Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Heart, a Circus, and Free Food

At the risk of sounding like a spaz at the start of a blog post.....THIS WEEK has just been so great!! Here were my favorite parts:

Friday - when Alex got a new heart! I walked into school on Friday morning, and Margot walked out of her room and said "Heather? Did you hear about Alex?" I said no, and she said, "He got a heart!" My brain couldn't even figure out what she was saying at first because it was such a big deal and such a surprise! If you don't know who he is, Alex is a boy in my class who was born with half a heart. Last year, he got put on the waiting list for a heart transplant. This whole year he hasn't been able to come to school except for one hour on the first day, and another hour to do his Spotlight, and on Halloween to participate in the parade. He is just about the best little boy I've ever met, and his whole family is like angel people who barely even belong in this world because they are just way too good. They're the kind of people who are so happy and positive and humble and giving and sweet all the time, and you just know that that they are like that with everyone they meet. Anyway, it has been a long time waiting for a heart, and it was a huge celebration in the class on Friday morning!

Top: what was written on his DIBELS test that he obviously wasn't here to take on Monday.
Middle: When I visited him at the hospital.
Bottom: What we wrote in our Shimp Shoutout on Friday!
Saturday - when we went rock-climbing for like 4 hours and I climbed my first 5.11! I am so proud every time I reach a new milestone in climbing.

Monday - when I won a radio contest! Thanks 93.3! In case you were wondering, carrots are the #1 healthy snack food that is consumed more on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other Sunday of the year.

Tuesday - when Julie and Kelly and I went to Zupa's for dinner. Yum and fun!

Wednesday - when we cashed in on my radio contest winnings and went to see THE CIRCUS YOU GUYS! The Jordan World Circus came to Utah, and Stephen, Julie, Michael, Logan and I were all in attendance.
He is so happy to have a wife who wins stuff.
Side note: I feel like I should add that I do not support animal abuse! I was a little sad for these elephants. But the good news is, they mostly just had people acts. 

Also, it is surprisingly difficult to get a picture pretending like you have elephant trunks. I don't know why?? But Stephen kept putting his trunk in front of my face and blocking me!
Like so. 
And then when we finally got ourselves, our trunks blocked the elephant. And I....got pregnant? Whate'er.
Cuties :)

Thursday - when the Consule Generale came to our school! This person is a big deal. I didn't know who she was, but I have been thoroughly educated and now I understand that she is a big deal. If 20 people tell you someone is a big deal I think it's pretty safe to trust that assessment. Margot said she is kind of like the president, or kind of like a diplomat, who lives in San Francisco. There are only 2 French General Consulates living in the USA, and they help out all their French peeps who come over here.

She came to our school to see how the kids are learning French! Everyone was in a tizzy. The lunch ladies came and hugged Margot and wished her good luck, and the librarians almost fell over when I walked in the library later on. "Is she here?" they gabbled. "How did it go?" The secretaries set out water bottles with little paper jackets that said "Fox Hollow Elementary School." My principal wore a suit and probably combed his beard.

We threatened prepped all our kids and practiced our assembly for this important person like 3 times, and in the end, it turned out just fine.

She is such a big deal that I texted this picture to Margot on Wednesday night asking what I should wear.  
I would have been so remiss to not get a picture of the famous person, so here's my first attempt. {I was trying to hide my phone and be discreet.}

It did not go great.
So I gave up and just be'd obvious about it. *Side note - at this point in the program I thought the blonde lady in black was the Consule Generale. Turns out she was not. Oh and when I found out the blonde lady was not her, I next thought it was the lady with the patchwork kinda skirt. She is also not the Consule Generale. The guy with a scarf is the consulate's personal assistant, and my principal is on the far right.

All the kids sang a song for her.
And then finally, I figured out who she is, when they presented her with a gift basket. She is the brunette with the khaki jacket.
Now all the famous people want to come to our school because it went so well! So you know I am happy about that. One of these times it's bound to be a famous person I've heard of.

Friday - when we had PLC after school, per usual on a Friday, and our principal gave us Chili's chips and salsa and French cookies and chocolate.

Moral of the story: Be nice to animals and famous people. And also not-so-famous people. They are important, too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Black-ish Diamonds

Stephen used to get a snowboarding pass every year. I used to try and date expert snowboarders who didn't mind shelling out the $60ish it cost to take me snowboarding. Stephen is kind of an expert snowboarder, and he didn't mind taking me to random snowy places where we could hike-board for free, so that worked out great when we were dating.

But then we got married and started sharing money and came up with some lofty goals for saving and investing, so a snowboarding pass just hasn't made the budget.

So the other day, when Stephen told me he had bought us tickets to Sundance for MLK Day, I was super-excited. Also a little nervous. Snowboarding twice on real slopes and 3 times in the mountains does not a snowboarder make.

{This is very true. Go back and read it again if you had any doubts the first time.}

Still, it was a great day, and I am pretty sure I improved at least a little bit. There was even one time when I got off the lift without completely wiping out! If lift operator is as entertaining a job and full of as many hilarious falls as safety duty on an icy day - and I strongly suspect it is - then congratulations to all those lift operators out there on your job satisfaction. It can't be too bad with all the slapstick you must witness.

The top three things I would like you to notice about this clip:
1. Brandon fell before me.
2. Stephen dropped me.
3. But then he helped me up again, so we're okay.
Margot and Gonzalo met up with us there. Margot is a skier, and like an expert skier, but it was nice to have Gonzalo so I wasn't the only newb snowboarder!  
Sundance is beautiful.
Brandon also came, and it was only his second time. But somehow, he picked it up a lot faster than I did!
Since it was MLK Day, we celebrated by going on some black diamonds. I probably wouldn't survive on black diamonds in Switzerland, but here in Sundance, I did alright.

doing alright, verb: when you start out standing, and make it about 10 seconds before falling, and once you have fallen and can't get back up, you don't cry when you continue zooming down the mountain on your butt, and eventually it turns into a nice relaxing ride so you stop trying to get up, but you keep going down, and it's totally fine, and probably some people judge you but isn't that what this day is all about?....not judging and forgetting the haters, I mean. So you don't curr and you just enjoy your ride until the slope evens out enough for you to stand up and attempt to finish the run the more traditional way, and then when you get to the bottom you still get to tell everyone you have done a black diamond.

No celebrities were spotted.

Also of note, I got some pink goggles, and Brandon got some new bootses.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Classroom Clean-up: 5 Methods

Let's start with a kind of hard truth that may discourage you from reading this post: I am not naturally a very neat and tidy person. I have a hard time keeping things clean, and an even harder time getting up the gumption to clean up after I have let my things fall into extreme disorder and chaos. And I think that's why, in the three years I've been teaching, I've never been super-proud to show off how neat my desk is.

{Because it's not. Ever.}

And that's probably why my classroom looks like a tornado hit 4 days out of 5. And why every time I have a party / a sub / conferences / an observation, the majority of my preparation involves a frenzied cleaning. I think that through my example, I subconsciously tell my kids that neatness isn't that big of a deal to me. So eventually their desks look like mine and my floor looks like we just do arts and crafts 24/7 and the guided reading table has stacks up to the ceiling.....and let's not even talk about the back table.

Which is why my Teachery New Years' Resolution is to stop being such a slob, and teach my kids some better habits, so that together, we will pull out of our sloppiness and have a beautiful room once again.

Do these problems sound familiar to any teachers out there?? No? Just me? Well anyway. Just so you don't think I am a complete lost cause, I do have some tricks. Here are some of my favorite classroom clean-up ideas that I have seen that work:

1. Weekly Desk Inspection. Everyone puts their tote tray on their desk, and the inspector comes around and chooses the neatest desk. Once they have the winner in mind, everyone puts their tote trays away, they have a drum roll, and the winner is announced. That person gets a magnet to stick on their desk for the whole week. When it's time for the next week's inspection, the winner from the previous week becomes the inspector. They pass the magnet on to the new winner.

2. Magic scrap. Another teacher on my team does this with her kids and they absolutely love it! She chooses one piece of trash on the floor that she sneakily watches, and whoever picks up that scrap gets a piece of candy. (I've done this in the past and called it "Find it and Fix it," if you like that name better.) When I did it, I liked to reward the student who found the trash I was watching, and also give a piece of candy to someone who cleaned up a lot or was working really hard the whole time.

3. Chairs up. Sometimes the simple act of having kids put their chair on their desk at the end of the day is all the reminder they need to clean up under their desk. It makes it more obvious when they can clearly see the trash.

4. Become a drill sergeant. Another method I love is "Drop and give me 5!" (Or 10, or 8, or 20.) I don't know about your kids, but mine love doing little exercises throughout the day. When we do jumping jacks, it is like a reward for some of them. They love any opportunity to move around! So sometimes when the room is looking messy, I like to say something like: "Uh-oh. This room is turning into a mess! Drop and give me 5." They need to drop what they're working on and get down on the ground to give me 5 push-ups or 5 pieces of trash. They can only give me 5 push-ups if they have no trash under their desk. If they have 2 pieces of trash under their desk, they can give me 3 push-ups. It sounds kind of complicated, but my 2nd graders caught on pretty quickly. At first a lot of them wanted to cheat, but I have them shout-count to me, and their neighbors are happy to correct them if they try to nudge their trash into someone else's area or pick up trash and do push-ups. It's like a badge of honor for them if they get to do all 5, and it's a quick and easy reward for me :)

5. Get mean. Remember those passive-aggressive notes your roommates would write in college? (Or maybe it was you....) "Everyone remember to do your dishes!" "Stop turning this thermostat to 66, I am freezing!" "Just wondering who drank all my milk and if you're planning on replacing it??" Those were some fun times. Normally, I am not in favor of passive-aggressive notes. But some kids have an easier time following directions that are clearly written out. So here's the welcome board they are going to walk in to see tomorrow morning:

As you can see, it was kind of a giant problem today. I have 23 kids in my class, and one of them was absent today. So, yeah. 

What methods have you tried that worked for you?? What have you tried that hasn't worked? 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Shimps for Dinner

We've been spending a lot of time recently at the Shimp home in Lehi. Aside from my own home growing up, and probably tied with mine and Stephen's home now, this is currently the homiest place in the world to me. Here's what a pretty typical night there looks like.

We walk in without knocking. B is playing some game in the living room. He looks up and smiles at us - he is so congenial - and makes some nice welcoming comment.

M and L are

a. in their room, playing with the geckos.
b. eating, or
c. playing on the computer.

When we get there, Logan usually starts yelling. Something like, "HEY, what are you guys doing here??" [Angry breathing for emphasis] "You don't wanna mess with ME!" [Southernish accent he picked up from who knows where]

Michael usually tries to ignore us until Stephen starts antagonizing him. 

Natalie is 

a. out with her friends. 
b. watching makeup tutorials, or 
c. putting on makeup.

Sometimes we see her right away and she says hi. Sometimes she just stays in her room until she feels like socializing. Sometimes "socializing" starts with her saying "Okay, here's why I kissed a gay guy."

All is generally peaceful. So of course, Stephen has to 

a. pick up an airsoft gun and threaten M&L with it
b. start chasing M or L, or
c. ignore them and start eating.

Today he ate, then attacked Michael with this wooden machete thing, a souvenir from a cruise.

"Stop. It!" screams Michael, squirming in his seat at the computer, trying to keep playing his game. "I'm serious! Heather, make him stop!"

"Dude, I'm just playing, I'm just messing around," Stephen says. This is always hilarious to him.

With the first scuffle to announce our arrival, we settle into our routines. I go upstairs to say hi to Mama Shimp. Today she is feeding peanut butter crackers to Logan. We make it about five minutes into a Lifetime movie before Stephen comes up and attacks me with a metal spring clamp, trying to clamp it on my butt. (What.) I fall off the bed and somehow we wind up with Stephen thumping my collarbone with his knuckle and Logan wrapped around his neck, trying to help me, I think?

Eventually Stephen gets off. "He loves to play with people," Mama Shimp explains happily. I am annoyed. I leave to do laundry. Stephen follows me to tell me how sorry he is for crossing the line and how cute I am. Whate'er.....but I stop being annoyed.

Stephen goes to take a shower. He's obsessed with showering here. He says he can't remember the last time he showered at our house.....uh.

I start doing something on my laptop, or making food in the kitchen. Today it's blogging and Facebook stalking a boy the Jew is going on a date with tonight. Brandon comes over to help me make fun of admire the horrible hairs we find on the Facebook. (He is the perfect little brother).

Eventually it is time for dinner. So, twenty minutes after it's ready, everyone has finally made their way into the kitchen. Mama Shimp is exasperated. "You'd think, because it's food, everyone would want to come in and eat, but no!" We marvel together. Logan punches Michael in the ribs.

Brandon says the prayer and everyone runs around the island in slow-motion franticness. We are too lazy to rush, but everyone's survival instincts have kicked in, telling us that there are lots of competitors for our food. Even though there is plenty, we can't seem to walk in a patient single-file line around the island to fill our plates.

Dinner is always a little different, but it seems like these things must all happen at every dinner, at least once.

- Logan saying "Moooom, can you help me??"
- Michael bringing one or both of the geckos to the table
- Everyone yelling at him to get the animals away from the table
- Logan standing up on his chair and screaming while smacking his own butt
- Brandon telling Logan to "Dude, sit down, freakin idiot"
- Mama Shimp telling Brandon not to say freakin in her house
- Logan falling on the floor / gasping dramatically / running away because he is worried he's not going to get enough food
- Michael complimenting himself on something or sharing some deep thought

i.e., "My up is that I looked good for family pictures today."
also "Rock Obama is our president....wait. Ock Obama? I don't remember!"
and, "Mublicans believe in cutting open babies."
also "It's actually really pretty impressive that I got the part of Romeo, because there's only one person from each class who got it, so."

- Natalie taking a selfie. She is kind of immune to the chaos
- Michael burp-saying something (it's actually quite a talent)
- Stephen and Brandon reminiscing about the last time they played Airsoft
- Mama Shimp sighing that all she wants is one dinner without yelling
- Brandon snapping at Michael to "Stop being so greedy, there are other people who need to eat!" when he goes to get seconds or thirds
- Mama Shimp shushing everyone, putting Padre Shimp on speakerphone, and having him repeat whatever romantic thing he just said to her for everyone to hear
- Someone excitedly forecasting the farts that are about to commence when they notice the slightest amount of cheese in the meal
- Logan asking if there are almonds in this
- Mama Shimp assuring him that there are not
- Logan spotting something that looks slightly like an almond and indignantly accusing Mama Shimp of trying to kill him, since he is allergic.

I don't know if this kind of dinner would be alarming to someone who grew up in a smaller family, because I have only been apart of big families. But it reminds me of my family in a way that makes me love it here. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015


That is my word of the year for 2015: PERSPECTIVE. I like words that have lots of applications, and perspective is one of those. It means that I want to see things from other people's perspectives, and I want to look at the big picture, and I want to put what I want now on the back burner in lieu of what I want most. Which is all summed up nicely with my one word: Perspective.

Anyhoo, here's a few more goals:

1. Go to Hawaii, because

Okay fine, I'll go.
2. Read the General Conference talks again. I really want to read one err morning on my friend the FrontRunner!

3. Make a better organization system for my bathroom closet. I hope no one snoopily opens it when they come over for dinner or something, because it's so disorganized I just kind of want to cry.

4. Change the way I organize my school files. Breanne has her's organized in binders, one for each month. That's what I want to do, too! I am tired to files, and having 100 copies of the same blackline, and 30 examples that I did to show each new class. I want to cut it down to my bare minimum. I'm sure when I'm done with that project, I'll post about it :) I know, I know. You're all reeling from the suspense.

5. Be better at rock-climbing. I have never lead-climbed before, so my goal for 2015 is to lead-climb at least once. Even if I'm scurred! I just want to do an easy one. I can be brave.

And my biggest hardest goal for 2015 is.....

6. Don't buy ANYTHING. I mean, of course I'll buy groceries and gas and register Carbaby and get her new tires if she needs them. I'll buy Stephen's books for his classes, and I'll buy makeup and shampoo and conditioner as I run out. But I'm not buying any new clothes. No new gadgets or home decorations or shoes or fun things I "need" from the Dollar Spot at Target. I know this sounds a little crazy.....but I think I can do it! I don't want more stuff, and I don't want to lose my money to things for all of 2015. I just want to save up and buy necessities and experiences. I am actually pretty excited about it :)

Anyone else have a crazy goal out there? Feel free to share with the class!

Any year that starts out like this is bound to be a good one. Happy 2015!!!