Saturday, August 10, 2013

Finally connected and some saturday Snapshots

Well after 2 very long weeks, I have moved into a new house (which is amazing) and I have finally gotten internet again.  I think I had some serious withdraw from my blog.  I am going to spend the rest of the evening catching up on the 300, yes 300, blog posts!

Saturday Snap Shots

For now, let me show you my house through Saturday Snapshots with Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera.

This picture was taken at dusk. The balcony wraps all the way around the second floor.

As you walk in the door, to the right is a sliding glass door. 

To the left is our Norman Rockwell.  I really like this piece.

After walking in, there are 2 small steps that drop into the living room.  Here is my son and husband watching some TV.

This is looking back from the love seat.  

This is looking into the kitchen from the desk.

This is looking at the kitchen from the corner.  You can see the front foyer.

This is looking down the hallway.  There is a bathroom, a shower room, a small closet and a storage room with the washer and dryer at the end of the hall.

At the top of the stairs we have the funniest toilet.  when you flush, the faucet on the top starts.  The only way to turn the water on is to flush.  HA!

This is in my bedroom looking out the window.  Do you see the Pacific Ocean on the horizon?  Oh how I love waking up to that.

And this is just one of the views from our wrap around balcony.

So, who is coming to visit?  We have 3 bedrooms and a rec room upstairs, as well. Plenty of space to have friends come visit. :)

Ok, time to catch up on blogs and get my head in the game!  I only have 16 days until students arrive. Yikes!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Creative and more Giveaways

The past few days I have been in the creating mood. I know its not Monday Made it, but I am moving next week, so I thought I would post earlier and hope that I get a chance to make more on Monday.

Making Banners

This first thing I created was a Homework banner to make my decor.  It was a lot easier than I too easy.  But it turned out super cute!  I am feeling like a rockstar!!!

What you can't see (because it wasn't up when I took the picture) are the labels for the days and subjects.  Believe me when i tell you it looks fabulous.  I even added an area to hang no name papers.

Whatchya Reading?

I then decided to give a shot at using digital paper.  Turns out, it is also super easy!  Geesh, what was I so worried about?  I made this:
Digital Paper credited to : The Hazel Owl
Ok so the idea came from, well, hmm... I have searched through all my blogs I read and cannot remember or find it.  Gosh I feel bad.  If you are the person who has this idea in your room, let me know so I can give you credit.  Heather at Room 4 Imagination when she referenced Pernille Ripp (sorry I have no working linking).  Its an awesome idea, by the way!!!!  The idea is to put the covers of the books I read around this sign. I am excited because it looks so stinking cute!!!

Custom Clothes Pins

Next I tried my hand at custom clothes pins that you see everywhere on Pinterest.  Check them out!!!!
I tried to get them all in one shot...manages to get my toes.  Whoops!

I am so in love with the flip flops!!!!

Some were still drying.

I made 100 in all.  For some I used washi tape.  for the rest I used scrap book paper and Mod Podge.  I really had fun with this.  I am going to use some for the no name papers wall, and some on my other bulletin boards.  I plan to attach tacks to the back to but them in the cork on my walls.  THIS will be my monday made it.  You will see...It will be great!

Whew!  Well, now for the....


First up is Bethany from Hunter's Tales from Teaching. She is having a 400 follower giveaway.  How wonderful.  I want 400 followers.  Click below to go to the raffelcopter.

Next, Run! Ms. Nelson's got the Camera has a cute giveaway for labels and ribbon.  I live too far away for this one, but maybe you can win!

Next up is Alison from Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' has made some super cute Behavior Beads.  If you don't know what they are, you must click on the image and go read her post.  So, she was so excited about it, she also decided to give away an amazon gift card.  Yeah, we win!!!!!

OK, then there is this!!!  What?!?! Freebielicious is sponsoring a Christmas in July.  Woah!!  Its a freebie hop and some giveaways.  Unbelievable.  And being the super nice blogger friend that I am, I am telling all thins BEFORE I do my hop. I know, I am so kind and selfless..Haha. But it is true. :)
Go check it out!

Then, I found this.  Fourth Grade Flipper is having a pin it to win it giveaway.  I am totally game!  These are cute!

Teaching Tribune is still having their awesome blog hop, freebie, and massive giveaway.

I found this sweet giveaway on Head over Heels for Teaching, Sweet Rhyme-Pure Reason, Pinkadots, Collaboration Cuties, Ideas by JiveyFourth Grade FlipperFifth in the Middle, I love my Classroom, Where the Wild Things Learn, Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road, I Heart Recess, AND Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Its a giveaway for doing something I already was doing...Hello!  That's my kind of giveaway!! Just click any of their names to enter. Click the picture to go to their collaborative Pinterest board.

Looking From Third To Fourth is having a500 follower giveaway AND a pin it to win it.  Head on over join in all that fun!

GEESH!!!! That was a lot! I was going to list all the new and current Linky parties, but its way past my bedtime.  Yikes!  I definitely follow some VERY generous people!  I am going to have to probably stay up another couple hours to just enter in all these giveaways.  It will be worth it when I finally win something. :)

Well get out there and start entering giveaways, people!!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Finding Deals

Fun Fact: It is REALLY expensive here in Japan.  Like crazy expensive!!!
So, I am always looking for a deal. I have not gotten into the extreme couponing like so many military wives on island (I hear it a full time job in itself). BUT, I do look for sales and shop around (as much as you can here...its either the Air Force BX or the Marine Corps PX (they sell the same stuff at the same price).  But there is quite a selection of gadgets and containers in the local stores.

BUT, you are not reading this to hear how to find deals in Japan...  

No, you are here to read about deals for YOU!  Well, surprisingly enough, you have come to the right place. Well, at least a link to the right place.  My friend in the states found this blog post from Gift Card Granny.  Crazy, right?!?

Well this wonderful Granny has made a list of 66 Teacher discounts found at stores all around the states (most are major chains).  Then for a bonus, the comments give tons more.  Hey, I am not going to force you to go shopping, but if I was in the states I would definitely check to see if my favorite store, restaurant, or museum has a teacher discount.  Go check it out!

Then I found this guy: Professor Joe Martin E.D.D.  His whole purpose is to save teachers money.  Yeah, you read that right!!! His website is called R.I.C.H. Teachers. Well, hey, that sounds like something I may like to be.
Well, that is all I have for now.  I now need to go see how I can become a rich teacher!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Giveaways Everywhere You Look

It seems with school coming back and summer coming to end for so many people, Giveaways are popping up left and right.  I am sure I do not have all of them, but I do want to tell you about the ones I have found.  Be sure to check them out!

The Teaching Tribune

The Teaching Tribune is a new collaboration blog that is starting off with a big bang!  They are having a fun blog hop feeble turned game/giveaway.  Its a great idea, and very well put together.  You hop to 20 blogs downloading the freebie (actual usable stuff) and scan the QR code printed in the freebie.  It will give you a value and then you add all the values up to enter the giveaway.  Be sure to return each day... the prizes are announced with the winner.  BUT: Here is a list of the prizes they have:

Sweet Rhyme-Pure Reason

Sweet Rhyme-Pure Reason is having a 350+ follower giveaway.  Sweet!!!!  Be sure to follow him and he promises to get more people involved for his next big giveaway.  Maybe we can get him to 500!!!

The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing is still running her big 1 year blogiversary giveaway as well.  You have to hurry, it ends on the 25th!!!

Looking From Third to Fourth

Looking from Third to Fourth has fund herself with 500 followers...Oh if only I could be so lucky!  Anyway, she is graciously having a party of sorts with not 1 but 2 giveaways.  What?!?  I know it!  Exciting!!!!

Teach N' Tex

Teach n' Tex is having a 3 for 3 giveaway.  I was not sure what this meant, but apparently she was fast approaching 300 fans when it boomed quickly to nearly 500.  I think after this giveaway she may have to start planning for a 600 follower giveaway. :)
So, here's a hint: Don't just go to the first rafflecopter and move one; She has 3 of them! Again, WOW!! Excitign stuff!!!  I read her story and its sweet.  I know I am going to enjoy reading about her journey moving to 2nd grade.

Fun in Room 4B

Fun in Room 4B was able to convince School Outfitters to give one of us $100 to spend at their store.  What?!? Count me in! I don't know about you, but I am always up for spending money for my classroom, especially when its FREE money!!!!  So hurry on over and sign up for your chance to win!

Follow along and show the love...

These people work really hard to set up these freebies, blog hops and giveaways.  By sure to follow along with them and show them some love.  I would love feedback as well.  I read every comment, and usually grin from ear to ear because someone thought enough to write me! I think we bloggers thrive on feedback!!!  So do not hesitate to leave a little blurb. Thank you!!!

Life with Matthew

**This is a very honest and real look into my life as a mother to a special needs child. Please do not judge.**

The 2013-2014 school year was perhaps my most challenging year as a teacher.  Not because of my students, because I was blessed with a fairly easy class.  It was more of the balance of my personal life and school.

Last year on August 1st, my family and I arrived on the beautiful island of Okinawa, Japan.  This was the place that we will now call home until the summer of 2015.  We arrived with no house, nothing more than what fit in our suitcases, and no job for me.  Sometimes that is the most challenging part of being a military spouse: picking up and making a home in a strange land, with little to nothing to start with.

Luckily, I was hired while still living in a hotel room, moved into our house on Friday with school starting on Monday.  It was an insane time for us.  But I survived with the help of my colleagues.
It was not long into the school year when we quickly realized my Matthew, in Kindergarten, was not transitioning well.  He had always been delayed but we could never really put our finger on what was wrong.  So, when his teacher explained what was happening in class (hiding, screaming, unable to communicate) I ran to the school psychologist.  I think I always knew, but was unwilling to admit child is autistic.  She was hesitant to use the term until she started working with him.  She was wonderfully honest with me and 100% agreed with my suspicions.  She got me set up with the best doctors on island and by December Matthew had his diagnosis.  This was bitter sweet.  

When your child is born, you start to have dreams for them.  You think about colleges, and marriages, and grandchildren.  You think about all the major life experiences that you treasure and have high hopes for your babies.  Well, I did too.  And suddenly I felt like it was all taken away.  I felt like the hopes and dreams I had for him died that day.  I was mourning. 

However, Matthew was able to get an IEP, he began receiving services and an aid.  He was enrolled in Speech, and OT and Special Education classes.  They worked on social skills, reading, math, communication (both verbal and non verbal).  He was getting help!  BUT, things did not change over night and I was still struggling to cope.

I saw the children in my classroom and wished things were as easy for him.  I watched the way children reacted to Matthew and it made me cry.  they did not understand and I had no way to make them.  Other parents would tell their children to stay away from "that boy."  I would hear parents whisper, "If that was my kid I would beat him." Yes, that REALLY happened, more than once!  I tried to find, but was unable to find anything here on island, a parents' support group.  Nothing, I felt so alone and so sad.

Then, I started reading anything and everything I could find.  Autism Speaks has so many wonderful resources for parents, and siblings, and teachers.  Facebook had some virtual support groups and tons of resources to read. Through all this reading and building a more structured environment, I started to realize that I did not lose a child, he was still here!  He was even better than anything I could have hoped for.  My child sees the world in ways most of us just gloss over.  He sees beauty in EVERYTHING, he loves to dance (and boy does he!), he loves with his whole being.  It may take him awhile to connect with some one, and it may not seem he is always there, but he is.

He still has out burst and doesn't always play with the other kids, but he is trying now.  I was honest with the parents in the classroom and soon all the kids loved Matthew and the Parents would find ways to connect with him too.  Things started to get better.  One little girl who read exceptionally well in Kindergarten, would read Matthew his favorite books.  her mom even remembered Matthew's birthday and brought him a giant blue snake balloon (3 of his favorite things in 1: blue, snakes, and balloons) for him.  I cried I was so thankful.  It was beyond sweet!!!

On the last day of school, Matthew had to say goodbye to one of his aids.  As is the life with the military, she was moving back to the states.  We always knew he loved Ms.G. He would scream at her, and push her buttons, but he always wanted her around.  Well, this last day of school, my sweet Matthew grabbed Ms. G's face, made her look at him, put his nose to her nose and whispered, "I miss you forever, Ms. G."  Oh Bother, not a dry eye in the room I tell you!  That boy can love and he knows when to show it!

So, all that worry of my hopes and dreams dying with his diagnosis was garbage. Not only do I KNOW my child will graduate High School, not only do I KNOW that Matthew will go to some sort of college, I also know that he WILL love.  He may not ever get married, he may not ever have children. That is OK.  Matthew brings so much joy and laughter to our lives.  He is perfect and will be just fine.  

We often find life's balance once our whole world has been turned upside down.  I was someone who had thought she had her life in order. However, Matthew has taught me to take one day at a time, not to sweat the small stuff, and to laugh.  My goodness...LAUGH!  When stress of school, being a taxi service to your football/lacrosse/soccer playing preteens, personal chef and maid to a family of 5, and being the sole advocate for your special needs child starts to get to much, I just curl up with Matthew and he makes the whole world seem simpler. :)

This is the day we got Oscar (Meyer the Wiener Dog), Matthew's "therapy" dog.  These 2 are inseparable.

I wish I could let everyone meet him.  Just being around him makes you smile.  Sometimes there are dinosaurs chasing us in the car, or power rangers fighting in the backyard, he hands you invisible things and expects you to still have them hours later (just put them in your pocket!!!!). His imagination is out of this world, but that is something that makes life so fun with Matthew.

Sometimes life isn't exactly what we expect, sometimes its even better!  

I hope that you can find the simple things in life and I hope everyone gets to work with and love a Matthew of their very own!  Thanks for sticking around for such a long post.  Have great week!

Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Things I've Learned from Teaching

During my daily blog stalk read, I found a super cute linky party I wanted to join.  Miss Kindergarten has started 10 Things I've Learned from Teaching Party and I am on board!

So here goes:

1. Pee WHENEVER you get the chance!  The worst is realizing you have to pee just as recess ends and your next break is in 2 hours....YIKES!  Pretty sure teachers invented the peepee dance.

2. Invest in comfortable shoes.  If you are unlucky enough to work where you MUST wear dress shoes, understand you do not get extra points for high heels!  Buy some loafers and slip on flats.  I have been lucky enough to work where tennis shoes are the norm.  I have no problem spending extra on Nike or New Balance.

3. There are many discipline plans, find one that works for you.  My secret weapon is drawing them in early.  Everyone of my kids knows that I love them and will play and laugh and sing, but only if we follow my rules.  I always end up with "that" kid, but I usually have very little resistance because he/she never wants to disappoint me.

4. Do not be afraid to teach from the hip.  If you find yourself in the middle of a lesson that has gone horribly wrong...STOP!  Either switch to the next topic and come back around tomorrow, or just have a pow wow. Pull the kids together, sit on the floor or under a tree outside and just talk about what was good what was bad.

5. Take reflection notes on your lesson plans.  I hated doing this in college, but found it gave me the best input on teaching.  On my lessons I have a place where I have "what worked" and "what needs tweaking". Sometimes I write change nothing, sometimes I write, "Throw it all out!"  Most days I write the good parts and look back on what could be better.  This not only helps for next year, but it helps me plan better lessons next week.

6. Do NOT skip lunch.  I don't care what diet you are on or how much you need to get done.  You must refuel to keep up with your kids.  i have never seen a GREAT teacher sitting at her desk while the kids ran amok.

7. Collaborate!  If you are a first year teacher or a 30 year teacher, we all have something to share and something to learn. The best plans come from many people building on a single idea. Do not ever believe you have nothing to share and do not ever believe you cannot learn from your colleagues.  This past year I learned more from my student teacher than I have in a looooong time. I was supposed to be teaching her....whoops!  She says I taught her a bunch, but goodness, she was good!!!

8. Become best friends with the Janitor, Secretary and all other support staff.  Besides having all the hookups, these people are so under appreciated and are usually stinking amazing people!

9. Let your kids see you read.  I know that when you have a DEAR (drop everything and Read) or a SSR (silent sustained reading) or whatever you may call it, it seems easier to work at your desk and get some things done.  BUT, the kids are watching!!!  If they see you reading and getting excited about the books, they totally want to do the same. I also highly recommend having a novel to read aloud.  When I taught 1st it was Junie B Jones.  In 2nd, The BFG.  In 5th it was How to Train Your Dragon and Sisters Grimm. I learned that I like to start series with the kids and then they want to read the rest.

10. Laugh at yourself! Do not be afraid to say I don't know.  When it happens say, "I was wrong."  It is ok to be human. The kids respect you more for being honest rather than "right."  Its ok to goof up and let the students correct you.  If you must, play it off like you were testing them.  However, think of what it does for the self esteem of the kid who realizes you made a mistake.  It shows them its ok to make mistakes.  Creating a non-threatening, learning from our mistakes, teamwork classroom is just priceless!

Wow!  That was fats.  I still feel like there are so many more pearls of wisdom.  And when I started I was totally going to make this funny.  Well, I did not hit the mark this time.  I will aim for funny tomorrow :)

Thanks for this really awesome Linky party Miss Kindergarten!

Monday Made it

I have a new found love for mondays...and its all thanks to Tara at 4th Grade Frolics.  I love reading and making things for this link up.  This week I took a chance and played on power point and realized I can make something really cute.

I found this on Pinterest from Second Grade Shenanigans: (I apologize for not having a Pinterest link, but you can click on the picture to see her post)
Well, I decided it was time I figure out how to make something super cute in my own colors.  So I did!

It really didn't take me too long and I love the outcome!  I am not sure if I want to use small rectangle or small circles, so I made both for now.  here it is:

I took a close up too:

These were my first attempt and obviously, without a class list I cannot add the kids names yet.  You know looking at the picture the colors are kind of funky, but I swear it looks fabulous in my room! 
So here is the thing.  i do not have a TpT store...shock and awe, I know.  Believe me when I say I buy all the time, but I have not actually set up a store.  So, I am happy to share these for free.  I am now going to try my Monday Made it #2 by creating a Google Doc to let you down load. These will be 100% editable since I have not finished reading all the techy tips to lock them and so on and so forth.  I am working on it!  Right now, you just have to click on the numbers to change the dates and the names to your students.  I made the dates and names in circles and rectangles AND in all three colors.  I do hope you like it.  If you do, please let me know.  I will try my hand at creating more stuff and maybe even opening a store...I will probably make everything for free for awhile.  
BUT, until then, just click my pretty J and take a set for yourself. (I should not that it seems to have changed my font in Google Drive...hmmmmm.  I will work on it.  If it does not work, just let me know and I will e-mail it to you. :)

So how is that for a Monday Made it!  I created something, learned how to post it and shared it too!  Wahoo, I am feeling pretty awesome right now. 

My very last Monday Made It is my Signature button below.  Yes, it is still super simple, just liek the rest of my blog, but that is just me.  Maybe I should have named this Plain Jane (But name is Amy, so it didm't really fit, huh?)  Well that is all for now.  Be sure to leave comments and link up with your Monday Made it.

Don't Forget!!!

You must stop by The Sweetest Thing to enter her Blogiversary Giveaway.