Thursday, December 31, 2009

Streams in the wasteland

“This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”-Isaigh 43:16, 18-19

This is one of my very favorite verses, and it's taped to my desk at school. The Lord is so good; He promises deliverance and grace for those who put their trust in Him. And as the new decade begins, I am filled with such hope. I haven't been around that long on this earth, but I rejoice in the things that God has delivered me from, and I know change in so many things is possible through He who gives me strength.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas break thus far


Joel and I had a great Christmas together, celebrating with both of our families. Joel got me a new camera, so now my posts will contain pictures! I'm very excited about this.


With some gift cards, I decided to buy a sewing machine. I've been wanting to learn how to sew for a while, and I'm really hoping I don't stink at this...
It took me a whole afternoon to figure out how to thread it. I'm not claiming to be great at following directions. How-to manuals often make me want to rip my hair out. Especially when you have to thread this medieval looking contraption which, by the way, I completely disassembled without realizing how unnecessary that was.
So after a couple of hours of fiddling, I was finally able to practice some stitching.
And I made some totally useless... napkins?

The rest of the break has been really relaxing. I've only got one day left on the Beth Moore Esther study, which makes me extremely sad.
Joel and I have been continuing our tradition of watching Lord of the Rings, a very dorky but very fun annual event at Christmas.
I've been working my tail off on the Wii Fit. Joel likes to laugh at me on the skiing game because my affinity for overcompensating is, apparently, hilarious.
I picked up a couple of new books from the library, including some interesting books about autism, and I've been catching on my Discovery Health shows.
We saw Invictus and The Blind Side and I ran out of tissues.
I've tried some new recipes: cornbread stuffing, green bean and cheddar casserole, and caramel apple pie. Mmmm... thank goodness for the Wii Fit!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm finally in the Christmas spirit!

I know I seem like the Grinch, but I always take a long time to get into the "Christmas spirit." I like to celebrate Christmas at, well, Christmastime! But last night as Joel and I were walking through the flurries to see Invictus (one of the best movies I've seen), James Taylor Christmas songs starting playing at North Hills, and it hit.

So today, we put up our tree (a fake, but I love it), wrapped lights around our banister, set out a snow globe and small nativity scene, and even listened to two whole Christmas songs!

Joel is out tonight, but he built me a warm fire before he left. A couple of days ago, he bought me a bottle of wine, and I got yummy chocolate from my students yesterday. So this evening, I've enjoyed a new Bible study that set my head spinning for a while. I poured a glass of merlot and have been enjoying real-life chocolate bon-bons. There are fresh tulips on our table, a cookie-smelling candle burning, and I'm watching The Wizard of Oz. Soon, Meredith is coming over and we'll watch Elf!

Really, it's the little things.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Basking in happiness

This morning, I enjoyed my peppermint mocha while reading Beth Moore's Esther study. She wrote about enjoying the little moments of happiness, grabbing on to them and basking in "lightness."

This afternoon, our schools were dismissed 1 hour early because of a few flurries (a fact that made the Northerners laugh, but I was genuinely concerned about my last of frozen pizzas at home should the flurries stick for more than an hour). Our Hanukkah party and book exchange party, which were scheduled to be back to back, were now smooshed together as parents flooded in early to join the party but also pick up their kids early.

Needless to say, I was expecting chaos. I hadn't made a backup plan for a 2 hour party being squeezed into a 45 minute period.

As the party unfolded, there were smashed goldfish in the carpet, stickers all over the desks, and oil from the latkes covering the reading table.

But my kids did beautifully, saying "Thank you" and enjoying each other and their parent's company. And then, the most wonderful thing happened.


The snow flurries began! Outside our second story window, big fat flakes were falling from the sky, and a dozen kids ran to the window to see. Truly, in North Carolina, December snow is a big deal! I hated to be "that teacher" and calm them down, but with lots of running over my computer cords, it had to happen!

All "classroom management" aside, it was such a special afternoon, and I'm so thankful for my wonderful class, room parents, and the sweet hugs I got today!

I feel so blessed by the Lord to have experienced this great day with these cutie patootie kids.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Young and the Restless Update

I forgot to mention, the day after the note passing and the "break-up", Alan came to school in an oxford and a bowtie. No lie. Too bad Kelly was out sick that day...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughts on grading

Does grading make anyone else cranky?

Because interims just went out yesterday, this frustration is still fresh on my mind.

Giving paper/pencil quizzes is a really easy way to get a grade, but a few of my kids are
a) space cadets and b) terrible writers, so those assessments end up being inaccurate pictures of what they really know. However, the EOGs are formal assessments, so paper/pencil quizzes are a good picture of how they'll do on the EOGs.

Projects and other formative assessments are helpful for students with different skill sets, but I find it really subjective as to whether or not they students have nailed down the important concepts.

Our school uses Activexpressions and an interactive whiteboard to "text" in answers to assessments, which I love, because it's really black and white. Because these questions are given one at a time to the whole class, and the entire class must answer at the same time, you know the kid that takes 28.6 minutes to answer a multiple choice question just doesn't know the answer. Also, the program grades the questions for you, so there's no stack of papers or answer key.

Our grade uses all three of these forms of assessment to get a picture of how a student is doing. My frustration comes when there's a kid that you KNOW knows it, and is lazy as molasses for 9 weeks, and his mom is furious when he doesn't make a level 4. OK, I'm exaggerating, but those "on the border" kids stress me out. It's the inconsistency that makes me nervous. Maybe they have it for the interim, but by the time the report card comes out, they've lost it.

Any thoughts on this?

Monday, December 07, 2009

I teach 8 year olds...

...who pass love notes during an entire writing period.

This is today's installment of The Young and the Restless.

Alan has been flirting with Cara all year long. It's ridiculous. But ever since I've moved their seats to the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM, Alan has been turning his attention to Kelly.

Well, today, I found this little morsel written on a scrap of paper:

Alan: Why are you braking up with me?
Kelly: (in purple ink) Were not gana work out.


Hilarious.

No wonder Alan hasn't written anything substantial in a solid week.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Some Early New Year's Resolutions

I'm going to start my New Year's goals pronto. Why wait a few weeks when there are things I can do now?

Goal the first: Many of you know I was on Weight Watchers for a while. I did reach my goal, but Thanksgiving calories do count, contrary to popular belief. So my goal is to be back on track, taking care of myself. I guarantee you Milk Duds are not organic, nor do they contain antioxidants, protein, or fiber.

Goal the second: Over the Thanksgiving break, I made three loaves of homemade bread that made their way straight into my trash can. Here's the thing about homemade bread I don't understand. People all over the world have been making bread by hand for an extremely long time. It cannot be rocket science. But somehow, I managed to make three of the most disgusting loaves of bread the world has ever known.

I'd like a bread tutor.

Goal the third: I'd like to learn how to sew. I can decently sew on a button, if you like that "threads hanging off" look. It'd be great to be able to sew simple things, like a formal dress or something. Really though, I'm tired of shopping for tablecloths and curtains and not being able to find one I love.

Goal the fourth: Read more. In general. The back page of Joel's Sports Illustrated does not get to count.

What are your goals?

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Third Grade Teacher

2:30 am: After tossing and turning all night, thinking about my plans for the week, I finally fall asleep.

6:30am: Wake up a little late, throw on a comfy sweater and jeans, and make a cup of peppermint mocha coffee. Spend a couple of minutes doing Beth Moore's Esther study and trying to give up all my lesson plans, concerns, and decisions to the Lord.

7:25am: Arrive at school. Make a cute morning work flipchart on the Promethean board that involved a math problem about Buddy, a squirrel. The kids love it. Buddy will be making a reappearance later on in the week.

8:45am: Remind kids that they've been here for about an hour and there's NO reason why morning work shouldn't be done. Sigh.

9:00am: Start a Reader's Workshop lesson about summarizing. Honestly, it's one of my least favorite things to do, much less teach. Ick. But it's necessary. And this is a reteaching lesson, and I still feel like I'm pulling teeth to get a good response out of them. I thought I had planned an engaging lesson but I realize as only three kids are even trying that I didn't. Make a mental note to figure out a better way to teach it. Probably, it should start with me being interested in it.

9:20am: Pull a small group to work on main idea. On my teacher observation notes, I write, "This lesson BOMBED. Totally boring." Part of the lesson involved writing down important words from a paragraph. I groan when one kid misspells a word he is copying.

10am: Read Beatrice's Goat, a true story about the blessings of Heifer International. I have them write down any reactions they have comparing their own lives to the life of the Ugandan girl, Beatrice, who receives a goat that eventually pays for her to go to school. We run out of time, and I'm frustrated because I love lessons like this.

10:25am: Drop my class off at art and head upstairs to solidify plans for math. I spend about 45 minutes planning a lesson I'm really excited about, involving technology and a hands on activity. Realize after all that planning that I've planned for the wrong objective. We'll start that one in a couple of days.

11:15am: Pick up my class from Art and split them up for Spanish classes. The class lists have changed and I've forgotten to tell them until this very second. I hastily try to organize them while it seems like they're asking me a million questions. Get it figured out and head back to the classroom to figure out math.

Decide to try out a CGI math (click for info) approach, which we learned at Meredith. I write out three challenging word problems and have my students work together to figure out the answers and explain their thinking.

Write out a model of a friendly letter and decide to write it to my friend, Christie, about my Thanksgiving meal. It's so cheesy I almost think I should send it to her.

12:00pm Recess and lunch. Thankful for the chocolate basket on the secretary's desk.

1:15pm Take a deep breath and begin math. I spend the next hour walking around the classroom listening to students teaching each other concepts I haven't explicitly taught. I push them to explain their thinking when I know they've just written down an answer their friend told them. The "brightest" kids in the room are frustrated because they know the answer but can't explain it. A couple of kids keep trying to explain to me that there is no answer, it's impossible to find, but I just smile and say, "Oh really?" It's so tempting to give them a hint, but when they finally figure it out they feel so accomplished. When math time ends, one girl says to me, "I never knew math could be this fun." I could have cried, right then and there.

2:15pm. Present my friendly letter to the class as a model. Ask them to think of people they can write to. Accept all responses, even requests to write to imaginary friends and pets. "JUST WRITE" I tell them. Most of them do.

They know that I love to bake, so I give them an analogy. "If I wanted to make a pie, and just sat in my kitchen staring at the oven, would the pie ever be made? So if you need to write a letter, staring into space probably won't get you very far." I get a laugh out of some of them. One kid writes a letter to himself about his day. It works for me.

4:00pm. I'm home and start working on a beef stew for dinner. I've spent the past hour enjoying another peppermint mocha and writing. This is going to be a good week.

My husband, Superhero

It was 5:40pm. Small group was to start in 20 minutes. Joel calls me on the way back from the gym and says, "I'm going to be late. Really late."



If I'm being honest, I'll let you know that I silently thought that he had lost track of time working out and would miss small group. And internally, I groaned.



But the title of this post is "My husband, Superhero" and this is what really happened:



Joel was driving home (on time) from the gym, and he spotted a boy on the side of the road. He stopped the car, realizing something wasn't right, and called 911. The police let him know that a missing report had been filed on the child, and a police car came to pick the boy up. Joel followed behind to the police station to be questioned about what had happened. The parents came to pick up their son and were obviously very thankful.



The thing is, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. A couple of months ago, Joel witnessed a boy get hit by a car in a hit and run accident on his way to church. He waited with him until the ambulance came and followed all the way to the hospital to make sure he was ok.



When we first met, he lived in Greensboro. One night, he left his school bag in his unlocked car. The next day, a homeless man showed up on his doorstep with the bag in hand. You see, inside the bag were letters written to me on a notepad. The man had read them and apparently felt compelled to return them. Joel invited him in and talked to him for a long time. A few days later, he went grocery shopping for the man and left the grocery bags in his unlocked car.



A couple of years later, we were out to eat with some friends. A man we'd seen before on Hillsborough Street was asking the manager of a restaurant for food. The manager angrily turned the man away. With all of us in the car, Joel drove elsewhere and got the man a meal.



Last year, he was saving up money for an expensive game. He saw a news report that the Raleigh Rescue Mission was really low on supplies. He took all the money he was saving and drove to the store to buy the things they needed.



Joel is just a person who doesn't turn away. I'm thankful he's been at the right place at the right time to help people. He's just a wonderful person, but he doesn't ever brag about stuff like this. Ever. I could tell dozens of more stories about how generous he is. When I think about how the Lord has blessed me with such an amazing husband, I'm speechless.



So this one's for you, babe. You're my hero.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oven Baked Tortilla

Joel can testify to the fact that I love tortilla espanola. It's not like a Mexican tortilla, it's basically an omelette. It was my favorite thing that my host mother made in Spain, and when Joel and I got stuck in the Madrid airport on the way to Turkey, it was our meal as we awaited our next flight.

This has been my favorite (although inauthentic) recipe thus far. Just a note: I am terrible about measuring things. But the best thing about this recipe is that you don't have to be exact.

3 large potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled
6 eggs
3/4 of a red pepper, diced
1/2 diced onion
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the eggs and mix with the sour cream and cheese. Add the potatoes, onion, and red peppers. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a greased 13x9 baking dish OR a rimmed baking pan. Bake until it's lightly browned-about 20 minutes? It could be less, or more. Just keep checking it.

My favorite things to add to this are ham or chorizo, or leave out the red peppers. It's a yummy breakfast and it's really good on a baguette. Mmm...

So many leftovers... (and a recipe)

We had a great Thanksgiving this year. I started the day by waking up early, enjoying coffee and Beth Moore's Esther study, and doing yoga that was on FitTV (my new favorite thing).

I was preparing for what would prove to be a whirlwind next few days!

My brother came over early and, since we are Peruvian and don't have huge family traditions related to Thanksgiving, we made Spanish tapas...13, to be exact.
My favorite was oven-baked tortilla espanola, and I'm going to post that recipe after this.

My parents came over and we stuffed ourselves silly with prosciutto wrapped asparagus, sundried tomato pizza, chorizo, melon, and artichoke salad, and olive and cheese empanadas. It was way fancier than anything I've ever made, but my brother loves to cook, so he planned the whole menu!

After cleaning up the house, Joel and I took a quiet walk in the neighborhood before going to his parents' house and enjoying a delicious and traditional Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing, corn pudding....amazing.

We came back here together and had pumpkin pie and watched Up. Of course, I cried again. It is such a good movie.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of Christmas shopping, working a little, and hosting impromptu get-togethers. Today, I'm looking forward to working in the nursery at church and going to the gym. And I'm loving the fact that I've had a good hour to watch the CBS Early Show and drink coffee all by myself.

Something I'm extremely thankful for is the fact that I have a great class to look forward to teaching tomorrow. In this time of recession, I am so thankful to have a job, and even more blessed to have a job I enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful for freedom

So it may be the books I've been reading, but lately, every moment I've been struck with the blessing of freedom.

I wish I was a better writer.

I finished Things Fall Apart last week, and The Handmaid's Tale last night. This one theme kept resonating with me. While both books are fiction (surprise!), I can't help but be struck with how real it is that women lack so much freedom around the world.

Have you heard of these recent news stories?

Lately, I've been researching my options going back to school. And the fact that I have options is such a blessing, especially after reading this. I'm thankful that my parents brought me here so I had the freedom to choose from so many different opportunities.

Being married to someone who supports me in everything I do, and who allows me to be crazy about baking but will clean up the kitchen after me, is a blessing. He listens to me, respects me, and treats me as an equal.

And I wish I was a better writer to communicate fully how thankful I am to the Lord for the freedom I have from the bondage of sin.

"My chains are gone, I've been set free.
My Lord, my Savior, has ransomed me."


I'm just so thankful for the freedom I enjoy. And I think that's why being a teacher is so important to me. I want my students, boys and girls alike, to be able to have all the opportunities possible for them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk is probably my favorite classroom thing these days. The link details it, but for my teacher friends from MC, we used this in a seminar once, but I got the idea from a wonderful fellow teacher.

I used it today to ask the question "How do people adapt to different environments?" I posted some "thinking questions" on the board, like "How do people work and travel? What do they eat? What do they wear? What do they do for fun?" Let it just be said that this was an activity done before any teaching, so I was assessing their prior knowledge.

My favorite response comes from the table that chalk talked about life in the desert. They really could not fathom people in the desert working or eating anything but scorpions. I kid you not, one kid who was serious as a heart attack wrote, "They eat camels and drink cacti juice." I think I need to spend a good bit of time on this. Most of their schema comes from Aladdin, for real.

A New Book, a New Recipe, and a Cold?

A few years ago, I read The Poisonwood Bible for a college class designed almost completely around this novel. My mother-in-law, a missionary kid whose parents worked in Nigeria, really disliked this book, and suggested I read Things Fall Apart if I was truly interested in reading about this part of the world. Three years later, I finally got around to reading it. I'm halfway through, thanks to the day off yesterday.

Recently, Joel emailed me with this little tidbit:

i figured out why what we want to read is so different.

i'm a romantic. not necessarily a "romantic" in the lovey-dovey meaning of the word, but in the literary-study-of-life meaning of the word.

Romanticism: values feeling and intution over reason
- believed that imagination, emotion, spontaneity, feelings, and nature were more important than rational thought
Dom likes her facts. She's a Rationalist. Those are lame. All they think is that facts and reasoning are the only way to live through life.
Losers.
So now you can never say I'm not romantic. Cause that's all I am, baby

Truly, I love nonfiction. I'd rather teach it, read it, watch it, listen to it...most of the time. Joel loves these books by Jose Saramago and also Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I have read a total of zero of his favorite books. On a Friday night, I'd want to go see Food, Inc. and he'd want to see some silly action movie (wink;). This used to be a slight bone of contention, until we came to this realization.

That having been said, I'm proud of myself for making it halfway through Things Fall Apart, considering the last books I got through were the ones in the Twilight saga. I'm not proud of that. Just honest. Currently taking bets on whether or not I'll finish this one.

Secondly, I made pumpkin muffins for us yesterday and saved some for a fabulous Spanish teacher who assisted me in translating a conference this morning. I make this a lot...it's about the only thing I can make.

Here goes:
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
As much cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg as you can get in there! At least a tsp. each.

Mix together and spoon into muffin tin. Sometimes I add walnuts, chocolate chips or streusel:

Streusel topping:
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c of flour
1/4 c of sugar
more cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
(mix together and top the muffins. It makes a LOT but I sure do love streusel.)

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes. They are really moist, so check with a toothpick. They never really become brown.

Thirdly, I have a cough. So do a few kids in my class. Hand sanitizer is not a joke, kids.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesday and a Big Thanks

I have a confession:

I am a terrible cookie maker. Truly awful I have made cake-like chocolate chip cookies and burnt oatmeal raisin. My peanut butter cookies are too salty and my sugar cookies are too chalky.
And for this reason, I LOVE this recipe. It's the only cookie I haven't completely ruined. It's originally from allrecipes.com

And the ginger molasses cookies from Whole Foods are my absolute favorites, so I tend to make these a lot!

Ginger molasses cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.


I have some leftover Halloween sprinkles, so I may spend my Veteran's Day making these!


Speaking of, I just wanted to write a short note in thankfulness for my brother.

This is our goofy picture at my rehearsal dinner. He's a captain in the army, and has served overseas in Iraq. I am so thankful for what he has done and I just wanted to say thank you, big bro! You watched out for me when I was a kid, telling me the good teachers to get at school and the ones to watch out for. You will always try to improve my fashion sense, but we both know you're the true stylish one! You even gave me your car when I wrecked mine in high school. And I know you have also given so much of yourself to others.
Remember tomorrow is Veteran's Day!

Friday, November 06, 2009

I'm so glad for Friday

I'm so glad for Friday because this is the first day I've been home before 5pm in a long time. Here are some highlites of the week:

-Report cards went home (thank the Lord) with *no mistakes* (crossing fingers).
-I can get back to teaching instead of assessing, which plain old stinks.
-We have been reading a Time for Kids about Turkey during our reading mini-lessons. Sigh. I love it, and today, they just had so many awesome questions about different countries around the world. And let's be honest, I absolutely LOVE learning and teaching about other cultures so I had several Time for Kids around the room for them to choose from. It was a good teaching week.
-We danced to my favorite classroom mix. I think I posted a while ago that I was searching for songs. I decided on: Explosions in the Sky (great for writing time), Mint Royale-Show Me, Caedmon's Call-Volcanoland, Jack Johnson songs from Curious George, the I Am Sam soundtrack, and Counting Crows-Accidentally in Love.
-My classroom was chaotic this afternoon and hilarious. We made signs for our Belize social studies project, and generally enjoyed a Friday afternoon.
-Math was fabulous. It was challenging, engaging, and quick-paced. And I was really stressed beforehand because I felt like it was going to be really boring, but it ended up actually fun. And it was rounding. Whoda thunkit.

The following things, of course, would NEVER EVER happen in my classroom:
-It was 104 degrees in my classroom this afternoon and I did NOT open the emergency window so that we would not pass out. While I was dealing with a classroom conflict some kids certainly DID NOT lean their whole bodies out the window in full view of the carpool line.
-I did NOT spend my planning period writing a song for our Belize project instead of filling out profile cards.
-My room DOES NOT look like a hot mess.
-There are NOT worms from our compost project sitting in little baggies in the back our room. They most certainly do NOT smell yucky.
-I did NOT leave an important form that was due today sitting on my desk instead of turning it in.

It's been a good week. I'm going to take a nap.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I don't have time to post tomorrow...

But I thought, it's time for me to join the "Tasty Tuesday" bandwagon.

Here's my favorite biscuit recipe.

Super delicious, super easy.

2 cups of flour
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp baking powder
(Whisk all this together)

Then cut in 1/3 cup of shortening or butter (I find margarine straight up stinks.)

Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk until mixture pulls away from bowl.

Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch. Cut out biscuits with a flour-rimmed juice glass.

It makes about 7 large biscuits or 12 medium biscuits.

They are Joel's absolutely favorite...case in point: he's been asking for them for a week, so I finally got around to making them yesterday. There are none left. I made 7 more today. We'll see how long they last this time!

I've gotten it down to a 15 minute process to make them!

Can't wait to read other recipes!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A tribute

It's 1:30pm on a Thursday, and I'm watching TV on my couch. It's not the piggy sneezes, thankfully. I just feel run down and had an awful sore throat yesterday. I decided to take the day off and not let all the germs that are festering in my classroom attack me...I'm not on guard.

So instead on blogging about my head cold, I'd rather give a quick tribute to one of the greatest television shows ever created, Freaks and Geeks.

























I am not lying when I saw I have seen every episode of this one-season, 18-episodes series about 10 times. It never ever gets old.

So on a rainy day like today, I'm entering into hour 4 of my couch sitting, having had a brief intermission for chicken nuggets.

You know, I was really stressing about this week. I had something going on every night. I was teaching for the first time at youth group, which made me nervous. I'm going out of town this weekend, and I have only had time to cook one meal a week so far this semester. Tuesday, after a long day that started with a conference and ended at 8pm (after a math night of teaching permutations and combinations to parents for an hour and a half), I was exhausted. I came to home to find our dining room table spread with orange gerber daisies, merlot (because that's what Kyra Sedgwick always drinks on The Closer), a super cute card, fancy soap, ginger chocolate, and parmesan ciabatta bread. So I guess this tribute is also to my husband. He knew how tired I was and surprised me with all my favorite things.

I just love coming home and knowing that although I have to fight for the attention of 24 kids, my best friend is always going to listen to me. And while this year is going so well in the classroom, it's somehow a lot busier. So we've had to be more intentional about planning our time together, even if it's just sitting down to frozen pizza at the table.

Somehow this ended up more rambly than I had intended.

Here's to you, Paul Feig, for the best TV show ever, and to Joel Orr, the best husband ever.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Sweets

With so much yuckiness going on recently to divide us and make life difficult (including State's awful loss last night), I was really convicted about the bigger things in life.

Bigger things like what a dear friend, Meredith, is doing in Uganda. I think she's the greatest and love what she's doing. You can read about it at the light straight ahead.

Things like my friends Christie and James getting engaged. I couldn't be happier for a couple! I just love the two of them and am so excited for what God has done and is doing in their lives together.













She took this picture, by the way, and you can find more of her stuff at her blog here.

Bigger things like the great morning Joel and I had in the church nursery with the 3 and 4 year old cutie patooties , and watching him read five of them a story about Noah's Ark, with some embellishments about pachyderms and such, and he has all of their attention, except for one little one who is crying and has orange on her mouth, and I realize she's chewed a crayon (a crayon!) and says "yucky" and I want to tell her, well, that's why we don't chew crayons, but she's 3 so I don't. But it was a great morning with no child getting hurt, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, praise the Lord.

Things like a great evening celebrating a 50th birthday last night, and us sitting around telling horror stories of our first kisses and and hilarious knock knock jokes (we were all YMCA counselors, after all) and then snuggling in to watch one of the cheesiest movies in cinematic history.

And these are the bigger things because they connect us, and I need to spend my energy in things like this, not in those things that divide us.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Firestorm

Well, I've received some interesting comments on my last post. It was posted on the Wake Ed blog. I made it private during the day to make sure that my principal was okay with it being online.
You've given me lots of great things to think about. I'm not a board member. I have lots of research to do (which is how I'll spend my Friday night!), but I stand behind my original concerns. I want us to think about the implications of neighborhood schools, and what could happen to the fabulous classroom environment I have right now.
By the way, our Family Meetings do not include parents, they are just meetings our my students. We encourage each other, give compliments, and talk about good things from the week. They even said last week, "You have 24 kids!!" Sometimes, I feel like I do. And I can't imagine my room without a single one of them.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

As a classroom teacher...

The results of the election this week have me...concerned. Wake County voters have elected new Board of Education members that favor neighborhood schools, a policy which is in opposition to the bussing and diversity policies currently in place in Wake County.

What I have heard about proponents of neighborhood schools is an almost "back to a simpler time" argument, back to a time where you could count on your school always being the same and not having to face constant reassignment. While it may seem like a majority of students are being shuffled around, it's actually only about 3% of the student population. Most students attend schools very close to their neighborhood.

To me, this seems like the true motives are slightly more sinister. It seems more like parents are trying to control the populations of the schools their children will attend, and don't agree with Wake County's policy of assigning students based on economic diversity.

It's not a perfect system.

But Wake County is a model for counties around the country, and I don't think it's an accident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg abandoned their diversity policy, and Wake County has them beat in test scores and teacher turnover rates. I doubt this is a coincidence.

I'm really concerned about the implications:
-Schools who draw from a poorer base population will have less PTA funding (which, let's be honest, helps more than you know).
-There may be higher teacher turnover in those poorer schools.
-EVERYBODY benefits from a diverse classroom. I have seen my poor kids learn a lot from the experiences that students who have had more resources can share. But ALL of my students are learning how to relate to people from very different walks of life. This isn't fluff. I've seen it happen firsthand. And it's a wonderful thing that could very well be lost. There aren't boundaries in my room. Why are there boundaries being formed in the county? This seems more like a euphemism for segregation, maybe not in the intentions of all who voted for this policy, but in the consequences of such a change.

I am terrified about the change that may occur in my classroom. I think about the diversity I have in my room, and how students from completely different socioeconomic backgrounds are extremely close friends. I think about the community that is forming during our Friday Family Meetings and what it would be like without those students that are being bussed in from other parts of the county. I know they won't be reassigned this year, but I can't imagine what my class would have been like without them.


What do you think?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

There's an election today!

It's a big day for the Board of Education...so be informed and go vote!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Fear of Man

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. -Proverbs 29:25

I had three parent-teacher conferences this week that went great. But of course, before they occurred, I was extremely nervous because of how I thought they could go. I was worried about the information I had to tell the parents and how it would be received, what the parents would think of me as a 23-year-old teacher, and even if my clothes that day would say "professional" or "slacker." I wish I could say that this is a rare state of mind for me, but it's not.

And the ironic thing is, in posting today, I'm worried about how crazy people will think about all my weird insecurities. But I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only one. I doubt I'm the only one that hopes no one will comment about how every pair of pants I own is from Target, or how although I've lost 20 pounds, I'm still 20 pounds heavier than anyone I teach with, or that the new idea I want to try out with my kids is really going to bomb. It's this obsession with wanting to seem "normal" in the eyes of people around me. And the only way I can describe it is as a trap.

Enter Proverbs 29:25 that showed up as the daily verse on biblegateway.com Thursday, right before a conference. It seems like I'm not so odd if it's a proverb in the Bible...that author hit the nail on the head. Being fearful of what man thinks or can do is a straight up snare. And not only that, the "antidote" isn't to "be yourself" or "make yourself happy."

Did anyone watch the pilot episode of Community? The "jock" in the study group, Troy, wears a high school letter jacket all the way to college, which earns him a fair amount of slack. He asks Jeff Winger if he should stop wearing the jacket so that people will stop making fun of him, or keep wearing it to not look weak. And Jeff tells him, "Either way, it's for them." The world tells us to do things for ourselves, not for other people.

But that's not what Proverbs 29:25 says. It says to trust in the Lord, to take the focus off of me and concern myself with Him.

This message has been said to me about three ways in the past couple of weeks, from various people, and I think that means that I need to listen. A very insightful friend said to me the other day, "The way you're looking at all of this is very egocentric." Ouch, but so true. When I'm so concerned about what everyone thinks of me, it's not really about making them happy, it's about making sure I look ok. It's not about insecurities. It's about being selfish, when I really get down to it. And being confident in myself will create a whole new slew of problems.

This friend challenged me to stop worrying about myself and focus that energy on the Lord and on other people. That's how I stop this crazy cycle. Remember, "If nothing changes, nothing changes," and this is one thing that has to change.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spent up is right

The past two days have been incredibly busy! I still love my class, but my goodness, if they don't learn our routines (that we practice DAILY and reinforce positively and negatively DAILY) I might go crazy. It's a serious possibility. It's a good thing they are cute as buttons and crack me up.

Anyway, behavior isn't the problem, it's my desire for a T.A. :) I would love a personal secretary, but alas, I can't hire one. My frustration this week has come from every else's immediate deadlines and the fact that I feel so pressed for time anyway, even 5 minutes to fill out a form is hard to find. Well, maybe 5 minutes to fill out one form is ok, but after dozens of such requests, I just can't find the time. My planning period is spent, well, PLANNING and I rarely have time to turn in field trip money right away or fill out class ranking forms before they are due. I'm not sure how teachers who always "have it together" do it. I wonder if I'll ever get there!

I find myself, on this cloudy, rainy Friday afternoon very sleepy and a little sick. Joel is feeling the same way. I came home and ate french fries. And I don't feel a lick of guilt.

This is our date night and this is our schedule:

Catching up on the Office, Community, and Glee.
Eating lots of comfort food.
Falling asleep when most people are heading out on Friday night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roxanna Slade

Joel and I went on a mini-date to Quail Ridge Books the other day. We totally splurged, but who can resist with the GREAT sale they had going?

I bought In Defense of Food, which I heard in an interview on NPR but we've both been wanting to read the book. I also bought a super cute, super organized planner which makes my life so much calmer. And then, I bought a book by Reynolds Price. If you've ever seen the Quail Ridge bathroom, you know it's awesome. Its walls are covered with framed autographed photos of authors who have visited the bookstore. Every time I go in there, I always see Reynolds Price's photo, so I decided to buy Roxanna Slade. It's set in rural NC, which always catches my interest. So far, it's really interesting. But here's this paragraph that I just love. I've reread it so many times, I couldn't resist posting it:

" Life, in the world I occupy, is an adequate blessing-whatever pain may bear down on me from the skies or elsewhere...I would be a person who worked at proving, to however few doubters through the hardest times or easy days, that the actual world is worth all your strength. Never hold back a cent of all you own and bear inside you, spend it all, die empty-handed. Any trace of stinginess is worse than dying young."

I haven't posted in a while because I've been so darn busy, and in my mind I've been turning this notion of being poured out to those around me. I feel like the Lord has put this burden on my heart: don't waste time. Don't waste a second. Don't miss a single opportunity. I've been thinking a lot about my biggest fears lately.

A while ago, Joel and I had a conversation about them, and while I'm sure I mentioned something trivial, I wasn't being honest. I'm most scared of having anything left when I die. I realize it's a morbid thought, but those who make an impact aren't those who have anything left at the end. They have nothing, because they gave it all away. And while it terrifies me to think of the implications of that, it scares me even more to think of the alternative: that I will squirrel away silly things I can't take with me.

When I was a runner, I always hated how I had this tendency to finish a race with energy. I was completely unwilling to push myself to the utter brink during a race, worried that I might puke, cramp up, or pass out. But at the end of the race, I knew I could have done better. I just feel like it's so easy to do that...and I'm still there most of the time. Wading in the baby pool when I need to be diving deep.

So after all this mulling, I read that quote, and it was so artfully written, it took my breath away. I read it three times and then made Joel sit through my little read-aloud with full explanation (he's such a good sport).

Happy reading everyone :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

If Nothing Changes, NOTHING CHANGES!

This simple phrase has been playing over and over in my mind today, at least 100 times.

Last night, at small group, we discussed this passage:

Luke 5:33-39
33They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
34Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

I will be the first to tell you I have never understood this passage. It's one of those that I make a mental note to return to and never get back to. But I am so very thankful that the Lord equipped our small group leader to make this passage oh so clear. And this is basically what I understood:

Jesus calls us to a new relationship. Fasting was a spiritual discipline that was used typically in times that were not celebratory, but Jesus was calling His disciples to celebrate with Him, the bridegroom, while He was on earth. That part was always easy to understand...it's the wineskins and garments deal that was like a different language.

So I apologize if my explanation is poor, but here goes: Taking a piece from an new garment and using it to mend an old garment ruins both garments, because the new is left with a hole, and new piece will shrink when washed, thus tearing away from the "mended" garment. They're both ruined.

A wineskin stretches as the new wine ferments. Putting new wine into a well-stretched wineskin will burst the skin. So it ruins the wineskin and the new wine.

Okay, got it. But how does that apply to me?

I think this passage is about leaving that old life and Jesus bringing new life to restore our relationship with God.
But also, He's concerned with the day to day.

There are old systems in my life that need changing. Just like the Pharisees had a very rigid, legalistic way of doing things, I have a set way of going about life. But I desire a new, full way of life. The things is, I go about it by just wishing that my life would change and that it would change while I maintain the status quo. And I don't want to say, "The old is better," like the Pharisees would say. I can't do the old things and have the new life.

There are so many areas in my life where this applies:
I can't continue speaking to my students the same way and expect their behavior to change.
I can't continue to leave my clothes out and expect an organized closet.
I can't continue my old ways of interacting with my husband and expect our relationship to be different.
I can't continue to skim over Bible passages and spend 5 minutes in prayer and expect my relationship with the Lord to grow.

I know this list could go on and on...and believe me, this day has been full of those areas. But it's also been a full day. My relationship with my students today was wonderful. My teaching was engaging. Joel and I had great conversation while walking at the lake.

Change is possible...but I know that I need to make room for the new thing that the Holy Spirit is doing.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

For Erin

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
-Anne of Green Gables

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

2nd week update

It's the second week of school, and I'll bet you can tell that I've been so very busy.

I really love my new class...they are extremely chatty, but very cute. I think I'm remembering why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place! It's embarrassing to say, but after last year, I really thought I had made a mistake. But I knew that the Lord had called me to this. But this year, a few things have changed. Here goes a list:
-We have a new member of our team, and she's awesome, and I feel like I'm learning so much from her!
-I have been taking time each morning before the day starts to pray and journal about a short verse. And starting the day off like this has really set my heart at peace. I am so prone to running into my room anxiously and trying to do everything at once. But now, knowing that I've tried to carve out 10 minutes to sit quietly with the Lord, I've found myself planning ahead more. I make those extra copies or write out that morning work the day before, so that I don't have to do anything when I come in in the morning.
-We are changing the way we do so many things this year. As a team, we're collaborating A LOT. It's exciting to be brainstorming like crazy, trying to find the strategies that will help us become better teachers and our students to become better learners.
-Although I have 24 students (4 more than last year) my classroom set up seems more open. This is VERY important to my general sense of peace when I walk in my door in the morning. Things seem so much calmer.
-The students I have are diverse in backgrounds.
-They are all very social. This is good because we have great conversations, but it's also a tad bit annoying because they LOVE to talk...all the time....without stopping....eek! While I can tell chattiness and off-task behavior will be an issue this year, that's not really that different from any other third grade classroom! And I'm thankful that my students aren't hugely defiant like last year. That is a breath of fresh air.



Currently, I'm trying to think of songs to use during transition times so that my kids are at least all singing the same thing rather than talking about a million things at once. I just don't want to have songs that drive me crazy because while my kids are young, they're not preschoolers! I was thinking of using some earlier Beatles songs, like Penny Lane maybe, and a James Taylor song or two. Any ideas?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My feet hurt.

I've been setting up my classroom for the past 4 days. I'm REALLY happy about it. I love the set-up, the flow, and the decorations I have up. I have more confidence this year, and I know it's weird, but my attitude this year is "Bring It!" I'm ready.

Today, I spent all day getting it clean and shiny for Open House. It went really well (my class seems awesome) but I haven't sat down in quite a while. Plus, I didn't wear my normal Rainbows, opting for more professional kicks. Thus, my post title. Ouch.

I took lots of pictures of my class, but my computer is currently on the fritz. I'm on Joel's mac (thanks, babe) but I don't know how to put pictures on here.

I need a new book to read...I just finished Twilight, which I'm embarrassed to say I LOVED...any suggestions?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Inspired.

I am not a morning person. I enjoy summer because I have the freedom to wake up at 10, have a muffin and some soy milk (and take 45 minutes to finish my breakfast) and lounge around on the couch until noon. (Don't hate.)

Around 7pm, I get really energized and want to go work out. I might take a 20 minute nap around 9pm, and wake up ready to conquer the (sleeping) world. Joel and I have become fond of walking in our neighborhood around the time most people are turning in for the night, talking about our ideas for our classrooms this year. Currently, I'm in our fabulously neat, clean, and organized guest room (and it only took us a year to fix it up!), working on lesson plans for the year, and listening to Ben Folds. Joel has, of course, planned a whole month in 15 minutes and is making an awesome unit that includes Batman (high school teachers totally have it easier).

I went into my classroom for the first time since I closed the doors in June. I'll have to admit, just driving to school gave me that slight panicky feeling again. But I had to remind myself that my class is different this year, I have a lot more experience, and for goodness sakes, they're only 8 year olds!

I ended up spending a good 4 hours setting up pretty much all of my furniture, organizing all my worksheets from last year (no small feat), and cleaning the incredibly thick layer of grime that accumulated in the past two couple of months. Yuck. But I got all the tedious work out of the way so when I go back in a few days, I'll be able to do the fun stuff-decorating, putting up my bulletin board, and making nametags :)

In other news, Joel and I bought a cabinet for the rest of our china that didn't have a home. It was a steal, and when I came home from working at school, Joel had installed the shelves and
put in all our china! He did such a great job :)
Before (note the broken glass...oops...)




















The final product.






































Note to Erin: I enjoyed my birthday tea in the beautiful tea cup while working today!

















Monday, August 03, 2009

Just some randoms




















This is my brother and I at my wedding. Really, I don't have a lot of pictures of my brother and I've rarely written about him, but here he is. He's a great older brother who really looked out for me as a kid. He also gave me the car I have now! I'm so thankful for him, especially because he lives in Fayetteville now, so he's super close to me!

In related news (to the wolfies in the picture) Joel and I bought some State football tickets. Basically, he's pretty excited about football season, and I'm looking forward to a new t-shirt and hot dogs at the games.

School starts up in a couple of weeks. I've got a bigger class than last year, but I'm thankful for some new organizational tools, a year of experience under my belt, and awesome new software that makes engaging lesson planning a bit easier.

I'm trying to have a good attitude about this year. I am more confident, but I'm still nervous about not being the kind of teacher I want to be. Goals for this year include:
-sucking it up and actually having good parent-teacher communication
-staying on top of all the papers that come in
-being more organized in matching my lessons to the curriculum
-being more consistent in discipline
-rewarding students more
-having morning meetings

The last goal is something I saw in classrooms as I was student teaching, but never really worked in my room this year. Being in a magnet school means a lot less instructional time in the classroom, and that makes a 15 minute meeting somewhat of a burden when you have SO many other things to fit in. However, looking back at all my issues this year, I think a lot had to do with a lack of social skills with some students I had. A regular morning meeting to have "devotions" of some sort, going over our routine, and checking in with each student would have been really helpful. I started teaching about bullying behavior and what to do about it late in the year, after my other (not so healthy) routines were established. Last year, that bullying became such a huge problem that it totally interfered with teaching and learning. There were days when we didn't really accomplish much of anything...we were surviving. That was a huge problem...this year I've made a really cool, interactive presentation on bullying to introduce the topic, and I plan on reinforcing these points during morning meetings.

Any other tips for this year? How will you do things differently?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A year ago today:






















We were on our way to Charleston for our honeymoon!

Yesterday was our anniversary, and it was wonderful!
We went to church with my whole family and later went to lunch at Doc Green's (my choice-healthy and low key.) They were wonderful and bought us a new vacuum which we are SO thankful for!
Joel and I spent the afternoon at the pool working on our tans and listening to side conversations going on around us. I love neighborhood pools :)

We came home and watched the final two episodes of Gilmore Girls (don't hate-you know you love it too). After that, we went to Whole Foods to buy our fabulous food for the evening:















We watched the first three episodes of my favorite, Pride and Prejudice. Joel bought me a book: The Flying Carpet of Small Miracles, a storypeople card, and lilies. My favorite.
Joel's mom brought me hydrangeas from her garden a few days ago, and you can see the wooden bowls Joel picked up for me and the cookies I bought him at IKEA on Saturday. His gift is a new pair of Pumas, but I couldn't find them in the store so I told him to find them online.

































It ended up being a perfect day. I'm so thankful for my husband and the wonderful year we've had!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Candyland Battle

I play Candyland with my client now, to practice taking turns and whatnot. I had never played the game before, so you know, the first session I had to actually read the instructions.

I'm usually one to let a kid win, but not this time. My three-year-old client beat me twice in a row. Honestly, if I had just not given my client any assistance on the counting part of it, I would have won.

Well, today, the tables turned. I actually won at Candyland, and yes, I will gloat. Unashamedly.

I love my job.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dessert success!

We had Joel's parents over for dinner last night, and per Joel's request, we had our typical summer menu: burgers (which fell apart and became sloppy joes), corn, and fried green tomatoes. I made biscuits for Joel's dad that were made with all organic ingredients. It ended up being a really monochromatic meal, oops!

But my favorite part of the meal: peach ginger sorbet.

It's a WW recipe, only 2 points per serving!

Here it goes:
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 lb. peaches (peeled, pitted, quartered)
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. table salt

1) Combine water, sugar, corn syrup and ginger in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Let it boil for 1 minute and then set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
2) Pour sugar mixture into a blender or food processor, blend with peaches, lemon juice, and salt until pureed.
3) Pour into a bowl and freeze for about 8 hours.
4) This step confused me-I put it into my ice cream maker but I think I used it wrong. To serve it, I just defrosted the sorbet a bit and shaved it off into a teacup :)

It's really refreshing, but because of the ginger, it's spicy at the end. It's really yummy!

I think I'm going to try make a green grape sorbet later. Mmm...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

At the risk of now being overly scrutinized...

I wanted to share some things that I've been thinking about over the past few months.

I joined Weight Watchers to lose weight, yes, but also to just be healthier in general. I realize that I eat cheeseburgers every now and then, and somehow factor in ice cream almost 3 times a week, but I know that I'm learning how to just control my portion sizes.

I've also started thinking a lot about where our food comes from and how it's processed. I've mentioned that Joel and I shop at the farmers' market, more for the cost than for the environmental/social benefits. It helps us stay on budget to buy locally.

However, a few months ago I learned about a study about workers in chicken processing plants in NC and the health problems they suffer. You can find the abstract here.

Joel and I started talking about where our food comes from and the social costs we really don't think about. As Christians, we know the Lord has called us to be loving to our neighbors. One way we feel we can do this is to consider how the least of these in our state are treated, often in indentured servitude-like positions.

We tried buying our groceries at Whole Foods but it got really expensive (of course). But, step by step, we're trying to move towards different ways of buying our food and different meals. I mean, I still need to buy regular chicken and veggies sometimes, but we're trying to slowly introduce organic and locally grown foods. So I realize that if you look at my fridge it won't look like the picture of sustainability, so don't judge me! I just wanted to know if other people out there are also thinking about these things/changing their lifestyles.

Last night, I saw Food, Inc. and it brought up a lot of issues that we've been thinking about for a while. Namely:
-Farmers and plant workers rights
-buying locally to support NC farmers and reduce how much "oil" goes into our food.
-foodborne illness
-obesity
-chemicals and additives in food that our body isn't used to
-sustainability and the global food crisis

Joel is totally supportive of me looking into this, and today we spend forever looking at the ingredients lists on the food we bought. It was good to just be aware of what we're eating.

It is really challenging to revamp how we do things, though, and balance natural food, health, and a budget. . Here are some examples of the challenges:
-I love to bake, but I want to include ingredients that are low fat, low sugar. So I bought a "buttery spread" on sale that was, calorie-wise, really healthy. But the additives list was ridiculously long. Buying our butter from the farmers' market like we used to do means I compromise health. What to do??
-I wish we could buy meat from grass-fed animals, for the above stated reasons, but it's so expensive. EEK!

Anyway, I'm just on the beginning of my research-journey, and I'm not trying to be all granola-hippy-wacko. But if anyone else is thinking about these things, let me know! I'd love recipes, suggestions, and information!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summary, new beginnings

Our trip:

Was awesome. We got to connect with some old and new friends, and I was absolutely floored by how hospitable our Turkish friends were.

I'll give some highlights of the trip:
-On Tuesday, before we left, I woke up and Joel had a horrible toothache. He hadn't slept all night! He went to a dentist who told him to go get his tooth pulled at an oral surgeon! That morning, I was frantically trying to pick up some last minute trip items, finish packing, and then sorting out meds for Joel. He got home at noon with a chipmunk cheek, and his dad came to pick us up at 1 to go to the airport. CRAZY.

We got to the airport and checked our bags, went through security, etc...with 3 hours to spare. Oops. Then our flight was delayed, so we ended up spending about 6 hours in Raleigh...I just wanted to get on the plane and go, so that was a little frustrating. When we got to JFK, we had planned to change some money, but our flight out of JFK was leaving 20 minutes after we landed, due to the delay. Joel had to wait to get our checked-carry on bag, so he sent me ahead to find the flight (in a different terminal) and tell them to wait! I sprinted through the airport, all the while calling Joel on the phone to tell him how to follow me. We ended up getting lost and we couldn't figure out how to get to each other, but I found some friendly travelers who were also flying to Madrid, so I followed them. I was pretty stressed, but thank the Lord that we met up! It turned out that after we had boarded, the flight didn't take off for another hour, but I had passed out by that time. Our flight to Madrid was really long, but as it was throughout the night, I was able to sleep for most of the trip.

We got to Madrid with 15 minutes to board our flight, and didn't make it. To make a long story short, we did end up getting to Istanbul with some complications that I've already written about.


I'll fast forward to my favorite parts of the trip I haven't yet documented:

-On Friday, we met with my friend Julie who teaches there. She took us to Ortakoy to eat stuffed potatoes and waffles (AMAZING). I am so thankful for that time to see her!

-On Saturday, Olgun and Mustafa took Joel, me, and a guy named Steven out around all the touristy parts of Istanbul. We visited the Blue Mosque, took pictures outside the Hagia Sofia, and went to Topkapi Palace. It was absolutely wonderful!

-That night, Joel and I went out to dinner, just the two of us. We had a couple lunches from sidewalk cafes together, but this was the only thing we did out, just the two of us. We got to eat upstairs in this super cute restaurant, next to an open window looking out on to Istiklal. We got some yummy ice cream and then sat down for chai down a side street near our hotel. It was a perfect evening :)

-On Sunday, we shopped for lots of souvenirs, and then spent the evening with a family with whom Joel spent lots of time last time he was there. They're from the States but have lived in Istanbul with their two kids for about 5 years. They're both amazing artists, and he showed us a mural he had painted in Istanbul- I wish I had gotten a picture. They took us to a very cute park for dinner, and after dinner we spent a lot of time sharing music and they gave us some great marriage advice :)

-On Monday, we finished shopping and the guys took us out for one last meal in Istanbul-and baklava! It was delicious. I never actually went to sleep that night, and our taxi came at 4am to take us to the airport.

Our trip home was really long, more because Joel picked up a stomach bug and was sick the whole way home. Although none of our flights were delayed (praise the Lord!) it felt like we'd never be home. I slept very little on the plane because I was so worried about Joel. My parents picked us up at the airport, Pepto in hand, and graciously dropped us off at home to go to bed. This may sound really silly, but every other trip I've been on, I've always had to wait to see Joel because we didn't live together. I had this giddy moment when I realized I wasn't going to have say goodbye to him, and that was really nice.

That night, my head hit the pillow at 9am and I woke up 12 hours later. Needless to say, we were exhausted.


The trip was amazing, and I'm SO thankful we were able to go on this trip. I cannot wait to go back!


___________________________________

In other news, I'm back on Weight Watchers after a 2 week hiatus and a couple pounds more to show for it. I really hope to reach my goal weight by the end of the summer!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We are home!

I will post more later...but here's a link to our pictures! Enjoy!









Istanbul photo album

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ahlo!

I am not going to spend my whole morning typing up our travels thus far...but since we have wi-fi in our room, I thought I'd update a little on our trip so far!

We had a very LONG trip to Istanabul...about 28 hours total. Our two flights before Madrid were delayed significantly, so when we got to Madrid we had missed our flight by literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, there was a later flight and we got a voucher for food. We weren't too upset, just exhausted, but I was happy that I got to spend even just a couple hours among the familiar. We ate tortilla espanola and I had zuma de naranja (just fresh squeezed orange juice, but it sounds fancier when I type it in spanish). I know it was just airport food, but it reminded me of the last time I was in that airport, coming back from my beloved Santiago de Compostela, trying to spend as many minutes as I could in the country I fell in love with.

Anyway, we arrived in Istanbul around 11pm (4pm NC time) and the things got crazy. We weren't able to get many Turkish Lira because 1) The bank in Raleigh had none, 2) RDU and Madrid didn't have any and 3) We literally sprinted from through JFK to make our flight to Madrid, and had no time to stop to find money. When we got to Turkey, we realized our cards didn't work, even though 1) We already have talked to our bank about our trip and 2) They worked fine in Madrid. We panicked a little because we had only about 20 euros and 15 TL, and we needed to buy visas to get into Istanbul. I think the man selling Visas gypped us a little, but we didn't care. We made it through, only to find that our one checked bag did not wait for us at the airport. They sent it back to Madrid...we should get it sometime today.

We arranged for Joel's friend, Olgun, to pick us up at the airport. He arrived with a friend, Mustafa. When we got through the baggage claim, there was a HUGE crowd of people waiting, and all of a sudden, I see a Turkish man, about Joel's age, running in front of the crowd. He jumped on Joel and gave him a big hug. He was so patient to wait for us, and he understood that we had NO money, and offered to help us in whatever we needed. This culture is so hospitable.

He drove us through the insane streets of Istanbul..I was holding Joel's hand for dear life as Olgun sped through the highway, dodging cars left and right. As we neared Taksim, Olgun and Mustafa started yelling out the window to pedestrians to point the way to our hotel. Every 100 yards they'd ask someone and the man would point down the road, or point right, or tell us it was up ahead.

We finally got to our hotel, and the men waited for us to make sure everything was ok. We thanked them and although they offered to take us to get food, we had to decline. We were exhausted. I think they understood and we promised to meet up with them the following day (last night).

Joel and I woke up late yesterday and went down to the hotel's breakfast. It was AMAZING...seriously, I already know I'm going to miss it. There is a huge spread of: bread, cheese, meat, olives, 15 different kinds of sauces, jams, and Nutella :), yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, eggs, and juice. Oh my goodness, even though I just ate, my mouth is watering just talking about it!

We walked up and down the main street near our hotel room and figured out stuff with our bank, bought a memory card for my camera (of course, I forgot it), and Joel taught me how to order water from a street vendor. He took me to his old apartment and then to his favorite restaurant. He is so happy to be here, and I'm learning why. The city is really interesting and the people we've met so far have bent over backwards to be hospitable.

We took a nap at our hotel after lunch, and met up with Olgun and Mustafa for dinner. Thankfully, they let us buy them dinner, but they ordered for us. I think I had lamb and rice. Joel had some sort of tomato-y lamp with yogurt. After dinner, they walked us to another part of the city with a beautiful outdoor cafe. They taught us how to order tea, or chai, and we talked aout, of all things, Obama, Sarah Palin, and a protest I had seen earlier in Taksim Square.

After our tea, they walked us all around the city, by the Bosphorus, several Mosques, into a bazaar when half a dozen men came up Mustafa trying to get us to sit down and smoke a hookah type thing. I know it's not called a hookah, but I forgot the name. Mustafa bought us Magnum bars...if you've never had one, you've never lived. Quite possibly the most delicious ice cream bar on earth. We talked about education, their businesses, and how to get around the city. I am still floored at their hospitality. Saturday, we're going to meet up again and they will take us to the Grand Bazaar. I can't wait!

This ended up being longer than I had planned, but I don't want to forget a single detail of this trip. I'm already sad about leaving in a few days! Thank the Lord that we were able to go on this trip...last night we were daydreaming about our next adventure-Spain? Germany? Who knows!

I will try take more pictures today. I need to get over the fact that I am a tourist and there are no two ways about it-I'm going to look touristy no matter what I do!

Ok, time to get ready. Gule Gule!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Merhaba!

Phew: We are almost all packed, planned, and the house is cleaned (enough). We have a great contact in Istanbul who is so hospitable and will serve as a guide of sorts.

We are leaving tomorrow! Please pray for safe travels!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Beach baking!

Yet again, I'm headed to the beach this weekend...and this time I'm responsible for breakfast and lunch on Saturday.

Breakfast:
Blueberry muffins and biscuits (can't help myself)



















Fruit
Eggs/sausage?

Lunch:
Turkey burgers (the picture looks gross-but look at all that veggie goodness in there!)















Pasta salad














A little carb heavy...but who wants to eat broccoli at the beach?
Tyler and Joel served as my taste-testers and approved it all.

My kitchen was a wreck halfway through, but it's all cleaned up now.















I would have started this whole cooking shindig earlier in the week..but life got in the way!
oel and I got home at 9 from helping Meredith move, and I realized-uh oh! I haven't made anything for the weekend.

I spend two and a half hours cooking and then cleaning up the kitchen, but it was actually fun. I was able to recover all my songs that I thought I had lost when my computer died-bonus! I had lots of catching up to do on all my old iTunes songs. I found all the songs Yolanda had sent me from Spain...so I spent a good hour reminiscing about Santiago. Among the other artists I rediscovered: K's Choice, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Jump, Jon Foreman, Mindy Smith, Regina Spektor...could I be any happier?


2 random notes:

I'm not sure if I ever posted this picture of Grace Elizabeth in my hater blockers, but even if I have, it's a good repeat. She's so big now, I'm sure these sunglasses would fit her ;)



















Tonight, I love these three songs:




Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lists lists lists

We are leaving for Turkey in less than a week! I am a little nervous because:
1) I don't know the language.
2) We only have an hour layover in Madrid. That includes going through customs. We are trying to get a later flight out but we're not sure if we can.
3) When we get back, I'll only have about a month left of summer. I'm not sure I'm ready to go back to school!

I am super thankful because:
1) We actually have the opportunity to do this!
2) We will meet up with lots of friends while there.
3) We have had the blessing of some odd jobs this summer for spending money.
4) We're both over our horrible colds and feeling great.
5) We're going to eat some awesome food :)

Please pray for:
1) Smooth and safe travel-our layover in Madrid, luggage issues, etc.
2) Our ability to communicate with people.
3) That we would be a blessing to the missionaries there and help them with what they need.
4) That Joel and I would grow closer!

I am working with a small child with autism this summer-love the family and I love my job! I am also continuing to tutor this summer. It's really nice to have part time work; I still feel like it's summer but I'm not wasting my time.

This weekend I'm back to the beach with some friends, so I think I'll be back to making-ahead lots of meals. Any ideas for good recipes?