My 2016-17 Classroom: AKA Home Away From Home


Dogs. Ladybugs. Camping. Sports. Owls. Space. Sports heroes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So many teachers do an entire theme in their classroom, some to the point of being ridiculous. Me? I like to keep things streamlined and simple, primarily because I don’t want it too busy for the students. After all, the focus of my classroom should be the learning that is taking place, not the cutesie pictures on the wall!  I also add posters and anchor charts as we learn different concepts, so some walls look a little bare at the beginning of the year.

This year was no different, although I did find some new borders and tags at Target that I really liked, so I thought I would combine that with the black fabric that I’ve been using for years. (It’s so much easier to put up and doesn’t waste paper every year!) Even better, I got it when it was Buy One, Get One 50% off! I did, however, neglect to buy enough so one weekend I went to 3 different Targets looking for more. Luckily, the last one I went to had what I needed, but, alas, it was no longer on sale.😦


Isn’t this a cool border? Came with gold to go with it, too!

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Pinterest door on the left that I pinned — My door on the right. Need to add another name for the new student I’ll be getting on Monday! I used black construction paper and metallic markers that I already had to make these. I loved the way that it turned out and was very different from years past when I put a pencil on the door with the child’s name!


The view from the back corner of my classroom. I use my Smartboard all. of. the.time.


I’m using a pocket folder that I earned from turning in Highlights  interest forms (FREE!) this year to avoid more file folders on my counter. 


A blurry picture of a portion of my library. The shelves on the left house more fiction and nonfiction books, all categorized by either reading level or topic. I redid the labels to match the colors of the border shown above. My calendar and Today is: poster is also new and matches the border.


Calendar and job chart info (jobs were added yesterday for the new week). I do Class Dojo for a reward system in my room and the prizes will be added to this board.  My classroom houses the Xerox Color Qube printer that is shared for our 2nd/3rd grade hallway. I’m lucky to have it since I’m the Assessment Coordinator and have to print reports in color for testing. Yay me! Multiplication anchor chart was from that day’s math lesson and will be moved to my “Math” wall for our next lesson.


This is my desk area. My desk is not normally this messy but I decided to take these pictures in the middle of my plan time (hmm, a little distracted, perhaps?!), hence all of the papers on my desk (I spread out , A LOT!).  I love the bookshelf with my teacher manuals!  My homey touch this year – an old lamp and clock since I can’t see the other one very clearly!

So, the only wall you don’t see is the one with all of my glorious windows overlooking the courtyard.  I showed a picture of them HERE if you want to see them again. I love my classroom as I spend A LOT of time in here.  I really like the color choices I used this year and didn’t spend a lot of money to update a few things here and there. It truly is my home away from home.

Finish All Books on W.A.W. List – check!

It’s only been a week since I went back to school with meetings galore and I’m already missing the feel of a book in my hands and my head in another world of stories.  I have a tendency to get lost in the author’s characters and their lives and this summer was no different!  Our school librarian did another book club of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award 3rd-5th Grade Master List for 2016-17 and this summer I attended all but one of the meetings.  I did, however, read ALL of the books!


I didn’t start in any particular order although I didn’t want to overwhelm myself by choosing several novels to read in a 2 week time-frame before our club met. That would be mean of me to hog all of the books!  I’ll give you a run-down of each title based on the list.


  1.  El Deafo by Cece Bell – This was an interesting book format like a comic book.  It told the story of a girl who had a hearing disability as she went to school and made new friends. Visually pleasing and a well-told story.
  2. Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown – Although this story was a little hard to get into it, once you did, it was a great read. I learned things through the characters in this story that I didn’t know about space.  I would think this would be easier for a 5th grader to read than some of my 3rd graders.
  3. The Map Trap by Andrew Clements – Ahh, who doesn’t like a book by Andrew Clements? Frindle is one of my favorites and this one ranks up there with it. I would love to be able to read this during Social Studies when I’m teaching about maps!
  4. Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick – This might be my favorite on the list.  Great characters, great story, and who doesn’t love a mystery? I would say that this one is also targeted to a higher level reader.
  5. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord – I really got into the characters of this one – friends and multi-generational with photography, lakes, loons, and canoes. Refreshing summer read.
  6. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin – Dare I say that this was my least favorite?  Not because it wasn’t well-written because it was.  I think it hit a little closer to home based on a student experience of my own that I had had. The title was catchy and I loved the way the character focused on homonyms.
  7. Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri – Written like song lyrics, this book was good. I had previous knowledge of Johnny Cash as my son loves his song “Boy Named Sue” and I’d seen movies about this infamous “Man in Black“.  In this story I learned some different facts that I didn’t know before!
  8. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell – A very inspiring book of a gal who followed her dreams.
  9. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with Great Whites of California Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy – I not only read this book during Shark Week but I was also going to San Francisco this summer!  Alas, I didn’t see the Islands or any sharks on my visit but I sure learned a lot by readings this book!
  10. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh – Usually when you hear about desegregation you think of Rosa Parks. I enjoyed learning about a different family and their struggle from a different view point.


So, not only can I recommend these books to my own students, but I also completed a “review” for the library!  I mean, how I can expect my students to read them if I don’t?

P.S.  I not only read these 10 books this summer but 12 other novels. Now do you see why I’m missing getting lost in my fantasy world?  Time to get back to real life!

My SF 1/2 Marathon


A couple of months ago when my parents and I were discussing vacation plans for the summer, we decided to visit San Francisco.  After having secured our lodging and flights, which were rapidly being booked from under us, we glanced at what was going on in the city the days that we were going to be there.  Lo and behold, there was the San Francisco Marathon taking place on July 31st!  Most people would be like “Who wants to run a race on their vacation?” but me? Sign me up! I did linger a little too long, however, and missed out on the first 1/2 marathon sign up which took us over the Golden Gate Bridge.  I wasn’t ready for the full marathon yet so I signed up for the 2nd 1/2 marathon.

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The countdown was on! 


Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion

I made it to the expo on Friday when we were visiting Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Located in Fort Mason, the sign proudly announcing that ALL races were sold out and building was packed with vendors. I could have spent hours there! I didn’t, though, and quickly got my packet, asked about transportation from the hotel to the start line/shuttle and headed out to meet the rest of the family who were hanging out at a local Starbucks.

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Obligatory selfie!

The morning of the race arrived with a temperature of 56 degrees (lovely!). After hardly sleeping – excitement! – I headed down to the lobby to walk the dark streets of Union Square heading to the shuttle bus pick-up.  I must say that I am sometimes geographically challenged.  I knew I had to walk down Market Street which would then meet up with the road that the shuttle buses are on.  Of course I turned the wrong direction!  I met up with a gal from Central California named Irene who was also heading to the race. Once we got turned around in the right direction, we joined the incredibly long line for the shuttles. I was thankful I had left early enough that we didn’t miss the transportation access!


This line stretched around 2 blocks and was constantly growing!

Finally on the bus, we breathed a sigh of relief, thinking it wouldn’t be too long and we’ll make it to the start line.  Except the shuttle bus driver didn’t know where he was going and we were his first route to take to the start.  Are you kidding me?????  We took the scenic route where we could hear the drivers’ conversation with dispatch about where he could and couldn’t go (road closures due to the race) Panic started to set in when I overheard dispatch say, “Why are you making a left there?” Breathe. I had no control over it. Let it go. *Gulp*

We eventually made it to the start line where due to being late I missed Wave 3’s start and had to settle for the next one.  That’s after making a mad dash to port-a-potties (no TP :() and checking in my sweatshirt. What a frenzied way to start a race!


The 2nd Half Starting Line!


In the starting shoot – crazy hair already! It was a bit humid.

The race got started and I was trying to find my pace.  It was a crowded start at the edge of Golden Gate Park with the usual people cutting in front of you and narrowing of the course so my time wasn’t a good starting time.  The course itself was very interesting with hills up and down.  I was impressed with the numerous water/electrolyte/medical stops located throughout the course (10 in my 13.1 miles!) and was grateful for port-a-potties when I had to make an emergency visit after mile 7 (my first potty stop EVER during a race. Hope not to repeat that again!).  I had a goal of a 2 hour time (my PR is 1:55) but didn’t want to put on too much pressure racing on a strange course in a strange city with hills that can’t be replicated in Kansas. Even by losing time to potty, I finished with 1:58:11 only my Garmin says that I ran 13.29 miles instead. I had walked many, many miles the previous two days sightseeing San Francisco so my legs weren’t as fresh as they could have been either. I was pleased with my time, though, and gave it all I had, which is all I could have done!


At the finish sporting my new medal!

The results came in and they sent me this awesome run-down as to how my performance compared with others.  Not too shabby!

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day for my race and who knows if I’ll have the opportunity to run this race again.  It was a great way to see the city in a different way and something I’d never done before – racing with over 27,000 strangers! Something I never thought to have put on my bucket list but an achievement none-the-less. Now back to my marathon training schedule!


Lazy Days of Summer?

In looking back at a recent email where the sender had asked what I had been up to this week, I thought long and hard.  What have I been up to this week?  Here it is already Thursday and even though the days seems to pass by in a blur, I couldn’t actually say that I had done much.  Well, I did go to a baseball game with all 3 of my kids on Monday night (hey, $1 tickets through KwikShop, couldn’t pass it up!), ran track night Tuesday night (my awesome running group), church group Wednesday night (DivorceCare), did some baking (banana muffins and brownies – yum!), cleaning, watched the latest episode of Zoo, and finished an entire library book (they’re due on Friday) so I did do something, just not as much as I would usually accomplish.

This morning I made sure I was going to do better than that.

So, I hit the weeds.

This was supposed to have been a vegetable garden.  Although I didn’t seem to get around to it this year.  I meant to.


Instagram caption: “My vegetable garden. Hey, at least the weeds aren’t too crazy – yet! #keepingitreal #haventgottentoityet #notenoughtime

Geesh, it had gotten ridiculously crazy.


A third of it was already weeded by this point. And I had a huge blister on the palm of my right hand to show for it!

The dogs were chasing around a humongous wasp the entire time, which was like, 2 hours in the semi hot sun, that seemed to think I was disturbing its area.  It kept landing on the fence around the garden but, fortunately, never on me!  I never found a nest so hopefully it just moved away but it certainly kept my fur boys busy!


Cooper finally gave in to the heat and wasp chasing and collapsed in the cool earth under the bay window in a section that I hadn’t weeded yet.

I had some potted plants that weren’t fairing too well in the heat, despite the constant watering and their location, so I planted them in this really-next-year-it’ll-be a vegetable-plot.  They’re likely going to die anyway so at least it’ll look nice for a day or two. Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m hoping they’ll last longer than that since it took me so long but I won’t hold my breath. At least my neighbors will be happy not to have to look at the overgrown mess that was there before! (You might be asking why is there an old tire in the garden? I saw somewhere on Pinterest that they made a planter out of it so I thought I’d give it a try. I may regret it later . . . )


The finished product, including the fence, to keep the dogs out of it! Granted, Cooper can jump it in a single bound but it does slow him down.

I worked very hard this morning to accomplish this, then went inside to change clothes and headed to the Y for a treadmill workout with my daughter, who had missed her cross country conditioning this morning (likely on purpose because it was early!).  After getting in my miles (our group run was scheduled for 6 pm tonight, but I haven’t been doing well with the heat/humidity and the heat advisory was brutal today – 108 degrees – so the treadmill had to suffice), a quick drive to MacAlister’s for their free iced tea day (free drinks! Yay!), lunch at home, then preparing for book club. Book club is always fun (a post on that coming up soon!), then dinner, which my son didn’t want to eat.

I feel quite accomplished with today. Is it time for bed yet?


Fellow Pavement Pounders

Remember how I told you that when I trained for my last marathon that I wouldn’t go through that training solo again?  I wrote about it here.

I can’t tell you how incredibly excited I am about my new running group.  SERIOUSLY. I look forward to Tuesday Night Track, Thursday Night Fun Runs with the Joggers and Lagers, and, of course, my M2 S2F (Start to Finish) fellow long-run partners on Saturday mornings. This group provides motivation, accountability, and absolutely unbelievable support.  I even rejoined Facebook, but only to be a member of this group!

This group high-5’s you even if your hands are sweaty from a run. They don’t mind how bad you smell from running in 90+ degrees weather on a hot July evening and then sitting down for a drink at a local brewhouse. They don’t care if your running clothes don’t match or if your shorts look like you’ve wet your pants from sweating.  This group praises your abilities (or sometimes inabilities, depending on the day!) of just getting out there and running and doing your best. They wonder where you are if you don’t show up to training. If you drop back to take pictures or are having hydration issues, they drop back with you to be sure that you’re okay and safe. We’re training together for a common goal, to complete the Prairie Fire Marathon in October. We are growing stronger with each run, not only with our bodies, but building relationships with fellow pavement pounders who are just as crazy about running.



Day 1 Time Trial Marathon Group – June 11. Photo by Karlee from Fleet Feet Wichita

A Late Night God Moment

train up a childParenting is HARD.  Teenage parenting is even harder.  Single teenage parenting is even harder still.  *sigh* What’s a mother to do?

Last month I was having issues with my eldest son, AGAIN.  It’s upsetting when I feel like I’ve lost connections/relationships as my son has gotten older. He has his own agenda now and doesn’t feel like he needs to share anything with anyone, including me, regardless that he lives under my roof and I provide for him.  Tough, I tell you, really tough. So I had gone downstairs and mentioned something in passing to my son who was doing something I have previously asked him not to do in the house.  I was just reminding him, honestly, and tried to keep my tone non-accusatory.  Of course it backfired, and he retorted with a statement with some expletives in it. I prided myself in not retaliating with what I really wanted to say, instead I just said, “Don’t even start that with me” and went back upstairs.

The damage, however, was done. My heart was crushed, again, and I felt defeated in my attempts to do what is right.  I felt helpless and out of control. What did I do wrong? It was a long night of crying, praying, tossing and turning and more praying.  I had work the next morning, which certainly didn’t help matters and only stressed me out more. And then came the anger and stress of having to deal with this alone with his father having left.

My phone signaled an incoming email.  I don’t usually check it in the middle of the night (or wee early hours of the morning) but in this case, I rolled over and checked it.  I get daily emails from Proverbs 31 Ministries and that was what had arrived at that moment. It was entitled  “Three Things Every Mom Should Know” by Lysa TerKeurst. My interest piqued, I opened it and began to read.

It began like this:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 (NIV)


“Being a mom is tough.

I think one of the hardest things about motherhood for me has been my tendency to blame myself for the wrong choices my kids sometimes make.

The second hardest thing is trying to figure out how to fix their issues. Especially when you are hyper aware the situation your child is in will carry great consequences.

Deep is the sorrow of a mother who feels helpless.

Thankfully, God knows what it’s like to deal with wayward children. He feels our pain. He knows our sorrow. And He knows exactly how to encourage us through His Word.” (click on the title for the link that will let you read the entire devotional post)

I started crying all over again, big, heaving sobs that shook my entire body. I had been crying out for help in prayer and God provided answers by way of a single tone on my cell phone. I had been heard. God sent the encouragement that I needed to get me through this situation. What a friend I have in Jesus!

Psalm 145:18-19 “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”

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