Okay. It's only fair. I suppose I'll do this. This one time.

Last Saturday Brent took me to a driving range. He was bummed he couldn't golf and decided what better new hobby than teach ME how to golf. I told him I wanted to blog about the experience. He said he did too. So here is a tale of two viewpoints:

I have never touched a golf club "in real life." Meaning, I have mini-golfed unsuccessfully many times, and held golf clubs for others, but never have I gone to a real golf course and tried to golf. This is my story.

Brent and I both were needing a little time outside the house. We needed time to breathe in some fresh air. The previous day we had been looking at women's golf club sets at Dick's, and I decided that I could handle being a golfer if I could get a cute, girly colored golf set. So, the next day when the idea to hit the free driving range came up, I decided I would just go with it, picturing myself someday swinging a purple club.

I was hoping no one would be there. It's a small golf course, and I had my pride to hold onto. Unfortunately, there was not only a guy there, but he was one of those guys that has that contraption that sucks up the golf balls so you don't even have to bend over and pick them up. This fact alone proved to me that he meant business. This doused my hopes a bit.

Brent tried to show me, as bet he could with one arm, a good stance and swing. We poured out about 50 balls, I took a few practice swings, and then tried my luck.

Luck there was none of. I maybe hit the ball 3 out of every 10 swings. I was using a sand wedge, and it didn't make sense to me that I had to swing under the ball. So I usually whiffed it and missed the ball completely. I did make contact a few times though, and had decent hits. Brent tried to give me a few more pointers, but at this point I was getting a little frustrated.

And then it happened. I had one particularly bad swing and hit, the ball barely bouncing and rolling 20 feet, and the guy swinging a few feet down looked up and half smiled, half sympathy laughed! Yes, sympathy-laughing at ME! And my pathetic attempt at golfing. I said something like, "Don't mind me...it's obviously my first time trying my hand at this!" and we went on. But my pride, which I was barely hanging onto at this point, burst into flames and left me, along with any confidence remaining.

Fast forward about 3 swings later. I check my feet, bend my knees, and swing: I make contact (!), and watch the ball....and the sand wedge head go flying! WHAT?! I not only am frustrated and humiliated and cold (it was chilly that day), but I then proceed to break one of Brent's favorite clubs. My motto at this point, "Whatever. I don't care."

Brent handed me a driver, figuring I wasn't going to hit it too far anyway. This is one of his Ping clubs, so I was praying it wouldn't break on me. I hit a few. Nothing too exciting. I decide it's time to call it wraps, feeling I have sufficiently been humiliated and figured out two essential things: I cannot hit a golf ball, and I should not golf again. So after about 30 minutes, we pick up the balls, pack up the bag, and head home.

I've decided this: I am not patient enough to be bad at something. I want to be good right away. I am too competitive to be the worst at something. We were able to eventually laugh at the whole situation, but it was fairly ugly.

I am not, nor will I ever be a golfer. Even if I had cute clubs.


Hi (this is my debut). First of all, since I have the last word, most of what Kelsey said is the truth. I, on the other hand, will tell you what really happened.

Kelsey and I did go to Dick's and I had the idea that maybe Kelsey should start taking up golf first of all because I like it a lot and probably because I had recently played with a family (dad, mom and son) on the golf course and they were nice. The mom was such a good sport about it and she had urged me to get my wife out there to play with us. That started my wheels turning. Flashes of Kelsey and I swinging clubs, smiling and laughing in the golf cart, her giving me a good game after making a birdie, all dressed up in our bright colored argyle pattern clothing. The funny part is that, at the time, it didn't seem too far fetched.

All those daydreams came crashing down in one fatal swing.

She did a good job telling you what happened at the range, I'll give her that, but she failed to put in our conversation afterward as we drove home. She began to blame me for not coaching her in correct fashion, but the bottom line was that she didn't want to hear instruction from me in the first place. She needs a "golf coach," someone who "really" knows what they are doing. So, when the truth finally came out in the car, as I pried it out of her, wasn't much of a surprise. We just laughed about it the rest of the way home as we decided that I was doomed to fail from the beginning. Let's think about this: Kelsey playing a sport that involves lots of patience with hours of practice needed just to play 18 holes of golf (usually taking 4+ hours and costing 14-20 bucks) and still not be anywhere close to being good? Nope.

It's official, Kelsey and golf will never be a pair. That's sad to me because it's a sport that I like sharing with people. Every once in a while I talk to her like there's still a chance she will one day realize the void of golf in her life, but until that day comes...I can always look back on that day and smile at the missed opportunity and missed hits.


post number 200

I can't believe I have reached post 200; and with nothing too important to say at that. As I type this, Brent is in his new favorite spot on the couch, it is in the lower 70s outside (a beautiful day), and I have a cheesecake in the oven for our good friend Justin who has been helping us out a lot lately.

Milestones, even though reaching post number 200 may be a fairly insignificant one, always make me reminisce. Lately I have been thinking a lot about my college days, and although they aren't so far behind me, they seem far enough gone that there is but a hint of the taste of them on my tongue. I remember when I first started writing my blog during the fall of my senior year. My roommates made fun of me, but I felt like I needed an outlet for all of the writing I was doing.

Just this week my college roommate, Renae, said that she was very college-sick as well. She said people going back to school made her wish for those first few weeks where all we had to worry about was how we wanted to arrange our dorm room. She is in a similar situation, married for a year now, moved away from home, and she too feels she didn't soak it up as much as she should have.

I know hindsight is always 20-20, but as a young college student it's hard to believe that late night Perkins runs and conversations around a cafeteria table will ever amount to much in your memory bank. Funny though, how it turns out that those moments are more significant than the degree you obtain. I look back and cherish, and still almost hate, the walks across campus in sub-zero weather, or sharing hot chocolate at a bible study on my wing. It's funny how sharing a bathroom with 30 other women is so frustrating at the time, and how I would go back in a heartbeat to write a note of encouragement to a wingmate on the paper hung up in a bathroom stall.

There are definitely things that I have now that I wouldn't give up to go back, namely Brent, but if somehow miraculously I could have it all, I wonder if I would cherish it more now?

Brent and I went to our first try of a Sunday school this morning. We went with some friends, Eric and Rachel, but as we got our coffee and bagels and found a seat, everyone still seemed pretty distant. We talked about this on the way home, and Brent said he thinks we just don't have the motivation we need to really jump in there as we still just don't quite feel like this is supposed to be permanent. It's a hard balance, because we want to live and love where we're at, but the risk is high when you know it might all change again so soon.

All this to say, it's pretty incredible how much life has been lived between 200 blog posts. It's pretty incredible how much I've had to grow and change and accept so many responsibilities. It's pretty incredible, that all the while God has been right here with me, writing my story long before I ever touch a finger to the keyboard.

My mom sent me some lyrics to an old hymn they sang at church today, and the last verse is a sweet assurance that no matter where life leads, no matter what the next 200 blog posts may read, I have a Savior to follow; a Savior who is leading me:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heav'n of heav'ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee.

(And as a preview for a soon to be written post, Brent took me to the driving range yesterday... and we both want to blog our version of that experience. Stay tuned...it just got interesting!)


quick, quick, quick

Because life is currently coming at me fast and furiously, here is a quick update:

* Brent's shoulder: About the same. He is beginning to get used to the awkwardness of using his left hand all the time. And is slowly getting used to the nagging pain. He had an appointment with a specialist who said she doesn't want to go the surgery route, and he will see her again in a week and a half to know what the next step is. For now, I will continue to help him tie his shoes. (And my mom sent him an awesome care package today complete with some sweets, some suduko, golf magazines, and even KU flip flops! Thanks mom...you made his day!)

* Brent's interview: Brent interviewed in the Sport's and Fitness Department where he interned. He felt he answered the questions well, but it was different than other interviews because they knew him so well; they knew where his weaknesses were and so they could grill him. But he felt like it went as well as it could, and now we'll wait (again), and hopefully this time not for another month and a half to hear anything!

* Brent and Kelsey: As you can imagine, this has been stretching us... I hope in good ways. It is humbling for Brent, and a test of my patience, both qualities that we hope to grow in. We have spent a lot of time laughing at some humorous situations this has put us in, a little arguing with waning patience and sleep, and more praying that this would strengthen us as a couple. We were able to go to a Bat's game on Tuesday night with some friends (the local minor league team), and it was great for us to get out of the house and have some fun (unfortunately riding in the car is very painful for Brent).

* Writing: I have started writing again with my students. I forgot how much I love it. It is nice to finally have the taste of a story or poem in my mouth to swish around for awhile. I figured if I expect them to write daily, that I should get back in the habit as well. Hopefully I will complete a piece and post soon.

* Teaching: I had a beautiful moment yesterday, as my students were working on a project in groups and I was walking around the room touching base with them. I stopped in the middle of the room, looked around, and thought to myself, "How lucky am I to have a job like this? What a great job this is." A different tune than this time last year, I know :) Today we worked on descriptive writing and I was so encouraged by what they were coming up with (I see cherry red desks with speckled gray tops like pepper. or, from a special ed. student, "The walls are bright white with a texture like freshly fallen snow"). I get excited when great writing happens in my classroom.

* Swine Flu: We officially have our first confirmed case in our school. Awesome. Don't worry, I am frequently washing my hands, getting sleep, and eating healthy.

* Recent Ponderings: Does it ever get easier to get up in the morning? Will I ever feel like I have enough professional clothes to choose from? Is trying to figure out what to make for supper each night always going to be so difficult? What will my new niece and nephew look like?

It is shortly after nine...and I am going to bed. Tomorrow is FRIDAY!!


baby project

Once I had this idea in my mind, I couldn't help myself from making it! Brent's beautiful sister, Beth, is having a baby boy at the beginning of September. Although I have been able to find some cute little outfits for him, nothing quite screamed, "HENRY!" like these onesies I made.

I went to a thrift store (my favorite one in OC), and found a few ties. I then cut them and made faux knots before putting them on the onsies:

The finished project turned out almost too cute for me to mail off!
I even cut a little strip and put it around the neckline to look like it was going around.
I'm sure Henry will spit up all over them and they won't last too long, but I had so much fun making them and was happy Beth and Eli liked them. Hopefully they at least last for one great photo shoot!

Update: Brent is still very uncomfortable, sore, and in pain. We weren't able to get an appointment yesterday, but have one scheduled with the specialist on Monday. I will keep you updated.


an eventful week

School started this week, as most of you know. I came home today completely flabbergasted by my students. They are INCREDIBLE!! I will always feel fondly about my students from last year, just because they were my first, but I have a feeling this group is going to stay with me a LONG time. The majority of them are so respectful, sweet, and respond to directions well. In my opinion, that's about all you can ask for in middle schoolers. I have two examples today that may help illustrate what I'm dealing with:

1. Today I gave them their first pre-test which is A LOT of writing. I did not hear a single complaint ALL day! Not even a sigh. AND most of them finished with about 20 minutes left of class, and all of them followed instructions, returned to their seat and silently found something else to work on or read!! It was a beautiful way to end my first week.

2. Today we had an all 8th grade assembly in the gym to hear expectations from the administrators. We have a rule that you walk, single file, on the right side of the hallways. So my students were following directions well on the way to the gym, when we encountered the guidance counselor and one of our principals having a conversation...on the right side of the hallway. The very first child walked in between them, but after that, every single student politely walked around, not through their conversation. To some of you, this may not seem like that big of a deal; common sense could take care of this. However, most middle schoolers would not notice that they were interrupting something as simple as a hallway conversation.

Needless to say, I am excited about what this year will hold and will keep you updated :)

Now, for those of you that don't know what else happened this week, let me briefly fill you in. Last night Brent and I went to his slow-pitch softball game at the church. About 15 minutes into the game, Brent, who was playing center field and can't do anything half way, dove to catch a ball. He does this a lot. However, this time after he caught it he stood up, dropped his glove, and began walking off the field. That is when I knew we had a problem.

I met him in the dugout where he promptly informed me, "Yeah, it's broken." The guys he worked with were playing against Brent's team, and they already had ice and had pulled the Gator around for him to ride to the car (it's nice to have people care about you!). I then drove him to the ER where he got some xrays and was examined. I was hoping it was just something that could be popped back into place. Unfortunately, we have some bigger problems:

A torn ligament and a separated shoulder. Ouch! After a long time at the ER, who gave us the number of an Orthopedic Specialist and a prescription for Vicodin, we got a frosty at Wendy's (hey, he deserved it!), picked up the prescription and headed home. They put him in a back brace that will keep his shoulders in place, and he has to wear a sling to immobilize the shoulder.

I could tell he was in A LOT of pain, and I tried to be as calm as I could. If you know me you know that things like this make me queasy, and that I hate Dr.'s offices, and "adult things" like this. But I pulled through!! :) I even was able to help Brent change last night (out of his sweaty and grass stained ball clothes), which was easier said than done. He couldn't raise his right arm at all, so we had to talk through everything before we tried to change shirts. I think he felt better in the clean clothes, but it was about all I could do to help him because I knew that while I helped him I was also hurting him! (And he still has some weird protrusion from his shoulder that I didn't really want to look at!)

Today he said the pain killers have helped some, but he is uncomfortable and sore. I do think he slept better than I did last night though! He has an appointment Monday with the specialist and will probably find out a little more than! So, yes, it has been quite the week in our household!! Below is a picture of him today, and a picture of the Xray that he had taken (FAIR WARNING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO LOOK... I DON'T!!!)

[One more thing: Beth received the baby project I worked on, so I will put up pictures of what I made her tomorrow.]


first day of school number 19

As most of you knew by reading my last post, today was my first day back to school as a "veteran" teacher (although I don't truly think I've earned that title quite yet!)

All of your prayers today were a "blessed assurance," and were felt. I woke up earlier than I normally do (because I actually shower on the first day of school... not kidding, besides the last day this is the only day I shower in the morning all year!), and so I was able to listen to Chuck Swindoll as I got ready. And, believe it or not, he said these exact words: "So if you feel unprepared, the Holy Spirit will guide you. The Lord uses us when we are weak." So, basically God broke open the roof, knocked on my head and said "HELLO?! I'm here. Don't worry."

The day went really well. I won't bore you with all the details, but I think it will be a great group. One story: I had placed an index card on every desk for their first assignment upon entering the room. I was standing at the doorway assigning them seats as they walked in, and waited about 30 seconds after the bell rang to make sure everyone had made it. When I closed the door and turned around there was absolute silence and EVERYONE was already working on the assignment!!! I stared at them for a second or two, and then said, "You are my favorite class." Ha ha! What a beautiful moment to have on the first day!

Growing up Dad always made sure to take pictures on the first day, so throughout college I continued the tradition. On my first day last year I didn't have a camera, but Brent snapped these quick shots this morning before I headed out the door. Enjoy Dad!

Thanks again for your prayers, and just so you know, they are welcomed on day 2 and day 178 for that matter! :)


school metaphors

As I sit to write this post a car alarm is going off outside. Apparently the owner of this car is not around or simply does not care. I feel like, however, that this incessant alarm is perhaps a metaphor for my own mind right now.

School begins tomorrow. As in, students will walk into my classroom, take their seats, and stare at me in hopes that I will lead them into their bright and glorious futures.

And the siren begins again!!

Okay, maybe I am being a bit dramatic, but this evening when I kick my feet up, a few moments later a throw my hands to my temples and this thought crosses my mind like the car alarm, "TOMORROW?!!! SHOULDN'T YOU BE DOING SOMETHING?!!?!"

I think the answer is, "No." But then I panic and wonder if it should be, "Yes." It's like when you're pulling out of town on a long trip, and you immediately get that feeling in your gut that you forgot something very important on the dresser back home. And so you begin going through the mental checklist of everything you should have packed and everything you know you packed...

It's kind of like that. But I'm not driving away and when all 110 faces see me tomorrow, I can't say, "OH!! That's what I forgot! Hold on, let me run to Wal-Mart!"

However, I'm hoping if I did forget anything that it's like forgetting your pajamas...you can always just substitute an extra t-shirt or something. I'm just hoping I didn't forget my deodorant or my jeans or my phone! (Sorry if I'm too far into this metaphor for some of you!!)

When I left school today though, I felt like everything was in order. I'll take some Tylenol PM tonight, and hopefully awake excited rather than nervous. I do feel more prepared than last year, yet the first day seems so important because you have their attention better than any other day of the school year!

Okay, all of this mumbo jumbo to say this:

School starts tomorrow. Please pray for me if you have a minute. Thanks.


back in the groove

Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Such is the life of a teacher in early August, I suppose :)

This past week was busy, busy, but I'm feeling a little more prepared by the day. Yesterday I was able to compile the first powerpoint and newsletter, including the first couple days worth of activities and procedure lecturing. This morning I woke up and started working on seating assignments. The 7th grade teachers are nice enough to give us some heads up regarding certain students, and certain student combinations. Although I really do like the "blank slate" and fresh start that comes with every year, it is nice to try to avoid any major blowouts on those first few days :) (FYI for teachers: The way I keep my seating charts is super easy and I can use them all year. Some of you may already do this, but I sketch out the layout of the room, run copies for each class, and then cut out sticky notes for each student. I write their name on the sticky note, move around the names and put them where I want them, and then slide the sheet in a sheet protector. I keep these on clipboards behind my desk so substitutes can easily access them. When I want to switch seats, I simply move around the sticky notes and stick them back in the sheet protector. It works great!)

I took some pictures of my new classroom when I was leaving the other day. It will look similar to my previous room because I kept all the same materials, but I have newer desks, and a much larger space. (As always, it's hard to tell in pictures):

Looking at room from my desk
Looking at room from doorway

Back wall, including reading area against the far wall

And the best part? THE WINDOW!!! Yipee! No more seasonal depression :) I even bought a little plant because it will actually survive! And I got an upgrade on my desk, and my desk chair. Good stuff. Also, if you notice to the left of the window: last year I had each of my classes sign contact paper with the intention of putting it up this year. It turned out really well and is a great reminder of why I'm there: the students.
Last year I assigned seats the first day by cards: "You are the 6 of diamonds. Please go find your seat." This way there is no chaos at the beginning of class by making everyone stand back up, and wait for me to tell them where to sit. It also prevents the chaos and obvious problems of them picking their own seats. However, this year I made the cards a little more permanent with packing tape, as I plan to use them more this year.

I decided these cards would allow me endless possibilities for grouping and assignments. For example, "Today we are going to work in groups on character analysis. Groups will be your suit./ Groups will be your number i.e. all the 2s are together, all the 3s are together etc." And so many more options: 5,6,7 of spades...etc! I was so excited when I thought of this. I will also keep a separate deck up front, and if I need to call on a student I can simply draw cards. "Would the 5 of clubs please read the next passage?" I also assigned the week's jobs this way:
And in other news: Brent and I are still working hard with our P90X workout routine. We are on day 43 of 90! We are definitely seeing results and my arms and back are becoming way more toned, and my strength has increased a ton. The other day Brent did 104 pullups during one workout, and I did 124, as I modify them with the assistance of a chair! It's been fun, but also frustrating, because I seem to lack the motivation to do an hour long (or more) workout every single day. But Brent has been persistent, and I suppose I'm thankful.
Yesterday though I had a bit of a setback...not too bad though. I was doing clap pushups (yeah! Crazy!) and after the first couple I went onto my knees so I could do more reps. Well, somehow I ended up leaving my knees and coming back down on them pretty hard. My right knee really hurt and by the time I stood up, I already had a huge knot forming! I was able to finish the work out, but then called my good friend and m.d. resident Brandon, and asked him about it. He said I probably just burst one of the fluid sacs and that it shouldn't cause too many problems. I iced it last night off and on and took some ibuprofen, which seems to be helping. I don't know if you can really see it in this picture, but it is on the inside of my kneecap.
I'm telling you, P90X is not for the faint of heart :)

This morning Brent woke up and headed to an estate sale, or something, where there was going to be golf gear. I just got a call that he is on his way home with a Ping 7 iron and a 5 iron. He is pretty happy; I guess he got an "awesome deal."

Well, I'm going to get off the computer now and enjoy my last Saturday of freedom!


flash flooding

[First, thank you Carrie for the recipe. I've had one other email me (Thanks Jenny!), and the rest of you can still comment. It's easy to figure out how to comment if you never have. Please?]

For those of you that didn't hear about our crazy weather yesterday, we had a major rainstorm which caused severe flash flooding.

Yesterday morning I had a meeting at 8:30, so I was on the road when the first wave of this storm hit. Louisville's last big flood was in '97, and they reported to have 12 inches in about 30 hours. Yesterday morning we received 6 inches in an hour long period!!! It was slightly scary. We received another round of it mid-afternoon which wasn't as bad, but of course didn't help the problem. My mom called and said that my Uncle Creighton had called her and said, "Please call your Kentucky Daughter and check on her for me?!" I wanted to snap some pictures to document:

I took these pictures that the news were showing. Downtown had a lot of areas completely underwater. The entire UofL campus and Churchill Downs too!

Out on the porch, checking it out.
I took a picture looking out, not thinking you'd actually be able to see the rain...but sure enough! It was raining very hard (and this was the "lighter" afternoon rain!)
Brent decided he probably needed to go outside and check it out. Crazy man.


recipe swap

[Brief thought: Why does the post office have a line no matter WHAT time of day you go?]

While thinking about this upcoming school year and preparing my mind for what lies ahead (see last post), I have also been thinking about the practical things that may make this year a little easier on me. Last year not only was I trying to stay above water in my classroom, but I was trying to figure out what it meant to be a wife as well. During this process I discovered that I really enjoying cooking and baking! Who knew?! All those years that I spent trying to bypass the kitchen while my mom worked her magic somehow caught up with me... and I only wish I would have been a pupil at her feet instead of hiding in the corner to avoid "work." (It really is true.)

I tried a lot of different recipes, and I began to find some that didn't take too many ingredients or too much time, that we loved! These were perfect for those nights I had to stay late grading papers or working with students. However, these dishes that work well and that we love...needless to say they are getting a little old! I've actually started making up stuff, and finding things we like that way. Just the other night I made a Chicken Teryaki and Broccoli stir fry that was awesome! This week we've been eating on leftovers from a huge pan I made of a pasta lasagna bake (I don't know what else to call it since I made it up!) It is delicious! I made sure to write these "recipes" down for the future, which got me thinking about recipes from all of you!

So here is the deal:

I really want to increase my recipes in my little black recipe box. I have a lot of cookbooks, but many of the recipes take a very long time, or call for ingredients that I don't always have. What I would love from you is a recipe or two that works for you and your family that is fairly quick (Not necessarily including baking time), and has pretty basic ingredients that I would typically have or would be readily accessible: i.e. at Kroger/Wal Mart, not at specialty stores.

Please leave a comment with the recipe/s, and maybe even check back and get some ideas from others who have left a post. If you don't feel like leaving a comment or don't know how, feel free to email me! Help me prepare some great meals this school year!

In all fairness, I'll share something with you that isn't necessarily a meal, but it is a favorite in our house. It is easy, and if we have company that isn't even here for supper it makes a nice treat. (And yes, I stole this from mom):

Healthy Fruit Smoothie

amount of ingredients will depend on how much you're making, but for 2 people about as follows:

- 1 cup frozen strawberries (if you use fresh, add ice cubes)
- 1 large banana (or more if you like banana :)
- 1 carton low fat yogurt (I usually use strawberry banana, but you can experiment for a different flavor. Black Raspberry is good too)
- 1-2 cups low fat milk

Dump all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
And since Brent and I enjoyed this so much, here is the "recipe" for the lasagna bake that I made:

- 8-10 oz. small pasta shells, cooked and drained
- pizza/spaghetti sauce (I mixed the two so it was a little thicker than just spaghetti sauce)
- 2 cups mozzarella shredded cheese
- 1 1/2 cups low fat cottage cheese
- 1 lb. cooked ground turkey/ beef (I used ground turkey)

Spread 1/2 of cooked pasta in bottom of greased casserole dish. Next, spread meat and sauce mixture over pasta. Next, spread cottage cheese. Spread one cup mozzarella cheese. Spread remaining pasta on top, and top with remaining mozzarella cheese (add more if you wish).

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to golden. This will serve a lot of people, as Brent and I have eaten it for several days! :)

Your turn!!


winding down and winding up

Yes I know I have been less than wonderful at updating everyone on several points. I have spent the last week up at school working on my new classroom. I say new, because I am moving rooms. Last year I was in one of the smallest rooms in the building with no window! So I requested a change and got it. My room is bigger, and brighter with a (small, but present) window. I was busy all week moving, sweating, rearranging, decorating, organizing etc. It is incredible how much easier this has been for me this year. Mainly I think it's been easier because I actually have what I need, but I think it has been good for me too because it has forced me to really sort through things and figure out ways to better organize. When I came in last year, green as all get out, I just wanted to have what I needed, who cared where it was! As I unpacked I couldn't believe the mess I created! It was great to really sort through things and know how they should be arranged in my room for best use. I think this is a sign that, although I know I still have a lot to learn, the second year proves to be slightly easier/better. Arranging a classroom is difficult and interesting work for those of you that have never done it though; as one of my friends put it, "This is my Everest!" I think I've reached the peak, but now I need to focus on the details of those oh-so-important first days of school.

One jewel I got this week though was when I checked my stuffed mailbox in the teacher workroom. I saw the manila envelope and thought it was more paperwork that I needed to fill out...but it was something FAR better. It was the "Crystal Apple" nominations letters that 8th graders wrote last year. The Crystal Apple is awarded to any teacher in the middle school based on the nominations that are received. It is not a majority vote, it is based on the content. Whether teachers win or lose, it is one of their favorite moments to receive the nominations that were written about them. I tucked them in my bag and later snuggled up on the couch at home and read through my letters. It brought tears to my eyes to remember the students, to read their kind words, and to think about how I can be even better at what they say I'm good at next year. It was helpful in refocusing me for the upcoming school year (which I haven't mentioned is Aug. 12, a week from Wednesday. Prayers please!)

I read a few of my favorite parts to Brent. Here are a few I cherish:

" When you enter her room everything just seems so safe. She reaches out to her students and builds trust between them; a trust in which you have no doubt that it will be broken. I have never had a teacher with as big a heart as she has... She has a poster in her room that has a promise to all her students that she wrote. She starts off by saying that she believes in us, and she knows that we can handle life's situations. She goes on and says that we are cared for, and we are listened to. I have never had a teacher make that promise to me before. It meant something to me, and I can honestly say she has kept her promise."

"She is honestly my role model, and I aspire to be as good of a person when I grow up."

"She has opened my eyes to the details in life that can make all the difference in
the world. She has motivated me, inspired me, and encouraged me to write to my maximum and show who I really am and what I believe through my writing...She has made me want to write a story about my move to Kentucky, which is already 24 pages long. "

"My hopes and dreams of childhood were rekindled, all because of Mrs. Irwin. We didn't just learn in her class, we explored...She enforces the rules, but is nice about it...Her passion for writing is contagious, and I'm glad I caught the bug!"

"Up until this
year I had never met a teacher that I thought was truly amazing. For me, she was that teacher. She was the one I wanted to impress. Hers was the class I enjoyed. She was the one that made learning fun for me."

"When I came to 8th grade I thought I was going to have one of those older teacher that are very strict and don't like to have fun. Fortunate for me, it turned out that I had Mrs. Irwin. "

"I would mistake her for a person that has been teaching for many years. When I think of teachers I think of perfectionists. I think of no mistakes or problems. I also though that teachers were only at the school for money. This all cha
nged when Mrs. Irwin became my Language Arts teacher. She started off taking new and different approaches to the days' lesson plan. She has fun writer's notebooks which really got me excited about writing. She even asked questions and shared her writing, which proved to me that teachers are only human too, and are no better than the students they teach... The only reason I worried about setting my alarm for 7 am was so I could make it to school and so I was able to sit in Mrs. Irwin's class. "

"In Mrs. Irwin's room, everyone is comfortable enough to be themselves. Therefore, we're like one big, somewhat cra
zy and messed up family. This is because she is so kind and welcomes anyone. I've grown as a person because of her. I've come to accept people for who they are, and I know it's okay to make mistakes."

"She is someone her students can relate to. She isn't exactly one of those teachers who tells stories more than actually teaching; but whe
n she does, they mean something. Not just to her-- but to us. She's taught me so much more than just being a good writer. Everyday we had a routine. As soon as we walked through the door we knew to sit down and soon we would begin Writer's Notebook. While we were etching our thoughts away, Mrs. Irwin would select her latest arrangement of relaxing songs. It was an easy habit to adapt to-- knowing that everyday we would have some time away from our busy lives to stop and think... You felt comfortable in her classroom. IT was a safe environment. You didn't have to worry about being laughed at for a stupid question; that just wasn't how our class was. As students, we respected her and each other, and as a teacher, she respected us. I realize that this is how school should be, and I am forever grateful to Mrs. Irwin for allowing me to experience that."

Okay, so I got a little carried away, but I told my mom I would share those with her awhile ago and I thought some of the rest of you may want to read them as well. Although I feel somewhat undeserving of many of their compliments, I am so thankful they felt loved, cherished and safe in my classroom. I think if that's in place, if students trust their teacher, that they will learn something.
Unfortunately with school winding up, this means summer is winding down. I am soaking in my last days of sun at the pool, cleaning (I cleaned and organized all our closets today, and several cupboards), and spending time with Brent. We had a "date night" last night: we went to one of my favorite places-- BORDERS! We perused books and then sat and drank some coffee together (well, he had something other than coffee...but I indulged in my raspberry white mocha! Yum!)

One other thing I got to do last week was a little shopping. We are trying to be very frugal right now, so I didn't get much, but I did find a GREAT deal on these awesome sandals (I've wanted some in this style all summer):
And I was able to get 6 new books for my classroom at a garage sale this morning, and found Candyland for 50 cents! I also finished up a project for my soon to be nephew (Brent's sister, Beth). I can't put up pictures yet because I haven't gotten it in the mail, but as soon as Beth gets it I will show you all... so get excited :)

Now, if you don't mind, it is time for Brent and I to do our P90X workout for the day. I believe we are almost to day 40. Of 90. I think it may never come.