Bag Princess (my personal favorite), and some book about a little girl who turns into whatever people say about her.

We began a unit on citizenship (my favorite), did many cooperative activities (YES!), and played "I'm going on a picnic."

I'm not at all prepared for next week, but I'm happy with how last week went. We start centers this week and duty-free lunch! So excited.

Hopefully, I feel better soon so I can see little Grace Elizabeth-I do miss her.

Off to eat pumpkin bread and watch tv lazily.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Week 3...and GO!

I am now in my third week of teaching. It's still odd to think they are my class. I know that being a teacher holds so much responsibility. I just want them to learn, desperately. I want them to do well in school. Tonight was open house night so I got to meet some parents and give information about my class. It was a little intimidating but I think I did ok.

My day has gone like this: Wake up at 6, get to work by 7, faculty meeting after school, clean up room before open house, open house ends at 7:30, run to the grocery to get things we forgot yesterday, and come home, send out some thank you notes, work on school things, make my lunch, go to bed.


It's a very busy schedule sometimes!

People keep asking me: How's married life? And sometimes I have heard some say it doesn't feel very different, but I disagree. Married life is so different from dating or engaged life. For one, there is much more responsibility to each other and just a grown up. The companionship all the time is a huge difference and a blessing. I love being married. I could write more but I will go to bed now and try write more later....

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Start here and just keep going.

2008 Presidential Forum at Saddleback Church

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

1 month, 1 week, 1 day

Joel and I have been married for exactly that long.

Tonight we went on a date to Hi 5. It was pretty great to spend time together. Last week, we got to Friday and realized we hadn't seen each other at all since Monday.

Marriage is wonderful. I feel at peace, just comfortable with my husband.

To be honest, I had such a fear of commitment. But looking back, it seems ridiculous that I was so scared. Because Joel is a wonderful husband, and it is wonderful to have this companionship.

School is good. I gave the pre-EOGs today, and I think that's about all I can legally say about that.

Today I was so extremely tired and stressed at the end of the day. I didn't prepare as well as I thought I would. But I went to the gym after work, and I'm going to try keep it up.

Grace Elizabeth was born last week. She's a beautiful, beautiful girl with very wrinkly feet. See Laura and Caleb's blog for more info and pictures!