Saturday, July 26, 2014

Step Right Up

When I first started teaching, I chose a fish / underwater theme.

It worked great for the first year, because

1. I hung up a fish net and had an inflatable shark sitting on the bookshelf.
2. My quiet signal was "If I had a fishy wish, I'd wish my class would squish their lips!" and then they all had to make a fishy face at me.
3. I had the most angelic class you could ever ask for and we earned a class betta named Brad Rudolph (named by the class) and that was fun.

It didn't work great for the second year, because

1. I had a CRAZY start to the year, so no fish net or blow-up shark made it to the party. (Then Julie came and visited and spent an hour blowing up the blow-up shark, and then the next morning when it was all deflated, we realized it had a hole in it. So all I had by way of decorations were some paper fish stapled to the walls.
2. My quiet signal still worked great.
3. I had a very.....different class. And we did not earn a class pet, partly because we didn't earn it and partly because I was worried that if we did earn it someone would swallow it and partly because I didn't really feel like bringing the fish back and forth between my house and the school every weekend like I did my first year.

So, last Sunday night, I decided to change my classroom theme.

I can't resist free stuff, and I especially can't resist cute, colorful free stuff on TeachersPayTeachers. So this year, I amassed a lot of cute, colorful free stuff that didn't really fit in with my fish theme, but I wanted to fit in with my next theme.

After a few hours of Pinteresting and googling and pondering, I decided on a circus theme.

{I'm sorry I didn't write that in all caps and with ten exclamation marks at the end, because that would have been more accurate for how I felt about it.}

I'm actually glad I made this decision on Sunday night, because I could barely sleep, I was so excited to go in and start decorating my classroom! I had so many ideas and I just couldn't wait to get to work. #teacherproblems

Here are some pictures of my cute new classroom:

Pull cards charts - one for each class. I got these adorable editable chevron labels from Common Core and So Much More. Click the link if you want to make your own - they're free!

My chair is under the Big Top :) where all the kids sit on the rug
These decoding strategies posters are perfect for my guided reading spot! I got them (also for free) from Andrea Knight and I LOVE them. 
I discovered this week that I can do anything with butcher paper! I'm going to hang up student work in this spot....work that they took "pride" in :) 
I'm trying something new this year: color coding tables! It's a slight variation on The Wise Owl Teacher's Pencil Wars, which is a brilliant idea that I kind of started doing at the end of last year and LOVED. I didn't do it quite as awesomely as she does it.....basically I just got 4 different colored cups for my 4 different colored tables and put 12 sharpened pencils in each cup to start the week. Each pencil had a colored star sticker on it that coordinated with that table. The problem for me was that I had 2 classes, so pencils got shuffled back and forth between two classes and it wasn't exactly fair and whatever.

So this year, I'm trying out these drawers. Each table has a set of 3 drawers. When they are with me and I ask them to get their drawers, they will bring it to their table. When they go to French, they put the drawers back on the cart so the other class doesn't use their supplies.

In the top drawer, I have whiteboard markers. In the middle drawer, there are correcting pens. In the bottom drawer, there are the pencils for the Pencil War, along with a bunch of little pencil sharpeners that I got on Amazon. These are the things that they don't need every day, but for whatever reason they seem to always get lost when I give one to each student to keep track of in their own toolbox. I'm hoping that by keeping all the correcting pens / markers / pencil sharpeners in one place, they won't get lost so quickly! 
Here's my whole class reward: circus peanuts! The class can earn peanuts for good behavior. When all the peanuts are colored in, we will have earned our reward. 
I got these amazing schedule cards from First Grade Parade. She has like a MILLION on that link, I'm not even kidding. I just picked and chose which ones I would need and sent them in for laminating and Velcro. 
I'm also changing up my Word Wall this year. I figured out how many weeks we would be in school in each of the months and put together a list of words I wanted on the Word Wall in that month. I typed them (color coding by month), printed, laminated, and velcroed them, and put them in baggies. Every week I'll pull out how many words from the correct bag, and at the end of the week, we'll move those words to the word wall.  
My calendar corner! I have the class rules, birthday calendar, and Class Pledge posted. We say that err morning. 
Here's a closeup of the rules.
The birthday chart! This year, for birthdays, I made up some crown headbands. When it's someone's birthday, they can spend their morning work time coloring and decorating their crown, and then they can wear it all day.  
I'm so excited about my new lunch choice center! As you can see I didn't bother measuring or anything to put down the highlighter tape in straight lines :) I think the reason I'm so excited about these guys is that when my teacher friend Jessica gave them to me, I discovered this magical thing called magnet tape. It looks like electrical tape but it's SO MUCH MORE! It's super thin and handy and it sticks wayyy better than the magnet roll I've always used. (When did I start getting so excited about office supplies.....) 
I know this is an octopus. I may replace it with something more circusy, but let's just focus on the positive for a second. The labels are new! I got them from somewhere....maybe the Digibutterfly? and just wrote my jobs on. I made this at the end of last year (3 weeks ago) and my kids were all getting jealous. "Mrs. Shimp, why didn't you make this job chart for us?" I have to agree that it's an improvement! 
New word wall! This also incited a lot of jealousy in last year's second graders. 
I can't wait to do this with my new kids! I tried it out to end the year and just slightly changed the poem to say "We must have had a great school year." It was a hit! It is so easy to make and pretty inexpensive. I got the idea, recipe, AND poem from A Day in First Grade
The view from my pink chair
The view from the door 
I found this cute poster and now I can't find it anymore?? If you made it, let me know so I can give you credit! 
What's a circus without horses? These are old plastic...food trays maybe? that another teacher was getting rid of. I cut out some construction paper tutus and voila!

Butcher paper elephant
The book boxes are all ready for kids to arrive! The flags were so easy and fun to make. I'll include a little mini tutorial at the bottom of this post. 
There's my messy desk area. I actually managed to get it all clean after taking that picture....I just don't have any evidence. I have my files behind me, folders to give out on the first day, and my colored drawers that I absolutely could not live without! I put all the handouts I need in those drawers. The clear drawers are for random crafty things, blue is Monday, orange is Tuesday, etc. I can plan out two weeks with these! It's wonderful!
My bulletin board in the hallway. It's not done yet - on Monday, it's going to say "Mrs. Shimp's Class is Coming!" And for their first homework assignment, my kids are going to decorate train cars to link up with mine. 
Okay, so here's how I did the big top. 

Start with 2 long sheets of butcher paper. I did red and white. They don't actually need to be this long; I ended up cutting mine in half.  
Cut it into strips. 
I tried a few different ways and this worked the best. Staple the strips one at a time around a piece of string / ribbon / twine / whatever. I used kite string and it worked great. Once you've stapled them on the string, either staple or tack up the string pretty high on your wall. 
I then stapled the other end of 4-5 "streamers" on a strip of black cardstock, and slipped the cardstock in the ceiling tiles. So, no one tell the fire marshall. I don't know what ceilings at other schools are like, but that's just what worked for me. It was kind of a pain in the butt, but I like the final result!
The flags were a lot easier and faster. All you have to do is cut a bunch of colorful triangles with construction paper or scrapbook paper. For the first one, fold it over the string, staple it down, and then tie a knot to keep that triangle in place. 

Continue to fold and staple until you feel like you have enough.

Hang it up on the wall and you are done!
PS - I also found a super-cute Power Point template for Back to School Night, here. Going along with my circus theme, I'm going to hand out little bags of popcorn with these notes.

Do you have any other great ideas for how I can spruce up my classroom?? I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

By My Own Self

Stephen is pretty much the handyman DIY-er around here. He has handymanned the bathroom, the air conditioning, the living room floors, the bedroom floors, and done a whole lot of painting, besides. And I haven't even mentioned the ladder that he built in like 8 minutes yesterday out of some 2x4's.

I am also a little bit of a DIY-er. I have made a garden, a skirt, a love story sign....uh, one time I made this needlepoint thing in Young Women's....I went through a big latch-hook phase in middle school....plus I also make dinner almost e'er night.

And last week, I DIYed a jewelry hanger! Here's the final product:

Just hanging on the mirror for now...
I don't usually blog about my DIY adventures, but Daily Tay blogged about her's, and she said that if I blog about mine, I will be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card! So, motivated.

Here's how I DImyself:

Step 1. Find a cute picture frame. I got mine at a fundraiser carnival for Alex Homer, this absolutely adorable little boy who is going to be in my class next year. They had a boutique set up at the carnival and I felt like I was walking through a real live Etsy. I bought my picture frame already painted black, already distressed on the edges, and already hanging on the ribbon. But you could really get any thick picture frame that you like, and then you're of course welcome to paint it and distress the edges and whatever else you want to do.

Step 2. Get cup hooks. I got mine from Home Depot, here. I got the nickel-plated ones, but they also have them in white and gold. These are super-easy to work with on one condition: your picture frame has to be pretty thick. Otherwise, when you screw in the cup hooks, the wood will bump up and pucker and bulge and splinter.

Step 3. Screw in the cup hooks. I've seen a bunch of these on Pinterest where people put their's on the bottom of the frame, too. I chose to put mine on the inside of the top.

As you can see, I didn't quite screw my hooks in all the way. 
Step 4. Hang up all your jewelry and rejoice because it doesn't need to sit in a clump in the spare bedroom anymore!

I put like 3-4 necklaces on each hook, and so far, I have not had any problems. They've held up great! 
By the way, does anyone have a great idea for what I can use an old window for? It has 3 rectangular sections and I just know I could make it into something awesome!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

**Spoiler Alert**

The Cinemark Movies 8 dollar theater is one of my favorite places in the world. It's the perfect place for a group get-together or for a last-minute date night. In fact, I love it so much, that I refuse to watch movies at any other venue. There is not a movie in this world that I feel is worth more than a dollar, ever since this magical place entered my life. Some people put their parents on speed dial, others put Cinemark Dolla Theater. I am the latter.

Okay, I'm both. Mom and Dad are on there too. 


This is how a normal Dolla Theater date goes: We call ahead. We go. I get in line. He parks. We get the tickets. We go in. We sit in the dark. We hold hands. We watch. We smile and laugh, and then we come home and finish off the date and all is well in the land of Oz. 

But we just got home from a dolla theater date, and I am here blogging instead of whatever else, because who the freak did not think it was important to tell me that Gwen Stacy dies?? 

I mean, seriously! My emotions cannot handle binge-watching 4 week's worth of The Bachelorette, overhearing Stephen watching Breaking Bad, and a crappy ending to Spiderman 2 that I did not even remotely expect. 

I'm just a little annoyed that we went and sat through the whole movie and whispered mushy things to each other all based around the lines of the movie, things that might make you gag if you were sitting behind us, things like "you're my path" and "of course I would move to England for you," and that I actually cried once and came close at like 5 other points in the movie, 

Just to give you an idea, here is my scale of tolerance for stuff like this. 

I am fine with this:

ending, as I did say from the very beginning that Arie should win. 

I am healing up nicely from this:

coming to a screeching halt, followed by a series of kind of weird, bumpity halts that I eventually stopped trying to follow.

I have barely come to terms with this:

In fact, there were like 5 whole minutes after she dies that Stephen and I just sat there stupidly saying back and forth "She's not really dead" "Watch, she'll come back" "They wouldn't kill her" and other similarly hopeful sentiments until all 4 seasons passed with our hero staring at her grave. 

Which led to me storming out of the theater when they still had not resolved everything with her somehow coming back to life, which then I had to google, and read all about how she really did die in the comics, and apparently that was tragic and revolutionary and now whenever a hero's loved one dies, it's called the "Gwen Stacy Syndrome." And did you know that then, Spiderman has to hook up with Gwen's friend MJ, and hello?? That should never have happened! So as Stephen drove home, and I read the Wikipedia page out loud, we both just got quasi-depressed and had to eat plain 'ol buttered macaroni and cheese and cheesecake for dinner, which is not exceptionally healthy and which I blame Stan Lee for. 

My only consolation is that these two (Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield) are real live people, and together, they make up a real live couple. They go to events together, and walk red carpets together, and they kiss in public, and if my spidey sense tingling is correct, they will be together forever, and neither of them will ever die. And there is nothing Stan Lee or Steve Ditko or anyone else can do about it. (And yes I did just google those names.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to 

A. watch a Disney movie
B. eat some caramel popcorn
C. cuddle with Stephen, who is also never going to die, coincidentally
D. all of the above. 

Answer: D. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

S'more Adventures

There is nothing quite like YouTube to get you psyched for your upcoming vacation....especially if that vacation is to Yellowstone, and especially if you are on YouTube because your husband can't stop googling "bear attacks in Yellowstone" and "bear charges" and "bear vs. car" and other things like that. Oh yes, that is the easiest way to get a girl excited for a road trip.

We decided on Sunday to go to Yellowstone, perused YouTube on Monday, searched Amazon for bear spray on Tuesday, and finally retreated back to Pinterest on Wednesday for some friendly campfire meals on blogs that made no mention of bears, thank goodness. On Thursday, we started off on our journey, stopping for the night in Idaho, and on Friday, we made it to our destination. 

Bear Country. 

Yellowstone National Park. 

Wyoming / Montana / Idaho / what the heck state is this anyway.

The Final Frontier. 

Whatever you want to call it, we were there, and we spent the weekend getting blown away by the beauty of it all.  

So while I didn't really love what Stephen had to say at the beginning of our adventure ("Babe come watch this. It's a guy getting attacked by a grizzly bear"), I did love the things he said during it. So much so that I decided to make him the narrator of this blog with a little edition of 

Sh*z My Husband Says - Yellowstone Edition

Him: And then it was awkward, because the ranger smacked me....
Me: Wait, what??
Him: Yeah. He said there was a bug on my neck, but it was still weird. 

Our first order of business was getting into the park and setting up our tent. Did you know that Yellowstone is huge? Because I did not. I thought it was like one, maybe two campsites, and then a nice big meadow, a few streams, and a biggish forest. Turns out it is 3,468 square miles. Which means we drove for nearly an hour once we got in before finding a place to camp.
"Just step in the bison poop! Please, just one time!!"

The first wildlife we saw were bison! I'm pretty sure that's the first animal that everyone sees when they first enter the park. There are 2,300 - 5,000 bison who live there, but it's still cool to see them! (At least the first like 9 times.)

At some point that day, we also saw a bunch of deer.

For some reason, it's a lot cooler to see deer in Yellowstone than anywhere else. 
The first cool nature thing we saw was a waterfall!

And this sign, which made it super-reassuring when Stephen climbed over the guardrail and marched past the sign.

We started out on the west side of the park, which is more geyser-y and less animal-y. 

Some of the geysers are really pretty!

Some are less pretty, but still cool to look at, as long as you don't breathe through your nose.
The geysers have names, but some people doesn't exactly agree with the names they've been given. And when I say "some people," what I mean is "Stephen."

"Inverted boobs."
"Poop Streak. For sure, that's this one's name."
"Okay, Butt Print. I mean, look at it!" 
Geysers get old after a while, so our next activity for the day was exploring a river! I'm not sure we were actually allowed down to it, since there was no trail, but I'm glad we went. It was stunning and a nice way to cool off! We just changed into our swimsuits down at the river's edge and then played around, trying to wade all the way across, etc.

The "etc" I was talking about....
We headed "home" and made dinner - teriyaki chicken, watermelon, and s'mores - and then we set off on a hike. 
Have you ever tried making a s'more with a Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream bar? Sooo good!
Stephen noticed a little baby geyser at the foot of the mountain the hike was on, and I guess curiosity overtook him.
"It's not even that hot! I mean yeah, it's boiling, and if I put my hand in there for a few seconds it would probably burn it, but it's really not that bad."
For the record, I don't mind hiking. I would even say that I enjoy it. It's just a little harder to enjoy when these quotes happen:

"Oh yeah, this is totally grizzly bear territory."

"Isn't this when bears come out? Dusk and dawn. We're bound to see at least one."

"If we get attacked by a bear, and I do have to fight it, I want you to run back to the car."

And when this sign is posted at the trail head, and you're already breaking 3 of those rules, it's just a little bit unnerving.
So then poor Stephen had to endure the whole hike with a steady stream of "Stephen I think I just saw a bear." "Hold my hand!" "What's that!?!" "Talk louder! We have to make noise!" Which I hope taught him that all his jokes about bears were not as funny as he had thought.

Thankfully, we didn't see any bears. Just postcard-status views like this one.
And this one, when we got to the top. #worthit
After breaking rule #5 the entire way down the mountain, and scrambling back into our car where I actually felt safe, we ditched Yellowstone to spend our 4th of July night in civilization. 

There was a free concert, very fourth-y.
Homemade ice cream, super-American.
And of course, fireworks! 
I could barely keep my eyes open on the drive back to our campsite. Good thing Stephen drove :) And good thing I was able to sleep a little bit in the car, because that's basically all the sleep I got that night. (And I'm not even being inappropriate right now.)

"Alright, pick a blanket, cuz we're only bringing one." - These are the famous last words that landed us on a campout in 30* weather with one sleeping bag and one blanket. Don't get me wrong, I love cuddling! But when you wake up every 20 minutes because the other person is rolling over and that means you have to roll over, too, and there's an elbow in your face, and you're freezing, but the blanket is only barely big enough for the two of you....that doesn't count as cuddling anymore. 

Our cute little tent! Where we almost froze to death....

"Alright, looks like we're the best campers here! No offense but I tend to judge people who bring their entire lives camping."
"Do you hear that? Those are wolves." And that was not even Stephen just trying to scare me. 

Saturday morning, jumped out of bed, and put on my best suit found this in my hairs.

"Babe, you never look rough. Just hot." <--he's a keeper!
We had bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. It's cool how wonderful you can feel when your morning starts out with a hunky wild man cooking your breakfast over a fire....even if that fire did take an hour to start, seeing as how it rained the night before and all the wood was wet and we had no lighter fluid.
"Honestly, the only thing worse than this would be trying to start a fire in a snowstorm."
Scrambled egg burritos, yum!
When we did manage to eat breakfast (which actually turned out quite delicious), we were off on more adventures!
We met a bear (a very patriotic one).
Frolicked through a beautiful meadow with a creek and tons of bison 
"That's my mountain woman!" - when I jumped over, like, the tiniest little stream of water
"Bison just look like old men with huge faces. And fur, and stuff."
Got in a bit of a traffic jam
Went on a hike on Mt. Washburn - I highly recommend this hike! There was still snow on some parts where it's shady, but it didn't feel cold. It was perfect weather, and we saw more wildlife on this hike than anywhere else.
There was still snow on some parts where it's shady, but it didn't feel cold. It was perfect weather, and we saw more wildlife on this hike than anywhere else.

"This is actually the 4th highest mountain in the world." "Is it really??" [As I'm feeling very proud of myself] "No, I made that up. It's not at all."
Saw some pikas! 
Also, a whole family of mountain goats. They were so freaking cute!

"Look at this rock! It's just asking to be climbed!......Okay fine, I will." [He grabs hold of a rock jutting out above his head. It promptly falls out on the trail.] "Uh....never mind."
"I don't think we're in America right now. I feel like we're in Switzerland or something."
"Look at this guy, he's just chillin in the middle of the town!"
Saturday was also the day we saw all the bears we saw on our trip! They were all black bears, and we saw them exactly how I like: with them far away and us in a huge crowd of people. We saw a cub by itself, hanging out by a tree, two cubs with their mom, playing in a field by some trees, and another one by itself down by a river.

You can't even hardly see them in this picture...but it's the brown splotch kind of by the dead tree and the little creek. 
"Don't black bears just seem so cute? I kind of want one now. We could feed it huckleberries....it would be so fun!"
Besides the wildlife, the people at Yellowstone are funny to watch. Stephen categorized them as such:

"There'll always be a few people like us, couples who can do the hikes and stuff, but mostly it's either your typical American RV family - overweight people with huge obnoxious cameras, or Asians on tour busses in heels and sundresses."

"This guy brought a whole telescope for his camera! Do you see that, it's like, longer than his arm!"

"I don't know how people explore like this, going this slow. You know there's just one guy at the front of this line going 25 mph and they're holding everyone else up. What, do they go around the whole park like that? It would take a month!"

"These people from Nevada are just freaked out right now. You know they've never seen this much green in one place."

"We are camping next to straight-up hillbillies." (because they had some weird RV shaped like a tent, and they were popping open beer cans all night, and listening to the most hillbilly music I have ever heard....so he had a point)

Dinner on Saturday was baked potatoes, pork & beans, and corn on the cob. At least that's what it was supposed to be....but we forgot salt and pepper, and the pork & beans tasted like the can, and it just wasn't as spectacular as I had envisioned.

"Can you please just go ask those people if we can borrow some salt? They've got an RV. You know they have salt."

LOVE this man of mine and how he goes along with the embarrassing pictures I think up for us to take!
Saturday's dessert was peach cobbler. I thought it was good, and Stephen thought it was the best thing he had ever eaten. (It was also super-easy! If you want the recipe for this win-win dessert, click on that link.)

Me: Should we put this in the bear box? (Every campsite has this super heavy-duty steel box dug into the ground that you put food in. I don't know what they're actually called, but we called it the bear box.)
Him: Oh, no way. A bear would get a whiff of that and be on his way over here in a second. He would destroy the bear box to get to it....he's probably on his way here right now. *Sniff sniff* Huuhh?? Peach cobbler??? *Bear sounds as he snuffles in the peach cobbler and gobbles it up*

In case you're wondering how we slept on the second night, it was a lot better. Thanks for asking. We opened up the sleeping bag and put that on top, and just spread out the blanket on the ground under us. Stephen's prayer probably helped a little, too:

"Please bless that I will be kept warm tonight, and that if it gets cold, that Heather might be useful in warming me up...."


We were hoping to see some moosen on Sunday morning, but we didn't make it to the lake as early as we wanted.....because we were sleeping so soundly! JK, that's not why. It just takes like a week to get anywhere in Yellowstone.

We did, however, see a super-cool waterfall!

"Man. Can you imagine going down this? That's death, right there. I don't even think you would survive it a little bit."
Strangely, these kinds of signs make me feel awesome, while the ones about bears make me feel scared out of my mind.
Here's the picture Stephen took of us, with arm extended.
Here are the pictures that other people took of us:

Hmmm, I don't think that's quite centered....
Not even close. 
Nice, very nice. Besides the fact that my butt looks like it got elephantitis, and you can't see the waterfall at all, even though clearly that is what we wanted a picture of....us in front of the waterfall, but you know. This works, too. 
I....what? What happened?
So that's why we can't have nice things. Also, why so many of our pictures are selfies. 

Like this one. Selfie all the way! (Just kidding, we just found someone who was a little more competent.)
"Babe, I think an animal got ahold of your leggings last night. They were like, kinda wet when I found them, and off in some bushes?" .......Okay good to know, because I've been wearing them for 4 hours now. 

Yellowstone Lake is beautiful, but I wouldn't recommend swimming in it to anyone but a penguin.
As you can maybe tell, we haven't showered in days. Don't hate.

We were feeling a little geysered out, but you can't exactly go to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful. It would be like going to Krispy Kreme and not getting a donut. 
We briefly considered staying here for our trip, but ultimately decided that we were going to camp and so we might as well camp and not stay at a hotel. But then we went inside, and we will definitely spend at least one night here the next time we come. 
There happened to be a photographer there doing a book signing for his newest book. I guess I just attract famous people? I flipped through his book while Stephen took one picture after another of the beautiful architecture inside.

"There's just such a nice feeling in here....I want this to be my house one day."
"Wouldn't that be fun? We could host like classy parties here...."

Me: Let's get a picture in front of this fireplace! [scanning the hotel guests lounging in chairs] Which one of these people should we ask to take our picture? Who do you think would do the best job?
Stephen: Uh, I dunno, maybe the guy in that chair over there?
Me: [looking around]
Stephen: ....the one doing the book signing, since he actually is a photographer....

*Spoiler alert: We did not ask him to take our picture.*
The traffic jam we ran into earlier was nothing compared to the one we ran into as we left Old Faithful. It didn't affect us too much....there was just a little bit of slowing on our side and a few cool photo ops. But then, we drove past literally 6 miles of traffic at a complete stop, and all thanks to a small herd of bison who thought they owned the place.

The rangers had to be called and they were having a field day on their megaphones! "Red shirt, return to your vehicle now." "Everyone needs to be in a vehicle." "Carry on." "Do not come within 25 yards of the bison!"

Stephen: A bee!! *Swat* Sorry, dude, I did not want to have to kill you, but you were attacking me!
Me: Did it sting you?
Stephen: It was trying to, but luckily there was a lot of hair right there on my leg, so it couldn't get it's stinger in.
Goodbye, Yellowstone! And thanks for a perfect weekend.