Sunday, July 22, 2012


So part of my new taking-great-care-of-myself plan is not eating crap. Well, not as much crap.

Over the past few weeks, I've slowly started mentally preparing myself for this change. Because for me, not eating crap is a big change from the way I've been eating for the past while. (And frankly, for my entire childhood, despite the concerted efforts of my mom.)

I started reading up on some different healthy eating philosophies online over the past few weeks. I had been wondering what Paleo was for a while after seeing several Facebook and Pinterest friends mentioning it, so I took a look. And promptly found out that, while I'm sure it is totally and completely amazing for your body, it also involves no grains or dairy. And is therefore a no-go for me.

Then I started looking at some blogs and sites that talk about eating "clean" - meaning nothing processed, nothing with crap, just your basic plant-and-animal-derived foods. This is more like what I will be attempting to get on board with.

I say attempting because here's the thing: I don't really diet. If you give me a restrictive list of can-and-can'ts, I'm just not going to follow it. And then I'll blow it big time and will be back where I started. I believe that everyone has to do what's right for them, so here's my version of *attempting* not to eat crap.

kvh(d)'s Attempt Not To Eat Crap
My main plan is to try and eat simple foods that come pretty directly either from a plant or an animal. I am super proud of my most recent grocery store trip, because I started looking at labels and buying the brands that had the fewest ingredients. Based on my reading, fewer ingredients = more natural. And as we know, more natural = less crap. Also, if I can pronounce all of the ingredients, something tells me that's probably a whole lot better than maltodextrodihydro-something.

However, I'm going to be realistic. There are going to be some non-negotiables. There is some crap I will not give up. It's probably different for everyone, but my non-negotiable crap list is as follows:

1. Light Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
It's not happening. Ever. I have been drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice for almost my entire life, and I'm not going to stop now. I don't drink soft drinks at all, so this is my indulgence beverage of choice.
2. Splenda
When I want something to be sweet, I'd like it also not to be full of calories. Plus, Splenda dissolves in iced coffee waaaaay better than sugar.
3. Goat Cheese
I refuse on principle to give up goat cheese. Or really, any cheese. This is going to be an exercise in moderation, as opposed to "let me order a cheese plate as my dinner."
4. Oscar Meyer Center Cut Bacon
Two slices have 40 calories. They are 1 point on Weight Watchers. I know bacon is not "lean protein." Sue me. I could do worse.
5. Wine
First of all, one glass a day supposedly has health benefits. Secondly, it's delicious. And compared to other alcoholic beverages like margaritas, it's totally not that bad.

I feel like most people attempting some sort of nutritional lifestyle change are going to have some version of this list for themselves. What is life, if not a means of enjoying yourself from time to time? The exercise for me is going to be finding the balance that allows me to have enough wiggle room so I don't give up on this whole idea.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Opening a Window for Myself

When I was in middle school, I was really into keeping a "quote book." I would look for and write down quotes and quotes and quotes that I found inspirational. One of the ones I remember loving (but not really understanding) at 12 was, "When God closes a door, he opens a window." It's from The Sound of Music. I think.

Anyway, as you know from my last post, I basically closed a door for myself. I resigned from my teaching job, determined to find something else that would work better for me and where I am right now. I've spent the past five weeks or so on various trips - to the mountains, home to New Orleans, and then three weeks in the UK and Sweden with my family. (Trip post to come soon.) As refreshing and much-needed as those trips were, I am so ready and glad to be back at home with Hubs. I am ready to begin to take really, really good care of myself for the first time in over a year. I'm detailing my plans below - somehow putting them on the internet makes me feel like I'm being held accountable for them.

kvh(d)'s getting-her-sh!t-together, life semi-makeover plan
1. Find a job I love that is less stressful than teaching (aka, any other job)
Status: in progress.
I have put out a few feelers and even had an interview yesterday. Basically, what I want to get into is arts integration - but more on that later. I'm planning to start a new blog with arts integration information and teaching ideas. Get excited!

2. Stop eating crap.
Status: barely in progress.
Last year, Hubs and I trained for a 10k, and between that and eating carefully (I <3 Weight Watchers), I dropped about 15 pounds for our wedding without trying too hard. It is the thinnest and best I have ever looked. I am by no means fat, but I've always had a few extra pounds. Unfortunately when I got to NC, I stopped watching what I ate, especially with Hubs working so much. Stress = no motivation to eat well = muffin top. I now find, quite suddenly over the past 2 months or so actually, that clothes are not fitting. This is entirely my own fault, and I make no excuses. No crazy diets or anything. I'm just going to stop eating crap. More on this later, too - I've been doing lots of research on not eating crap.

3. Get off my behind.
Status: ugh. In progress, but I ain't happy about it.
As I said above, Hubs and I did this 10k last year. Which is totally out of the ordinary for me. It ended up being such a great bonding experience for us, though - something we could do together while we were engaged. Here's the catch: I don't actually like running. I pretty much just did it because he made me (for the record, I asked him to make me), and because it feels good when you finish. Obviously, once Hubs went to work 80 hours a week, the running stopped happening. I mean, once in a blue moon I was like, "Hey! I'm gonna go run the Duke trail!" but honestly, that was like 5 times all year. I really want to look good and feel great. I'm gonna keep it simple, though - do some sort of exercise every day.

4. Make my house look slightly less like a tornado blew through.
Status: I'm sitting here blogging when I have a literal mountain of laundry to do. How do you think it's going?
I am a terrible housewife. Like, awful. Not at all good. As organized as my brain is, that's how messy my surroundings get. I have an amazingly understanding husband who has never once gotten upset at me about the deplorable state of our house... but now that I am not working for the moment, I feel like I have no excuse.

5. Feed my soul.
Status: working on it
Though I am a relatively religious/spiritual person, I am not generally public about it. Suffice it to say that I plan to make spirituality and faith more of a part of my life.

So there you have it. I closed the door on a significant part of my life. It's time to open a window and let a new breeze blow in.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's Not You, It's Me.

Dear Teaching,

We've been in a relationship now for four years. We dated casually in college, and then I decided to commit when I took my job in New Orleans. You've been a major part of my adult life. Yesterday was the last day of the school year, and you know what?

We need a break.

Listen, teaching, it's been great. We've had some good times. You have given me the opportunity to work with over 150 third graders over the past four years. They - and you - have brought me more joy and fulfillment than I could have imagined. The adorably misspelled cards and awkwardly drawn pictures I have upstairs in my den are possessions I will cherish for eternity. I am grateful every day for having had the opportunity to mean something to such wonderful kids and their families.

Here's the thing though: our relationship has changed this year. My life has thrown me into a lot of "new"s - new state, new marriage, new school, new friends - and it's just not working out with you anymore. It's not you, it's me. I've got to get my head on straighter and re-prioritize.

Well... it's also a little bit you, though. Teaching, you are one of the most stressful occupations out there. You require me to spend almost all of my time and a good chunk of my money on you. That was cool for a while, but I'm pretty over dealing with paperwork, pacing guides, and testing. I'm a little burned out, and I just need a change for a while.

Another reason we need a break is that I'm really trying to focus on my career right now. Teaching is great, but I'm interested in expanding into other areas too. I'd really like to explore working in arts integration or museum education, and I can't do that if I'm stuck with you all the time. I would love to work at a school being the arts integration facilitator, or be an education curator for a museum, or work for a nonprofit that brings the arts into schools... there are so many possibilities, and I can't find them all out until I get some space.

Look, this isn't a permanent breakup. I know in my heart that you're the job I'm supposed to be with for the long haul. But some of the best information I got from a coworker this year was this: when I asked how he'd managed to stay so passionate about teaching for 30something years, he told me it was because he never taught for more than a few years at a time. When he got burned out, he went and did something else for a while. It's enabled him to stay enthusiastic, engaged, and excited about teaching for longer than I've been alive. I know that if I stick around a few more years feeling the way I've felt this year, that will be it for us. And I don't want that to happen.

Sure, I'm nervous about the future. This is the first time I'm ending one phase of my life without knowing what the next phase will hold. I'm more than nervous, actually. I'm flat-out scared.

But that fear is also sort of weirdly exhilarating. I know that if Hubs and I had stayed in New Orleans, I'd probably still be very happy with you at my old job. But I'm not there, I'm here - and the fact is I need something else right now, something you can't give me. I don't know what that is at the moment, but maybe the not knowing itself is it.

So take care of yourself, teaching. Don't let those budget cuts and state standards get you down. Until we meet again, in another classroom down the road, know that you're the love of my life.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Check out how professional I am!

I'm so excited to be journeying into the wide world of professional teacher-authors!

As any elementary teacher knows, you end up spending many a night culling through the crap on the internet looking for activities and materials for your lessons so you don't have to create everything yourself or buy expensive books.  Enter, a website where teachers can buy and sell materials they've made directly to one another. It's great! You can find so many great resources without spending a ton of money... many items are even free!

My thought about it had been, "God love ya, teacher-authors on TpT - who the heck has time to make stuff that's cute enough to sell to other people?" But as I began to think about it, and look more at the things you can get on the site - I figured I might as well try it.

We are working on generalizing in reading right now, and I was having trouble finding good ideas and lessons for it. I came up with an idea and created my own generalization cards and lessons... so I figured why not put it up on the site as a free item, just to see?

I went ahead and posted it Sunday - and so far 23 people have downloaded it! It was so cool!

I had a little free time tonight (more on that later), so I jazzed up a math game I used today and JUST posted it. I'm starting low - $1 - but hopefully I can make some free money from it. I've read that teachers who really put a lot up, and do a great job, can make thousands of extra dollars a year. (I don't know that I'll be doing it to quite that level... but I make enough of my own stuff that it's worth posting it.)

Check out my "store"!!

On another note... I'm off to pack for my trip home to New Orleans tomorrow. It's been a long time since I took two days off of school in a row, and as always, prepping for the sub was a lot of work. Luckily, though, she was subbing for another teacher today and came by after school to meet me, see my classroom, and ask me questions. I hope my class doesn't eat her alive... she seemed pretty nice.

Honestly, though - at this point I don't care! I am going home for a wedding Hubs is in, and I could not be more excited. The part I'm possibly looking forward to the most is visiting my old school on Friday. It's hard being in a new school where none of the older kids know you. I miss my kiddos so much... I hope it's not overly disruptive when I barge in Friday morning. Luckily many of the 4th and 5th grade teachers are friends of mine :)

Have a great rest of your week - and if you're a teacher and working on geometry, check out my game! I'm super professional and awesome!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

He Came, He Saw, They Asked

Friday was something of a rough day, following a particularly rough week. Not getting into it, but it's the starting point for my story.

I was checking facebook on my phone during my 12 minutes of freedom lunch break, and I noticed one of Hubs' co-interns had posted about some sort of surprise day off. I texted Hubs to ask whether he too had a day off, but he did not respond. I found out later from another intern wife/teacher that all the interns were apparently partying because Duke had given them the annual "Interns Day Off". (We commiserated about the lack of "teachers day off," although I suppose you could argue that would be "summer.")

Anyway, I was a little annoyed that, knowing what a bad morning I had had, Hubs couldn't even be bothered to take a break from his much-needed fun to text me back. I'm complaining about this during recess to my teammates, when what do I see?

Yup. Hubs coming up from the parking lot, flowers in hand, to visit me at school.

That's right. I suck as a wife.

Anyway, my class was pretty excited to meet him, so instead of our usual post-recess read aloud time, we had "Q&A with Dr. Hubs." Often as a teacher, you are so used to kids saying and asking ridiculous things that you don't even notice it anymore. Hubs, however, was greatly amused by what they had to ask:

-What is your favorite color? (Why do all kids want to know about favorite colors?)
-What kind of doctor are you?
-What year did you marry Mrs. Davis?
-Are you from New Orleans too? (Can you tell we've been discussing Mardi Gras extensively as part of my homesickness social studies curriculum?)
-Have you ever seen anybody die right in front of you?
-We thought you'd be taller. (Sweetie, that's a comment, not a question...)

And finally...
-Do you and Mrs. Davis need some privacy time in the hallway before you leave?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Teacher Black Friday

This morning I had an amazing opportunity. A local nonprofit, Crayons2Calculators, operates a warehouse and invites teachers from Durham public schools to "shop" for free! This weekend, 4 or 5 schools were included on the list.  Everything in the warehouse was labeled with "points," and you had 100 to shop with.

When I arrived, 10 minutes before it opened, there was already a line waiting. Now, I've never done Black Friday, and I fortunately didn't deal with a Wedding Dress Blowout Sale when I got married -- so this was a new experience for me. The warehouse was small and crowded, but hey - free stuff! Ain't nobody nowhere who likes free stuff more than teachers.

I got to stock up on many things I've run out of, thank goodness. I swear to you, my kids must eat pencils and cap erasers. I also got dry erase markers, some paper organizers, poster board, watercolor paints (!), binder clips, markers... all for free.

My FAVORITE find, however, was in the "creative corner." This was an area full of fabric scraps, wallpaper samples, carpet remnants, etc.  All those items were 20 for 1 point. I'm standing there, looking at the stuff, going "there has to be something I could do with this stuff..." when I had a brilliant idea.

My students use individual white boards every day to start off our math lesson. Up until now, we haven't had any erasers for them. The kids use their hands, sleeves (sorry parents!) or paper towels from the sink. I have been asking parents to send in black socks to use as erasers but have not received a response.

A box of small square carpet samples caught my eye in the warehouse, and I thought, "Hey! The kids could TOTALLY use those little carpet squares to erase with!" 20 for 1 point. Sold.

Anyway, I came away with a bunch of free stuff, which is so greatly appreciated. The staff was so nice and friendly, and it was nice to meet teachers from other schools. It seems like such a little thing - pencils and pens and carpet squares - but to teachers who spend hundreds of their own dollars every year, it's such a huge gesture. Thanks so much to Crayons2Calculators, and to everyone who contributes to classrooms.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Early bird special

Had I been a bird, I would definitely have caught a few worms this morning.

Often when I have a lot going on at school, I have trouble getting back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night. Today was no exception.

I woke up around 4:30 - one hour before my normal time - and couldn't stop planning and replanning my day. Finally, I just went ahead and got up.

After getting my work done, I went through my usual morning and realized I still had a few spare minutes.

So I hung my masterpieces from this weekend.

I swear, I'm using nothing but foam core art in my house from now on. No picture hangers! Just stick em up with Command strips!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DIY Madness!

I returned to school today after one of the best weekends I've had in a while. Why, you ask? Well...

It was 3 days long. Duh. The Hubs was working the entire weekend, which would normally be a downside, but I really managed to get a lot of things done. One of those things was to take care of some DIY sprucing up of my casa.

First project completion: CORK BOARD!
I have been collecting wine corks for years - both from our own imbibing and from friends and restaurants. I began working on this cork board in July before I started work. It has sporadically been added to until I finally finished it this weekend!

I used hot glue to arrange the corks onto plywood. We will at some point figure out how to get it onto the wall behind our bar. And fun fact! Not all corks are the same size, or even close - it makes fitting them together super fun. Trust me.

Project completion #2: DIY ART!
Hubs and I are renting a fantastic old house that we love.  There are high ceilings, wood floors, and lots of character. However, it's taken us a while to get everything looking like real adults live there. Our upstairs hall has this long wall that was just begging for something on it. The problem is that anything that fits a 14-foot-long wall is expensive. I hatched the idea recently (thank you, Pinterest!) to make a series of pieces myself. Downside: I lack any real talent for painting or drawing.

So I decided to create some abstract art reminiscent of Piet Mondrian, whose work I have always found really interesting (and useful in teaching math -- more on that later!). I decided to create a series of five pieces using horizontal and vertical lines and blocks of color. I measured and taped the lines to make sure they were perfectly straight.

I went with blue and yellow because it's one of my favorite color combinations.

I created lines of different widths - 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 inches, depending on what I felt like. It was really fun planning out where the lines would go! Plus I find painting therapeutic, particularly if it's just filling in a rectangle with a solid color.

By the end of the evening, I had a five-piece series of Mondrian-inspired art. Since I used foam board instead of canvas, everything all together cost about $35. Not bad!!

Looking forward to putting them up on our hall wall tonight and making my house a little homier. I highly recommend doing something a little different when you have some extra time - it's the best pick-me-up I've had in a while.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year!

The first semester ended as it has for me in the past: classroom holiday celebration including treats, presents for me, and parent volunteers asking me, "How do you do this all day every day?" (Side note: one mom even told me she'd "probably have to be drunk all the time" to handle my class five days a week. Vindication?)

Anyway, Hubs and I had a not-so-relaxing but oh-so-fun trip home to New Orleans. We went to some fun parties, celebrated and spent time with family, and watched our beloved Saints whip up on our rivals the Falcons before heading back up here. Then I headed up to visit my best friend in Virginia, returned and spent New Year's with our friends here, and even got to watch the last regular-season Saints game today with my fabulous aide from last year (hi, friend!). It's been a much-needed break.

You'll note, however, that "preparing for the upcoming semester in any way, shape, or form" and "cleaning my hot mess of a classroom" were nowhere in my holiday description. That's because I haven't done a damn thing for school, and you know what? I'm ok with it.

New me!

We have a teacher workday tomorrow, and I plan to be super-focused all day to make up for my holiday enjoyment.

In the spirit of ringing in a new year with resolutions, here are a few I'm planning to focus on that relate to school:

1. Take care of myself. This doesn't directly relate to school, but a happier person is a happier teacher. Hubs and I have been working on getting our house in order, so it looks more like we've lived there for 6 months and less like we are squatters and/or hoarders. I'm also back to watching what I eat carefully and exercising. We'll see how that goes.
2. Get school preparation done farther in advance. This has been a goal since I started teaching - hell, since I student taught. I'm never going to be the teacher who's planned 3 weeks ahead of time, but my goal is not to be making things I need the morning I need them.... at least, not very often....
3. Adjust my expectations. This is both for me and for my students. I need to realize that I have the children I have, and I am the teacher I am. I am not going to beat myself up inside if a lesson isn't perfect, and if my class' stupid test scores aren't what another class' are. On the other end of the spectrum, as far as behavior goes, my expectations will be a-changin'. I'm getting serious with that, y'all.

4. Keep my classroom organized. Haha, yeah right. That was just a little comic relief. But seriously, I do have specific goals like "see the bottom of my desk at least bi-weekly" and "put something in a file folder at least once." Small steps.

Anyway, I hope that you are making resolutions too. I think it's a healthy and helpful process to examine areas of our lives that could use tweaking or improving. Don't change too much, though - where would that leave you for 2013?