Monday, September 15, 2014

Oh Sure--All of our Saturdays Look This Grand...

Well, we got a good start on my to-enjoy list for fall---right after I hit "publish" on my last post, I looked up the info on the closest you-pick apple orchard and found that it opened that very same day! Since mine and Matt's Saturday didn't have anything else set in stone, we packed ourselves up in our Buick and drove off to Paradise (literally, that's the name of it) to the cutest darn orchard you ever did see.

Welcome to Paradise Valley Orchard, an organic farm that boasts 23 varieties of apples and the best homemade cider I think I've ever had. We were helped right away by one of the staff, who pointed out which varieties were already ripe and then turned us loose with a bucket apiece.

I'd never been to a you-pick place before, but Matt and I have already decided to go back again and again. Not only was it the most sun-drenched, breezy autumn day, but as soon as we sunk our teeth into the first dusky, crisp apple, we knew we were going to have to return, and stat (especially when the Red Delicious comes into its own come November). Oh, and the best part? Each pound of apples costs only $1.50.

Yeah, if you're at all in the area, you need to check it out.

It's been awhile since I've done anything outside of work, laundry, cooking, and sleeping (hence the lack of exciting blog posts), so it was refreshing (to say the least) to yank myself out of my routine and get myself out into the beauties of the outside world. It made me even more motivated to check some more items off my fall to-enjoy list.

(Matt doing some heavy lifting after we'd filled our buckets)

Now, if you'll excuse me--I need to go sink my teeth into one of those round orbs of deliciousness that tastes like a perfect blend of summer rains, heavy sunshine, and that fine dust that only seems to coat home-grown apples.

Happy fall, everyone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

To-Enjoy List: Fall

I seem to always forget how much school consumes my life, especially at the beginning of the year. When you go from having free rein of your time to working 50-60 hours a week, it all of a sudden seems like I have no time for fun anymore (especially since our weekends lately have been taken up by obligations other than relaxing or exploring).

And as I walked out of the school a couple days ago and smelled the crisp scent of leaves in the air and felt that just-cool-enough breeze, I knew that I didn't want to let this beautiful (but fleeting) season pass me by.

I know it's become basically a cliche in Blogland, but here are ten things on my "to-enjoy" list for fall (since "to-do" list seems to take all the pleasure out of it):

1. Make salsa from the fresh produce in our garden. I've hardly done anything with the abundance of vegetables spilling out of our garden beds this year, and even though I've nixed the idea of canning, I think fresh salsa might be just the ticket to remind me why I go through all the work of keeping a garden.

2. Visit a pick-your-own apple orchard. I know it is so cliche, but I've never been and have been craving homegrown apples for weeks now. For anyone around Cache Valley, Utah, we'll be checking out Paradise Valley Orchard for this one!

3. Get tickets for the Odyssey Dance Theater's performance of "Thriller."

4. Use at least one of the cans of pumpkin that's just been sitting there on my shelf gathering dust for two years. I'm thinking one of these two scrumptious recipes above (links below pictures).

5. Go on a fall photo walk. (I'll be doing several family photo shoots in the leaves for my photography business, but I want to make sure I carve out a walk that's just for my fun and enjoyment.)

6. Finally take Matt to North Logan's Pumpkin Walk already! Every year, the city of North Logan puts on this fabulous pumpkin walk featuring some of the most fabulous and creative themed pumpkin displays you've ever seen. Matt has never been, and I haven't been since 2008. Unacceptable, people!

Both boots: Urban Outfitters

7. Invest in a good pair of knee-high boots. I'm not positive how much of an "investment" this can really be (since I know a really good pair of boots is going to run me at least $150-200), but I'm tired of having to buy new boots every winter (esp. since none of them seem to keep moisture out when I'm walking through snow). Considering I've never really bought many things that were much of an "investment," I don't even know where to look. Anyone know of any reputable boot-selling stores?

8. Buy myself some mums to put out on the front porch.

 9. Watch A Charlie Brown Halloween and see if I can find that old Disney (Mickey Mouse) Halloween special. My mom taped the Disney special on VHS tape back when I was like five. I watched it every single year growing up (and then some), so it's become synonymous with all the feel-good parts of Halloween. Now I just need to find it again...

10. Come up with a Thanksgiving tradition for just the two of us. We always do the big family dinner with parents, siblings, nieces/nephews, etc., but I want do come up with something that's just for Matt and me. Any ideas?

Anything I should add to my list?

Friday, September 5, 2014

5 Signs You're Becoming an Old Fogey Before Your Time

images via Hallmark

1. You have started to refer to the (loud!) university students who recently moved into the complex next to yours as "those dang college kids." The ironic thing? Your husband says the same thing, even though he is actually still in college as well (albeit in his last semester).

2. You get disproportionately anxious if you go out to dinner past six o' clock, complaining of the crowds, the noise, and especially, the lack of the early bird special. To you, there is nothing better than a diner at about 4:45 P.M., when it's just you and all the (real) senior citizens.

3. It no longer bothers you when people refer to you as "ma'am."

4. You go to bed before nine regularly, sleep poorly, and wake up before 6 A.M.

5. When hearing about your husband's shenanigans in junior high, you pointedly tell him that had he pulled such stunts in front of you as a teacher, he would have at least gotten lunch detention. When he tries to explain that all boys roughhouse growing up and that it was funny to trip his friends in the halls, you give him your best icy-teacher glare, as if encouraging him to think carefully about his actions.

Sadly, I am guilty of every last one of these in the last week (three out of five happened in the last 24 hours alone).

Apparently I'm a 72-year-old woman living in a 27-year-old body.

No big deal.

Another bad sign I'm getting a bit crotchety?

It's only noon, and I feel like I've heard enough whining and chattering and stupid questions to set me off 'til next Thursday.

So this is what comes with turning 28 this month, I guess...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No One Does Tired Like a Teacher

My teacher friend tagged me with this cartoon after the first week of school, and I just couldn't have put it better. Seriously, you've never experienced tiredness until you've enjoyed an entire summer's worth of delicious sunny free time and then had to whip your butt into shape to teach full-time again.

The only other group that could possibly relate would be new parents.

'Nuff said.

It is because of this exhaustion that I've been scarce around these here parts as of late. I don't feel bad about it, but I'm telling you so that you're aware that I haven't, in fact, discovered that the world is flat and dropped off the edge of it.

In other news, we have eaten steak two nights in a row (score!), and I haven't felt like reading one more thing than I have to, which means I haven't touched a book for two weeks (*gasp!*).

My students would be so ashamed.

I also live in the copy room of the school.

I don't remember the start of last year being so hard to adjust to work-wise (although student-wise, I never did adjust to that group last year). Of course, I'm sure if I read back in my archives, some blog post or other would say something to the effect of, "As soon as I' finally adjusted to my 5:40 wakeup time, it was Christmas break, and I had to re-train myself all over again." True story.

The good news is that my students are still in that honeymoon stage where they're doing all they can to please me (aka, suck up to me), which is a nice change of pace, considering I never got a honeymoon phase last year. It was more like "wham, bam, ha ha you were totally warned about how bad this was going to be."

This year, I've already had students who have finished their first reading assignment. WHEN IT'S NOT DUE FOR ANOTHER MONTH.

I rest my case.

Oh, and if you need to reach me in this first little adjustment phase, I'll probably be napping. In the copy room. Not reading anything. (And dreaming of more steak!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sometimes We Do Weird Things at Night

Truth be told, Matt and I aren't exactly the most adventurous of people--our day-to-day lives rarely hold too much variation, and more nights than not, we're usually more content to just sit at home and watch another movie rather than go out and experience the world.

But apparently last week, the end-of-summer slump had weighed on us long enough, and we got a little random.

Actually, the real story is that I was about ready to get ready for bed---it was about 9:45, and we had just finished playing a game of California Speed while a movie was playing in the background. As the movie neared its end and we bemoaned (for perhaps the hundredth time that week already) the end of summer and gloomily referred to Monday as the day the world ended (because school was starting), Matt piped up and said, "I want to go buy a tripod and take night pictures."

Normally, the thought of doing anything photography-related will guarantee that I'm in, but I was dressed for comfort and in not much of a mood to go to the store at 10 PM. However, since my husband rarely wants to do adventures this out of the blue, I decided to indulge him.

We ran off to the store, picked up a $25 tripod, and raced up to campus to try out our luck.

Now, you must know that I have no experience in night photography (or tripod photograph, for that matter). Matt had a little more experience. But as the surprisingly chilly August wind raked through our hair as we tried out our experiments, I felt a bit like a giddy college freshmen again (kinda like the really loud ones that just moved in across the way from us). It was like for that hour that we were out, I no longer felt like a responsible adult who was about to micromanage the learning of 150 students and Matt no longer felt stressed out of his mind about his PT school applications.

For that hour, we just allowed ourselves to be silly and experimental and perhaps a little crazy (as I'm sure the few people strolling around campus were thinking we were).

And even though I'll probably look back one day at these beginner attempts at night pictures and laugh, I don't think I'll ever have as much fun doing a tripod photo session as I did that night.

Goodbye, summer.

I miss you already.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Third 1st Day of School...I'm Basically a Veteran

My feet may be killing me and my voice may be a little worse for wear, but I have officially survived my third 1st day of school as a teacher. (And I only had to tell off one and a half kids in the process, which is a vast improvement over last year, when I told off at least 9 or 10 and had to switch around multiple schedules and get multiple students removed from my classes).

Funny story: at lunch, I was exuberantly bragging to every faculty member who would listen about how wonderful my kids are this year. "They're basically angels!" I was gloating. "I mean, I had over 50% of my students totally prepared THE FIRST DAY! And they even said hi to me and asked how I'm doing! They offered to help! They did what they were told immediately! I actually--honest to goodness--had a student THANK ME at the end of the class period! It's a first day of school miracle!"

Note to parents and future parents: teach your kids to thank their teachers. It just melts our skeptic little teaching hearts and makes us believe that there is hope in humanity after all.

I was over the moon at lunch--it was like my smile had been permanently tightened upwards with a screwdriver.

Of course, I quickly realized about two minutes into my last two periods that I perhaps had spoken too soon.

When will I ever learn that the pride cometh before the fall? When will I ever learn that the second I start gloating or bragging or praising something to the high heavens, it is bound to come back to haunt me eventually?

Of course, all in all, out of 150 students today, I only had two that were problematic at all. (True, I gave multiple warnings to the two and even had to have one kid stay after to have a chat with me about why he was being so disrespectful, but still---it was only two). By the end of the first day last year, I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel forever.

After today I was just tired. Read: not defeated---just tired.

Cuz hey---teaching may be exhausting work, but I'll take two problem kids over the 45 I had last year any day.


(No, but really---I can't believe how positive this year is looking already. Maybe I CAN do this teaching thing for life...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Trying Not to Psych Myself Out

It's happening, folks--summer is coming to its official end, a point that is proved by the fact that I've been at the school all week fulfilling contract hours and getting my room ready and trying not to freak out about my next batch of victims, who will officially be starting school next Tuesday.

On all fronts, it appears that I'll be having a bit of an easier year than last year (which shouldn't be hard, considering that last year was the year from that-place-that's-the-opposite-of-heaven). For starters, my class sizes are actually REASONABLE this time around; I mean, I actually already had desks in my room for all the students I wax expecting. Imagine that! In fact, the numbers I have in my Spanish classes have led me to shout more than one "Hallelujah!" every time I think about it.

To put things into perspective for you, my first year of teaching, I taught classes that ranged from 24 students to about 29 or 30. Last year, I didn't have a single class with fewer than 30 students, and most of my classes were totally maxed out with 34 (which required me bringing in 4 extra desks, a feat that required some seriously creative finagling of furniture). This year, I don't have any classes with more than 30 kids, and ALL of my Spanish classes have a range from 20 - 22. Hallelujah, indeed.

Secondly, this year should be a little easier because I know as of this very moment of only ONE "problem" student that I have, whereas by this same time last year, I already knew of about 11 (and really had about 45). So, using that same ratio as last year (only knowing of one-fourth of my behavioral problems), I should only have about 4 students this year who will give me ulcers and keep me up at night. Hey, I'll take that number over 45 any day.

Third, my whole schedule has been changed this year so that I'll be teaching twice the number of Spanish classes and one less Language Arts class each trimester. Basically what this means is that I'll have a MUCH lighter grading load, as I won't be having to read the 30+ twice-monthly major writing projects that would have come in as a result of having that other Language Arts class.

Fourth, everyone keeps feeling the need to reassure me that this year will be worlds different than last year, which has been kind of a double-edged sword--on the one hand, it's nice to hear so many positive things about the group coming in, but on the other, it makes me wonder if everyone thinks I'm like this bomb that was bound to detonate soon if I didn't get some reassurance that this group of kids was more manageable than the last. (And in all reality, had I heard that the incoming group was as hard as last year's, I probably would have quit on the spot.)

All in all, I vacillate between being surprisingly unemotional and neutral about the upcoming year to being in a minor brain frenzy over the idea that it might just confirm, once and for all, that teaching 7th grade is just not for me, even if the kids aren't so hard to manage as they were last year. I'm trying to stay positive, but I'm sure as next Tuesday draws ever closer, I might be a little freaked out about the endless possibilities of what could be.

Ah, how would it be to have a "normal" job where each fresh August doesn't bring a sense of panic and uncertainty and an onslaught of out-of-control nightmares--what on earth would that be like?

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