Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to take a minute to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May your home, heart, and year be filled with joy!
Thanks for following me as I travel through the year, I am blessed to be part of such a supportive community!
Hugs- Laura

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Lessons of Monopoly

First day of our vacation, first day of winter, and it also happens to be my husband's birthday. We spent our evening playing a game as a family. It was lots of fun teaching the boys how to play, while listening to some Christmas music in front of the fireplace.
It has been a long time since I played and it was fun. As we played, I realized how many lessons and skills we were teaching.
Reading- they had to read their community chest and chance cards, and the tables on their properties.
Math- multiplication when they landed on utilities, adding and subtracting to find out how much change they were owed, exchanging money values, counting the dice and one to one correspondence moving around the board.
Focusing- Keeping up with your own properties and your turn.
Negotiating- Trading and deciding on fair deals.
Economics terms- Monopoly, trade, taxes, income, rent, mortgage, bank, buy, sell.
Life- You don't always win, you sometimes lose, your attitude about it makes a big difference. And sometimes pausing mid-game for birthday cake helps you feel better about your current situation and happy about being a part of the game.

While teaching my 5th graders about railroads and monopolies, I learned that kids do not have a clue what a monopoly is aside from a game they can play on their electronic device.
After that lesson, I vowed to make sure my kids would know better and was beyond delighted when my boys selected Monopoly as our game for the evening. They learned a lot and we had fun. I didn't remember how much learning is involved, it really is a lot. So I will be ordering a game for my class to teach them how to play. Hopefully they will really grasp what a monopoly is, and how the railroads were pivotal to monopoly owners.
I foresee some more family game nights during my winter break. As a matter of fact, we will be continuing our game tomorrow. Unfortunately my 8 year old is about to bankrupt me because he has a hotel on Boardwalk, and a house on Park Place. I landed on Boardwalk twice, prior to hotel ownership, and my cash supply is low! Going to jail, looks mighty appealing right now! (Never thought I would write that on my blog!)
Hope you are enjoying some quality fun during your break!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five for Friday: Ugly Sweater Edition

Can I hear a woohoo? Made it half way through the year and to my winter break. Woohoo!
What a week, what a day, what a year so far! Time for some "me" time. Time to clean the house, finish up my shopping, and time to enjoy some time with my boys.
I am linking up with favorite linky party, Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.
So keeping kiddos calm during the week before winter break requires lots of planning and lots of patience. Or you can surprise them with some offhanded attire and keep them on their toes.
So, today was our last day and our First Annual Ugly Sweater contest. A teammate and I decided we wanted to go all out and would be tacky all over. I crafted tutus for the team and we all set off to make ugly sweaters or tacky tops. Today we won the prize for most shocking, most spirited, and well, most unique.
I was actually disappointed to see many coworkers in non-tacky items and perhaps next year it will be more of a competition as other teachers strive to reach the bar we set.
Left to Right: Cindy Lou Who - she wore lights under her top and sparkled all day - knee high socks with jeans tucked in, Turleneck under Mickey, Candy cane turtleneck under a sweater vest with rolled up jeans and holiday socks, Scarf - accesories galore and a a gift t-shrt, Candy Cane tutu with a candy cane top, Braids and bows and a garland headpiecce and the good ole- Grinch with Max tied around my waist. 
Ok, you are thinking, that is one ugly green sweater. Yep it is, I succeeded in creating a sea of lime green, tacky and ugly!
These are the leg warmers I crafted to go with my outfit.
Our admin loved it so much; we even made the morning announcements. 
Our principal shrieked as she saw us round the corner and then went running for her phone to take some pictures. We definitely will go down in history and earned some teamwork points! 
Heads turned all day, looks of shock and bewildered faces as I walked throughout the building. I had the cafeteria in a roar and had to rush out to keep the kids from getting out of hand. Kids were asking me all sorts of questions. I loved when they knew exactly what I was and asked the question of the day, "When is your heart going to grow?" 
Sweet girls who asked for a picture with me during recess. 
One of my girls asked, "Are you the mean one or the nice one?" I think my smile and willingness to dress up answers that, the NICE one! 
On a day when the kids are usually wound up, my kids were relatively mild, I think they just couldn't get over the fact their teacher looked as if she fell off the deep end of sanity! We actually finished up Charlotte's Web, did some great math problem solving, and did some close reading of Christmas in the U.S.  
Lesson learned: students who volunteer to take a group picture may need some help and direction so they don't cut off heads or half the crowd.

My kids were squeezing in to get in a picture with me. 
Another lesson learned: Kids love to take their pictures, especially if you look a little zany. Want to feel like a celebrity? Do something to stand out. Be brave and think outside of the box. 

Want to build your team? Plan something fun together. This helped us look and feel united. We shared many smiles together today and enjoyed our last day together in a festive manner. 
Some people probably think I was a little crazy. Perhaps I was, but it made for a fun last day! Better to have people talking about something you are already laughing at yourself about! 
I absolutely love the accents on my pictures. The frames and the accents are all from Michelle at The 3AM Teacher. I have been following her blog and TPT store, and her blog is hilarious!  
I really love this joyful Christmas set. It made for some precious accents on my pictures. 

Did you know that Michelle is launching a webstore and makes custom made blogs? Right now she is running a special on some adorable pre-made sets. Check out her blog. 
I am mighty proud of the awesome class party I put together. Most people have room moms to run the party, but I am my room mom. No one volunteered so I took this stressor on. Made for a more stressful week, but the kids deserved a fun party and you know what, it was great! 
We had pancakes and hot cocoa with some sweets that a few of the kids brought in. 
I played my favorite Christmas songs from Glee. Ran a slide show with pictures from the first half of the year, they really liked that. 
I did not have a craft. I could not manage cooking pancakes, monitoring the class, and run a craft at the same time. Since no one volunteered to help, I figured the craft would have to be skipped. No biggie, they had time to talk and eat, perfect for them. 
A handful of parents attended the party and they had a fun time hanging out with their kids. 
Lesson learned: There are pros to being in charge of the party, but there are some cons. Like forgetting to turn the crock pot on because you are running around doing everything during your short planning period. Oops, slight oversight but all it meant was I extended the party a little longer and let them enjoy the hot chocolate during our writing lesson! 
By the way, a morning party was awesome. Making pancakes was easy and they kids liked the novelty. I made a lot of batter and ended up with more pancakes than the kids could eat, so we surprised some other classes with some platters of pancakes for their morning snack. 

I hope you enjoyed my picture showcasing my crazy day with my ugly sweater. It really was a great way to end the week/month/year. Not sure how I am going to top that next year, but I will definitely be thinking of something. And don't be surprised if you see pictures of me sporting that tutu in March around St. Patrick's Day!
Hope your week ended on a wonderful note. Hoping that you are on your breaks and gearing up for some well deserved rest! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ugly Sweater day is tomorrow!

I am about to finish sewing up my ugly, Grinch-inspired, sweater. It is such a bad sewing job, ill-fitting, it is perfect! Tomorrow is the big day, last day before break and we are going out with a bang! I will post pics of us in our tutus and get a better picture of the furry back.
Hope you all survive your last day before break or are enjoying your break!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa Mission

So I scheduled a photo shoot with Santa to capture the excitement and innocence of my kids before they are too grown to believe. If you read the other day's post, my oldest is starting to doubt instead of believe.
It was a surprise, no warning, just we are going out and we need to shower and wear pants {yes, I have to have this conversations at my house}.
When we arrived at the location for the shoot I was in awe of the houses in the neighborhood. With my teacher salary I could not even afford the maid's quarters. Seriously, they were mansions and many of them. How do people acquire so much money? Well, not being educators, that is for sure!
My youngest was super excited about spotting Santa, the usually non-stop talker found his mute button and was filled with smiles. Although he did manage to whisper comments to me. Best of the evening was,
"Mom, where did Santa go?"
"He probably went potty."
"Mom, Santa doesn't go potty, he doesn't have a p.....".  {WHAT?????}
My middle son was a little clammed up as well, he can be shy around new people. He was soaking it in though and checking things out. He 100% thinks he met the real guy. And is telling the whole school. 
The doubter, well, he was serious and I could see the wheels turning. But he took part and is keeping his doubts quiet. 
So here is the card I made with pictures from our session. (I think you click it to see the completed card.) Wish we had gotten a better family shot, but I love the other pictures, and especially love the magic the boys felt that night meeting, the real Santa....
Trifold Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


The tree is up, the train is out, stockings are hung. Yet the Santa spirit is dimming. 
The inevitable is occurring in my house with my oldest. Deep down, I knew it was close, but I kept telling myself we had at least 1 more year. Well, a school friend has really put doubt in my son's mind. Is Santa real?
"So and so said the parents do the gifts and say it is Santa." Hubs responded, "You believe that?" 
He isn't pouting or sad, was in the middle of a funny face.  
Ok, so throw in there that hubs is trying to finish the go-cart in time for Christmas and has it in the garage, not very well hidden. Last night, despite hubs attempt to convince him it is a friend's lawn mower, he announced, "I thought that was a go-cart. I really did." {Trying hard not to be upset with the poor planning.}
I know kids find out, but as I tell my students, even if you don't believe you cannot tell others, you have to keep that quiet. As a teacher I am often asked if I believe. My answer, "Yes I do, if I don't, then I won't get gifts. Believing is fun." 
I remember when I found out. I was crushed. My cousin told me and was prepared to give me proof, stay up and listen for my mom to wrap presents. Saddest night. I was already too old for my own good, I did not need that part of my childhood to end. 
I remember I was cranky on Christmas Eve and cried in disbelief. I kept my new knowledge secret until the next year when I snottily proclaimed to my mom, "I know the truth!" I remember she was crushed. Well, life is coming full circle. 
I know it is lying, but without the belief in the magic, it is isn't as fun. I lost my excitement over the holiday for a while, but with children that excitement was roused and it helped me enjoy the Santa aspect of the holiday more than ever before. It is fun to plan surprises and watch them open their surprises. If they think parents are behind it, the excitement isn't the same. There is something about surprising someone and letting Santa take the credit. 
Today, I am struggling. Struggling with which direction to go, tell the truth or lie. Of course I can play dumb, he didn't tell me. I can carry on the charade and let him figure it out all on his own. But this is really making me cranky. Almost like the night I found out. 
I also need to make certain that he does not spoil this for his brothers.
Why do I care so much? Well, I think it comes down to not believing means we are headed in to the life stage of less innocence. I am not ready for the next big stage. He is not ready for the next stage. Seriously, he is not ready. He is immature and still so impulsive. I love the kid, but sheesh, he is one tough cookie. How can he be ready? 
So for today, I have a game plan. We have a 20 minute session scheduled with an amazing photographer and Santa tonight. I am surprising them with an opportunity to interact with the big man himself. This might keep him on board for a little longer. 
I told all 3 it was time to work on their letters. 

Thanks to Whimsy Workshop, we used the cute Dear Santa frames she has in her store. I also wrote one and they wrote theirs modeling it after mine. It was a wonderful teaching moment. 

{On a side note, I am pretty convinced that my youngest will not be ready for kindergarten this year, based on the amount of crying over tracing "Dear Santa" and crying that he cannot write. Yep, this has been a tough day!}

I have a letter from Santa that will be waiting with our elf for them to find after they finish their showers. In the letter, it mentions a surprise. Well, the surprise is Despicable Me 2 will be in our van's DVD player so they can watch it on our way to the photo shoot. I am sure the question will be, "How did he?" But I can defer that to, "Magic."

I know it seems like I am working hard to preserve a lie. Yes, in a way, but it is fun to do surprise things and have something magical and innocent to believe in. I am not ready for reality. We have enough of reality in our daily life. I want to preserve some innocence a little longer.
I guess my letter should have said,
Dear Santa, 
All I want for Christmas is for my kids to believe and stay young. 
Love, Me!


It really isn't too much to ask for, is it? 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Multi-Tasking: Five for Friday, RACK, Christmas Questionnaire, Freebie Link

As the year progresses, I find myself wanting to do more but time disappears and I find my list of to-dos growing endlessly. There is a lot to do and one can only spread themselves so thin before they are wiped out. This is especially true when it comes to blogging.
I have tons of ideas running through my head, I write lots of posts in my head, but then other things pop up and I don't quite make it to the computer. So today, I am going to multi-task and write a post that will link up with several other blogs. You may want to grab your coffee or run to the bathroom, this is going to be a long one! 
Last night was family time, so my Five for Friday post is being completed early Saturday while my boys still saw some logs. 
During this time of year, the focus is on holidays and there is excitement blooming everywhere. I love the feelings of anticipation and joy.
As an educator, this time of year also brings up Sandy Hook and the tragedy that struck innocent children, fearless teachers, and the families of the community.

I was home recovering from surgery when it happened so I saw tons of coverage. I sobbed and sobbed each time I watched and read about it. I still tear up. 
I yearn for the days when we do not have to have staff meetings to discuss the safety of our school and having to tighten up our security system to protect our precious commodities. If necessary, we will, but I don't want to taint the innocence of our children with ideas and fear of people. 
I also yearn for the day when news media will not tell stories about shootings in schools. It was hard to hear that another shooting occurred in Colorado, and the shooter intended to kill a teacher. School is hard, pressure is intense; violence and guns are not the solution. As a country, we need to look closer to find a preventative solution. We need to work on helping those with anger, improve access to mental health, remove the stigmas associated with getting help if needed, and most importantly stop blaming teachers.
For those involved int he Colorado and Sandy Hook incidents, you are in my prayers and thoughts. 
I had some fun trying to bring some smiles to other people's faces yesterday with my RACK - random acts of Christmas kindness. I wrapped up 8 small gifts and distributed them to teachers and staff within my school. 
It turned out to be a crazier Friday than normal, so I did not get to talk to many people during the day, and did not hear the reactions of the recipients. I am hoping they were inspired by their gift and will continue to spread the cheer.     
 Because it was an incredibly hectic day, I did not get to take pictures of all of the wrapped gifts before sneaking them in classrooms and mailboxes. It was particularly fun to place 1 gift under the tree in a classroom. 

I used Oh Boy 4th Grade's RACK tags. I did not compile the gifts with my students. I figure if someone gives us a random gift it will be a perfect opportunity for us to jump in to action. If we are not the recipients of a RACK, then we can plan together as a class and surprise 8 more people. 

Speaking of RACK, I came across this neat party, What a Gift, hosted by Foxwell Forest. As part of the party, you select two of the blogs you follow, tell them how they inspire you, and offer them an opportunity to select a gift from your Teachers Pay Teachers store. Since I am learning a ton from other blogs and feel that I get a gift daily, I thought it might be fun to join in this party. 

One of the first blogs I started to follow, that inspired me to join the blogging world, is Fifth in the Middle. I actually followed her on TPT, and then found my way to her blog. I loved her products and ideas and was instantly drawn to her wit and wisdom.  

Fifth in the Middle
Being a fellow 5th grade teacher, it is wonderful to know that what I experience is similar to what others experience across the country. I have used many of her wonderful products, been inspired to create some of my own, and am excited to share. At Thanksgiving Diane gave one of my products a shout out which turned in to some downloads and positive feedback in my store. I was beyond touched by the kindness. Just when you think you are alone, you find that many are cheering you on! 
So, thank you Diane for your gifts of generosity and inspiring me to blog and create, and of course cheering me on to be the best teacher I can be. Pick out a gift from my store.  

For my second blog, I am going to give another shout out to another 5th grade blogger, Allison at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

I followed Allison for a while and was always impressed with her posts. She works with gifted and talented 5th grades, but she is certainly just as gifted and talented! Allison shares her great ideas and amazing approach to teaching. I love reading her blog and seeing what she is stirring up with her crew. 
Not only do I love reading her blog, but I love reading her comments in response to my blog. I am in awe that people are following me, and Allison always comments, which probably until now, she did not know how much I appreciate and love her comments. 
The support that readers provide a blogger is priceless, without support and knowing someone is reading, might drive one to stop blogging. So thank you Allison for your support, you are a gift! Don't forget to pick a gift from my store. 

This week was busy. 5th grade Chorus had their performance and I got to play along during 1 song. Our music teacher/chorus director always invites the teachers to join the teacher ensemble for 1 song along with the chorus. The kids love singing along with us and it is simply fun to participate. I have excitedly played along each year, and this year got to jam on the bongos. My students were excited and my son had the pleasure of watching me play during the performance yesterday. 
My teammate was observed during math class yesterday and I know she rocked her evaluation. She ran a math group using our mimio vote, and despite technology stomping on our plans it went well. I worked with a small group on modeling with unlike denominators and was so pleased to see some connections {finally} being made with the algorithm and the visual. While we worked with small groups, the rest of the kids worked on some decimal multiplication review task cards. I used this great set by Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'
I also created some task cards to use this week and next week. At school, technology has been sticking its tongue out at me, which has added stress, but ha ha, I have not been defeated! For some odd reason, I cannot get the fractions to print off of my power point slides. The line prints, but not the numbers. Frustrating beyond belief! Even out tech guy is stumped. So, I created and printed some task cards at home. 
I have not completed the set, no recording sheet or answer key, so until I do, the set is free. There are  35 pages worth of task cards available for FREE! 
I have tons to do at home this weekend, so I will not get around to update the file for at least a few days. Once I do, it will be a paid product. If you download it and leave feedback, leave me a comment here and I will send you the updated packet. 
In an effort to keep things light, yet educational, during the days of distraction, I am relying on interactive notebooks, powerpoints, and brainpops to introduce earth science concepts. We will dig deeper, once things settle, but for now, building the background knowledge is the best plan of attack. 
This week we used some of the sheets from Nicole Shelby's Layers of the Earth Activity pack. The kids really enjoyed the layers of lollipops comparison to the layers of the earth. 
(He has a tootsie pop in his hand)
They had some great questions, and had to think through the scenario a little, plus got to enjoy a treat. 
Another great linky party floating around the web is the Christmas Questionnaire. I have really enjoyed reading everyone's responses. 
Hot Chocolate or Eggnog?  Hot chocolate all of the way! The idea of eggnog grosses me out, I think I had a sip once and that was enough. 

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them underneath the tree? Oh, he wraps everything. If he has enough paper, he will wrap stocking stuffers too. Last year, he did not wrap the basketball hoop, but did tie big beautiful ribbons around it. What is Christmas morning, without cleaning up loads of ripped up paper.  
Colored lights or white? I love white lights. We usually put white lights outside, but have colored lights on our tree. 

When do you decorate? In December. I add more and more as Christmas gets closer. As a child, we never put our tree out until after my mom's December birthday. With hubs having a December birthday, we carried on that tradition until we had kids. The kids wish we had them up the day after Thanksgiving, but I just cannot do it. We will be decorating our tree this weekend.  

Real or Fake Tree? Growing up, it was always fake, so when we bought our house we went for a real tree. Our first Christmas we bought a tree that filled half of the dining room, with no furniture in the room it was perfect! When kids came along we switched to fake. With a child with asthma, we found that the real tree aggravated his breathing and it just wasn't worth it. 
What Tops your tree? An old-fashioned Santa. 
Favorite Christmas Memories or Traditions? Christmas Eve at my mom's. Fun, laughing, eating yummy appetizers and desserts, a few gifts, and the excitement of Santa's arrival. We also love to drive around looking at lights to lull the boys to sleep. 
Christmas morning, I get up early with the boys and make cinnamon rolls. To keep them content until Dad wakes up or until it is closer to 6 or 7 in the morning, I let them open their stockings. We also fill up the fireplace with a fire for the day and snuggle up in our jammies watching our favorite movies. It is such a laid-back fabulous day!
Do you remember your favorite gift as a child? I remember the year I got a red-headed Cabbage Patch doll. I also remember the year I got a ten-speed bike and it had been snowing and was icy out, but I rode that thing all over the sidewalks in our neighborhood. I fell a few times, but I was a happy girl!
Do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving. I try to think up the perfect gifts, and many times do a pretty good job. It makes my day, when someone surprises me with a touching gift that they put a lot of thought in to. Last year, hubs and the boys had me in tears with 2 beautiful necklaces. 
One of the pretty necklaces from my boys. 
What is your favorite Christmas song? Winter Wonderland
Candy Canes, Yum or Yuck? Yum, but I don't like to eat it all at once, I break off pieces. 
Favorite Christmas Movie? Love Actually and Elf 
Do you shop online or in stores? Well, since I don't get to sneak off to stores alone frequently, I rely on Amazon and will shop in stores here and there to fill stockings and find the things I don't want to order online. 
Photo Cards, Letter or Store-Bought? Photo card. Still working on it! Sometimes it makes it out a little late, just my way to extend the holiday. 

Whew, that was long! If you made it all the way here, thank you! Hope you have a fabulous weekend!