Sunday, February 28, 2010

What a great visit!

Last week at school, we were lucky enough to have Susan Stevens Crummel visit our building and give an author presentation. We used to have an author visit every year and we've since decided to save up our money and splurge on a really great author every two or three years. When our librarian, Jill, told us that Susan was coming to our building, I didn't know much about her. Jill read one of her books each week when my kids came in for library check out.

Many of her books are about dogs. Of course, I liked that! Her presentation was over an hour long & the kids were engaged and excited the entire time. That's hard to do! I was laughing, I was interested in hearing what she had to say ... and I walked away wishing that I had some writing and/or illustrating skills!
Here is Susan with one of the many puppets that she brought to act out parts of her stories. Susan is the author and she partners with her sister, Janet Stevens, or Janet's best friend, Dorothy Donohue, to finish the artwork in her books.

Aunt Betsy & cousin Minnie were nice enough to get some books for Ellen. We took them over yesterday & she was happily flipping through the pages. Both books had doggies on the covers and Ellen waved hi to the dogs! :)

Here is the first book, Help Me, Mr. Mutt! It's a book where dogs have written to Mr. Mutt to ask for advice on all their "people" problems. Check out the autograph!

Here is a sample of one of the letters. Overdressed in Oklahoma writes, concerned about the amount of clothes that his owners are dressing him in.

And here's the funny reply. Be sure to click on the picture to look at the graph that compares the breed of a dog vs. how often they are dressed up!

I loved the illustrations in this book! The yarn in this illustration looks so real, that I actually touched the page. Janet punched holes in her original artwork & laced the yarn through. Then it showed up like this in the book!

Minnie got City Dog, Country Dog for Ellen. It is about a book about 2 dog friends (based on City Mouse, Country Mouse). The City dog, Henri T. LaPooch lives in Paris and his friend, Vincent Van Dog lives in the country.

The book has lots of French in it, which I thought would be fun for Ellen. This book has illustrations made out of all cut paper. They also looked like they were 3D.

Here is an example of the "real" artwork in the book and the letters that Henri & Vincent wrote back and forth.

Here are the two dogs visiting in Paris, at the Moulin Rouge. In the end, they realize that they like their lives better in their original homes, but they will continue to be pen pals.

If you're looking for new books for your little one ... or a dog lover ... be sure to check out Susan's books! Some other great ones are The Great Fuzz Frenzy and All In One Hour!


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

This is why I love Target!

You don't have to twist my arm too hard to get me to go on a shopping trip to Target, or the Red Circle Boutique as Jilly calls it. :) Thanks to my teacher salary, most of my clothes/accessory shopping happens at Target, Old Navy, Gap, Kohl's, TJMaxx, and Marshall's. If I made more money, I'd probably be shopping at those places anyway. I like their stuff, and it's cheap enough that when things start to be worn out from wear or I don't like them anymore ... I'm okay with getting rid of those things.

A few years ago, I found a super cute pair of gray & white zebra print ballet flats and I've worn the stew out of them. I think they might have even been on sale for $10! They need to go in the trash, but I wear them so much, that I needed something to replace them.

Then, I saw these cute flats on a co-worker & asked where she got them. I was afraid they might be out of my budget. I don't think I've ever spent more than $60 on shoes. I'm a shoes bargain shopper!

She told me they were from Target! Yippee! Remember the last time I found cute, comfortable work shoes at Target? I told you all about them ... I think a few of you even got them. I wear them all the time, and actually wore them yesterday!

I was at Target Monday night and was lucky enough to find a pair in my size! Everytime I go to Target to get a specific pair of shoes, it's like every woman in Johnson County wears the same size, because they are all gone. And guess what else? They are just $13.00! Perfect for me.

I wore them to school today because I had a feeling we'd be having indoor recess. I don't have any socks (or not-socks) to wear with them. They were VERY comfortable & didn't rub on my toes or the backs of my heels. I noticed as I was walking a lot today through the halls, that it seemed like my feet were pounding on the hard floor. They don't have the best sole support, but I'm not planning on wearing them every day.

Just wanted to pass the good shoe news along to my friends ... be sure and let me know if you have other shoe suggestions for me!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

We've got a problem :(

Do you remember last summer when Minnie & Ellen really started interacting for the first time? Ellen was curious & Minnie was super gentle.

Then, just a few months later ... the "cousins" were even more excited to see each other. Ellen literally squealed when she saw Minnie, and Minnie was antsy to have her belly scratched.

This fall, when Ellen was really moving around, she could hold her own when Minnie was around. Ellen started to turn her face to avoid Minnie's kisses & she would crawl away when she had enough playing time. This was also the last time I took Minnie over to Molly & Erik's at nighttime. It is just too hard to have a vocal pup when there is also a baby sleeping in the house.

The last time Ellen & Minnie were together was Christmas day at Mom & Dad's. Ellen did see pictures of Minnie during this time and gave her very cute I'm-looking-at-an-animal grunt :) Molly asked me to come babysit Ellen tonight because both of them had meetings to go to. I got about an hour in of play time before bed, so beyond that, I was just a warm body in the house. Molly was nice enough to let me bring Minnie, and I was excited for the girls to get to play together.

Uh oh!

This is what their entire time looked like. Ellen was TERRIFIED and tried to run away! What happened? She was okay with seeing Minnie when she was up in her high chair, but as soon as she got down, she was running off & avoiding Minnie.

Molly broke up the doggie/child chaos with a before-bed snack for Ells. At this point, Minnie was on her leash so she couldn't get to Ellen anymore :(

We asked Ellen to "find the doggie" hoping that she would be interested in looking at & petting Minnie. Instead, she found this book in her book basket called, "Doggies" by Sandra Boynton. That's not what we were looking for, but that's still pretty impressive! {Super cute book, BTW, for those of you with little ones!}

You can't really tell, but this is a terrified face. She ran just out of where Minnie could reach on her leash. Poor thing! She doesn't want to play with Minnie anymore. :(

Poor Minners ... she lost her best friend! :(

I'm hoping this is just a phase that Ellen is going through. I would hate for her to be scared of dogs as a little one ... especially a sweet dog like Minnie. Does anyone have some tips for us?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

It started again

I took Minnie out this morning & was thinking to myself that it was nice to see that most the snow had melted in my development. There were still the original piles from the snow plows from the Christmas Eve storm, but we could see most of the grass, which was nice.

Then, I went inside for a few hours and when I left again ... snow. Lots of it. I know most of the country has snow, too, but I'm worried about the fact that I may never want to see snow again. Not this week. Not next month. Next Winter? Probably not.

I did get out to see friends for Valentine's brunch before the snow really covered the roads. I'm thankful I have another day off from school tomorrow, because that lets me get some things done before I have to face the snow.

I hope everyone is driving safe, if they really need to be out on the roads! If you can, bundle up ... stay warm, INSIDE ... and curl up to watch some Olympics! I know I am!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

It's never easy

I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade. No joke. I was 6 years old. My teacher was Mrs. Rodman. She was pretty. She was nice. She let us earn all kinds of prizes. She had bunnies, fish, and birds for class pets. She invited us to her lake house in the summer. She even let me stay in touch & come to observe her when I was looking for a job during my student teaching. When I observed, Mrs. Rodman was now Joan to me ... but she was exactly as I remembered her.

I also observed some other amazing women during high school and college. I always hoped I could be as great as they were. I never strayed from the "education" track in high school or college. If there is one thing I regret about my classes in college, it's that I didn't allow myself a summer or a semester to study abroad. I've been babysitting since I was in 6th grade, I've tutored since I was in college, I taught summer school to preschoolers - elementary students for several summers.

Not once in all those years of learning, observing, preparing and dreaming of my own classroom did I ever think I'd be the "mean" teacher. I thought my kids would all love me just like I loved my teachers. I'd never yell. Never punish. Never make kids cry. Well ... things apparently change.

I do have a couple things going for me that help to hide my "mean" status on most days. I have what I think is a fun-looking classroom. I like to read books & they are all over for the kids to read. I LOVE to decorate for the seasons & holidays - my kids are amazed each time I pull down the next box of decorations. I DO laugh & smile & have fun. I adore my teammates/best friends and we made a great trio. I'm good at what I do & can teach (almost) any concept to any kind of learner.

To me, the most important part of my job is the not the curriculum I teach. It's definitely NOT the State Assessments that I prep for all year. The friends I've made at work are a close second. The MOST important part of my job is teaching some important life lessons & skills that may or may not have been introduced to my kids before they walked into my room for the first time in August.

I feel like it's important to create your classroom norms, tell your kids what you expect, and build a strong sense of community from day one. If I waiver at all on what I expect, the kids seem to run right over me. Twenty-six 9- and 10-year olds can do that. I learned early on that classroom management is NOT easy! Keeping up with the behaviors of 26 students (plus all the other students I see on a daily basis throughout the building) and keeping my cool is not something I can do well, without getting flustered.

I don't want you to think I have an awful class that is always out of hand & getting in trouble. I teach in a wonderful district, my colleagues at my building are honestly more like a second family and my classes are always great. However, the stories I tell about kids getting in trouble with me always shock my family. They think I'm so mean & need to let up a bit. I don't remember kids talking back to teachers when I was in school. And not that I got in trouble a lot in school (maybe Mom & Dad want to correct me here), but I don't think my parents would ever believe my side of the story over my teacher's. Things have changed.

It's never easy to contact the parents of one of my students to explain how their child is a classroom bully. It's also not easy to hear from a parent that their child has been made fun of for _____ (fill in the blank with body size, lunch, grades, hair, etc). Sometimes I think parents still see me as the "new" teacher who might not know what she's doing ... even though this is my 6th year and I'm doing a darn good job at work! I don't like having to say, "Miss/Mr. _____, will you come talk to me for a minute" when I know the conversation might end in tears, yelling or worse. None of that is easy ... but it falls under that category of the most important things I need to teach; so it must be done.

I can do the academic teaching part of my job without too many questions or worry about how my lesson will turn out. The life lessons, manners, social cues, feelings and my own goal to help my students become a better person in the future ... that is what always throws me for a loop!

** I had a lot to say tonight. Excuse my ramblings ... not sure that it really makes sense.
Isn't that what a blog is for anyway? ;) **

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