Friday, July 31, 2015

Summertime Favorites

Summer...  It’s that time of year when I actually take (a little) time to relax and be a real person.  You know, someone who has hobbies besides grading papers, takes time to accessorize in the mornings (if I choose to get out of my pajamas) and can afford more than 12 minutes to eat lunch.  For ten months a year, I truly love my job.  For two months a year, I have time to love some other more trivial things as well.  In celebration of that, I’ve complied a list of a few … 

Sangrita Blast Mountain Dew
While I’m addicted to plain old Mountain Dew, I have been aware for a while that there are other flavors.  The kids in our youth group informed me one time that no one cool drinks regular Mountain Dew when orange, red, or blue is an option.  I was quick to let them know I was way past caring about cool.  I am also not a Taco Bell fan, and somehow the special varieties of Mountain Dew they serve there had passed me by until this summer.  My sister picked up a Sangrita Blast for me (since it combines some of my favorite flavors!) and I was immediately hooked.  It’s been in stores this summer, but I think that may be coming to a close.  Looks like I’ll be braving Taco Bell soon to get my fix!

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
I love country music and I especially love new, edgier, lesser-known artists.  I’ve loved Kacey Musgraves since “Merry Go Round” and somehow I love her even more now that she’s big time.  Her second CD Pageant Material has been my summer soundtrack!  “Late to the Party” makes me swoon, “Pageant Material” is well-deserving as the title track, and “Somebody to Love” makes me both smile and cry a little. “Miserable” rings a little too true some days, “Family is Family” is laugh out loud funny, and “Cup of Tea” makes me nod and agree every single time.  Whether you’re a country music fan or not, her songwriting is brilliant. I just love the way she can turn a phrase!

my new Vera Bradley bag
I swore off Vera Bradley for handbags a while back.  Nothing against them, I was just over it.  I still love my Vera duffels for weekend travel (and maybe for stuffing a little too full and trying to carry on a plane at times) but I haven’t bought a Vera handbag in years.  Before my summer travel, I was in search of a new bag that would hold all the stuff needed for daytime sightseeing while still passing as a purse.  After not finding anything I liked in stores I went online and ended up at old faithful where I found this!  It held me together for Las Vegas and Orlando this summer, and I’m not even sure anyone realized it was a Vera. 

Last Comic Standing
We totally missed this the first time around, but these last two summers, Brent and I have been loving Last Comic Standing!  Last year we couldn’t get enough of Rod Man, and this year it’s too soon to tell because they’ve only just had their second episode.  Since it airs in primetime on network television, most (some?) of the material isn’t too inappropriate and I find myself (poorly) retelling the jokes all the time (much to the excitement of my friends and family, I’m sure).

my Alex & Ani bracelets
I was unaware of this trend until Christmas last year when Brent’s nephew and his girlfriend gave me my first Alex and Ani bangle, an apple for the teacher. It was a really sweet gesture and I really liked it but of course I wanted more.  It didn’t take Brent long to get on the bandwagon and now I’ve got four, and I keep finding myself choosing them as gifts for other people.  They’re the next Pandora bracelet for sure (although I do still dearly love my Pandora).  One word of warning: apparently they set off airport metal detectors something awful.  I noticed new signs on our travels this summer at security: “Please remove all bangles.” Pretty sure we can thank Alex and Ani for that!

Friends on Netflix
I’m well aware that I’m twenty years late to the party on this one, but I’ve never been much of a TV person… until Netflix.  In yet another effort to understand my sister’s brand of humor better (Gilmore Girls was my first attempt at this), I took on Friends at the beginning of the summer.  I’m six seasons and over 100 episodes in now (don’t judge- I swear I’m a multi-tasker) and of course, I’m loving every minute.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever seen Friends, but I had never fully understood it (or my sister) until I watched it, in succession, in its entirety.  There’s a reason it lasted 10 seasons and I’m just hoping I can reach Season 10 until I have to swear off binge watching until the snow days of 2016!

Two more weeks of guilty pleasures then it’s time to get back into a routine.  However, I’m pretty sure I’ll be driving to school on that first day listening to Kacey Musgraves, sipping on a Sangrita Blast, wearing my Alex and Ani bracelets and carrying my Vera bag.  We do what we can to hold onto summer, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Woman at Target

(not to be confused with The Target Lady)

I don’t text and drive (I promise, Brent) but I do have a problem with texting and shopping.  In some ways, this is just as hazardous as it’s certainly no easier to steer a shopping cart with one hand than it is to drive that way.  Earlier today I was in Target, Cartwheeling with one hand and haphazardly pushing my cart with the other, when I had to stop dead in my tracks for a couple of toddlers in the aisle.  Then I heard a voice say, “Mom, wait for the babies!” I looked up and saw there were five small children: the toddler boy/girl twins who had originally caught my eye, the young girl who was calling for her mom, and a brother in between, plus a newborn on Mom’s shoulder.

Five,” I thought to myself.  I’m pretty sure a few other shoppers were casting a sideways glance and making a similar observation.  However, while my wide-eyed glance may have looked judgy or rude, the truth behind my pause is that I was jealous.  Not just a little jealous, a lot jealous.  Let-me-stop-to-stare-for-a-moment-and-see-exactly-what-it-is-that-you-have-and-I-don’t jealous.  This woman looked sweet, respectable, intelligent, and amazingly put together to have five kids in tow.  My next, and all too familiar, thought was, “Wonder what God sees in her that He doesn’t see in me.”

The irony of this situation is that I never wanted five kids.  Two, maybe three, but if someone had told me when I was 20 that I was going to have five kids, I probably would have avoided marriage altogether to avoid the risk.  I’m perfectly happy teaching twenty-five kids for six hours a day, but if I had to keep five children alive for 24 hours a day, I’m honestly not sure I could do it.  It wasn’t about the number of children, or about the fact that they were adorable, well-behaved, perfectly spaced out age-wise and looked a lot like their mama.  I was jealous because she got what I wanted not once, not twice, but FIVE times.

Recently I described it this way to a friend: Every time anyone I know announces they’re pregnant, this feeling of abandonment and desperation washes over me.  I feel like an actor in an old movie, deserted on an island, waving my hands and jumping up and down, shouting at a propeller plane in the distance, hoping to get noticed and rescued.  Only the pilot never sees the stranded person on the first flyover and the person is left there alone and exhausted, breathing a deep sigh of disappointment, scrounging around for nourishment, wondering if they’ll ever be rescued. 

While I’ve come a long way in accepting and learning to embrace God’s plan for mine and Brent’s life, I don’t think these moments of jealousy, resentment, and sadness will ever completely disappear.  The fact remains that there’s something I want (desperately) and while I can’t have it for whatever reason, other people get it—sometimes without even having to ask—every single day.  It’s hard not to feel like God is flying right over my desperate pleas, looking the other way, maybe even choosing not to hear my cries.  But that’s where I’m wrong.  These emotions warrant strong adjectives because they ARE strong AND unwieldy- the jealousy is biting, the resentment is deep-seated and the sadness can be overwhelming at times.  But they are emotions, feelings…they are NOT truth and how much power I give them is up to me.

The truth is not found in that jealousy that wells up inside me in Target.  It is not found in that resentment and sadness that I still (much to my dismay) have trouble handling when a friend announces she’s pregnant.  All our minds and hearts battle with fact and fiction continuously, but the only sure place to find truth is in God’s word.  1 John 5:14 reminds me, “And this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 

It’s not that the lady at Target is better at catching God’s attention than I am and it’s not that He cares more about what others want than what I want.  It’s not that God doesn’t hear me or doesn’t like me.  It’s just that His will for my life is different than His will for theirs, sometimes five times over.  And that is okay.  Lest I forget…

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer So Far

Last week marked halfway through summer “break.”  For me, I’m not sure “break” has been the word—more like “busy.”  Please accept my apology for lack of blogging and the ensuing list of excuses as to what I’ve been up to.

As soon as I packed up my classroom and finalized grades, I hit the road to help chaperone our youth group at church camp on Oak Island.  Caswell has been a longtime summer highlight for me; I always love making some summer memories with the teens that I’m so blessed to help lead at church year-round.  Caswell is an amazing place for strengthening friendships as well as that most important relationship with God, and I highly recommend that anyone involved in youth ministry check in out!

I plan to enroll in graduate school classes this fall, so when I got back from Caswell, I had less than a week to study for the GRE.  I quickly found myself regretting some of the “this is a piece of cake” pep talks I had given my own students only a month before.  I ended up with the scores I needed but not without reaching my limits of frustration and exhaustion.  Being on the taking side of a test again was an eye-opening experience for sure; I’ll take more pity on my students next end-of-grade testing season!

Next came Fourth of July week and we headed off to my parents’ vacation home at White Lake for a few days.  Our dog, Skittles, loves when we go to the lake because it’s the only time she gets a vacation.  She was even more excited this time because our friend Amy was both her backseat and bedtime companion.  My husband Brent, otherwise known as Olan Mills, did some Internet research and came away with some pretty cool fireworks photographs with his Canon digital SLR, even if I do have to admit this after making fun of him for a half hour straight.

The lake weekend began a three-week stretch in which Brent and I lived out of our suitcases and next we headed to Las Vegas.  The reason for the timing of the trip was that I attended the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference at the Venetian, where I learned so much about taking next steps on my TPT journey.  Teacher friends, stay tuned for some major changes from me to this end come fall.  However, the trip wasn’t all work and no play and we also had a great time with our friends Jeff and Janice who came with us for their first trip to Vegas.  We all enjoyed an amazing view from our 53rd floor hotel room at the Elara!  

We were home for less than a week after Vegas before heading to Florida with my sister and brother-in-law.  We visited Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Florida for the second time in three years.  Our love for Harry Potter sucked us in both times, but our love for these theme parks will keep us coming back!  We were very impressed by the new Diagon Alley section in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The Gringotts ride is amazing and Universal outdid themselves with the Hogwarts Express.  It’s definitely worth a trip in itself If you’re a Harry Potter fan. (And who isn’t?)

In a completely unexpected turn of events, I also braved my first real roller coaster EVER when I decided to take on the Hulk.  Anyone who knows me knows this is shocking (I’m afraid of heights and my adrenaline threshold usually maxes out at about 20 mph).  I'm still not sure what got into me and I honestly wasn’t sure I could do it until it was halfway over and I acknowledged to Brent and Donnay that I was still conscious.  I wouldn’t say that I loved it, but I do think I could learn to love it.  I blame my friend Lisa and her daredevil kids who have been dragging me to theme parks and water parks the last few years and slowly testing my limits.

Over the weekend, my parents joined us and we enjoyed a relaxing couple of days by the amazing pool at the Parc Soleil in Orlando.  This was perhaps the first time I had stopped to breathe in weeks and this is when it occurred to me that summer was over halfway over.  While it’s been a whirlwind, I certainly can’t complain about summer so far. 

Now it’s on to next week’s adventure: Vacation Bible School!  I can truly say I’m super excited.  Anyone who thinks teachers prop their feet up all summer doesn’t know what makes a real teacher tick.  Can’t wait to see how much I can cram into these last four weeks! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Make Your Masterpiece

It’s Week 3 of the TPT Seller Challenge and luckily it was a 1½ week challenge because I’m coming in at the last minute!  This week, the assignment was “Make Your Masterpiece” and I decided to add another FREE Novel Unit to my TPT Store.

I recently created a “blog button” (see sidebar to the right near the bottom) and chose a polka dot bow for the graphic.  One of my favorite things about my Novel Units, and the reason I started creating them for my own classroom originally, is that I wanted to have everything I needed to teach a novel WELL, covering as many standards as possible, tied up in one neat package.  While my free products aren’t bundled together due to the ten page limit for free items, you can still find everything you need to teach the novel following the links to each free product.

It’s no secret that I love Roald Dahl.  My Comprehension Packet for The BFG is my best selling product and I now have eight different Novel Units for Roald Dahl books available in my store (three of them are FREE).  The Twits was an easy choice for this challenge because I can easily exhibit everything my Novel Units encompass with any Roald Dahl book.  Dahl’s strong characters, plot twists, rich vocabulary and relatable humor have kept his books favorites in most every elementary school classroom since I was a child. 

A popular Roald Dahl quote reads, “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”  I didn’t realize until writing this Novel Unit that the quote comes from this book. (The Twits, p. 9)  That isn’t the only treasure found in this little novel, as Dahl snuck in several important life lessons amid the humor.  The theme is clear: the way you live your life will catch up with you in the end- good or bad.  It’s never too early to learn that lesson!

Make sure you snatch this freebie and while you’re there, check out my freebies for The Magic Finger and Esio Trot as well.