Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*While I was loading pictures onto the computer, I somehow got the feeling that Matt got a hold of my camera when he was bored...

*I wish it would stop snowing so that I could go and get my run out of the way already.

*Remember these cookies that I made for Valentine's Day? Well, Matt and I just couldn't stop thinking about them (or drooling about them), so I decided to change it up a little and do a devil's food cake mix instead of red velvet, and then half the shortening amount and add an egg (the best trick ever for cutting down on the fat in recipes--thanks, Mom!). And you know what? I think they're even more amazing the second time around. I think I'm going to have to start stocking up on a lot more cake mixes...

*Speaking of changing things up, I miss doing my Change It Up Challenges. I haven't forgotten about them, I just have been so busy with everything, between student teaching and training for a marathon and all. I feel like training for this marathon is one of the biggest "CIU Challenges" I've done in my whole life, so that's probably where the CIUs will be limited to for now. But come summer, I fully plan on starting those up again. A girl just needs a little change every now and then, eh? You should give me some ideas about what I should try out. Except sushi. I don't want to try that.

*Matt and I will be watching The Bachelor tonight, but we kind of don't want to. The magic was lost when our favorite contestant got voted off last week. Stupid.

*We're going home to Bountiful this weekend for the first time in a month and a half. I'm excited! We have been seriously Settlers [of Catan]-deprived these past several weeks.

*The sun is shining outside, and it's snowing. Love that!

*After putting it off for weeks and weeks, I have finally started to read the novel that I'll be teaching to my class. I mean, we don't start the unit until the day after tomorrow, so it's not like I've procrastinated too bad, right? Right? Actually, I think that I might extend our poetry unit until Friday and just start the book on Monday. This decision of course has nothing to do with my own laziness...

*I think it's harder for me motivation-wise to run 3 days a week instead of every day. Why is that?

*Anybody know the names of any good (and preferably cheap) piano tuners that serve the Logan area?

*I have an odd hankering to watch the movie Matilda. Maybe because I recently saw it in Walmart's $5 bin...

*I went to donate plasma last night thinking that it closed at 8, and it ended up closing at 7. Considering that I got there at 7:10, I was a little put out. It was a sad day.

*It's been almost six months since I've changed my hair, and I'm itching for another change. So now the real question is--do I go darker, or do I go for highlights?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pot Roast & Pals

Guess what? I made my first pot roast ever yesterday. Of course, if it were up to me, I would make pot roast every week for dinner (because it's probably my favorite meal of all time), but due to those rump roasts just being so darn expensive, I haven't had much opportunity.

But, thanks to my mom's generosity in giving us a little extra grocery money (not to mention an awesome Bountiful basket--check out all the fruit we got!), we decided to splurge a little and try it out.

Because you can't have a pot roast with just two people, we decided to invite our good friends, the Roses, over for some home-cooked goodness and chatting.

Who knew that cooking a pot roast and making a fancy Sunday dinner would take so long? Between Matt and I, we probably spent over 4 hours in preparation for the big meal.

 (This is Matt catching me a little off guard as I had just finished setting the table)

 The made-from-scratch mashed potatoes and rolls (the mashed potatoes were awesome--the recipe actually calls for you to make them the day before, which saved us a ton of time)

I'll have you know that I fully intended to take pictures of the finished meal and of all of us as we were sitting down.

Somehow, between our hungry stomachs and two very active children, that didn't happen.

But we did get some after:

 (Caleb's kinda making a funny face, but we wanted a picture of the whole gang)

Thanks guys, for a great Sunday!

Marathon Training, Week Eight

I am officially more than halfway through my training. While a part of me rejoices at that fact, the greater part of me (and perhaps the wiser part) is starting to freak out a little--it's starting to wonder if I will really be ready for a 26.2 mile race in less than two short months. But on we trek, in the wind and in the snow and in the freezing rain.

This week marked the first full week of our new training program. It also marked the first time that I've run the distance of a half-marathon. Normally I would probably be super proud of that fact, but I'm not. You see, last Saturday I was supposed to run 15 miles. Early Saturday morning, Matt and I piled into the Mazda and mapped out a perfect 15-mile loop (because neither one of us wanted to run our usual 7.5-mile route twice). As we left the house to go on the actual run, I remarked to Matt that I was worried my sense of direction would keep me from getting my mileage. He tried hard to run with me for the first little while to make sure I didn't get too off track, but after about half a mile, he said he couldn't stand the pace anymore and left me in the dust.

I knew I was making all the right turns until a point about 5 miles in, where I turned down to the main highway too soon (although at the time, I was sure I had taken the right route). We had planted Gatorades about 2/3 of the way into our run, and when I reached the drinks and Matt hadn't opened his, I knew something was wrong. Sure enough, when I got back to the house and compared routes with Matt, I had only run just over 13 miles. I was so disappointed in myself, because for awhile there, I thought I had really run all 15.

Oh well. Next time.

As for the new training program, it's going all right. A part of me thinks that running every day was better for me in some ways (just because I've had a really  hard time doing the cross training on my off days), but hopefully we made the right decision. I do loathe the speed runs though---I've been training my body for endurance, not speed, so my 3-mile speed run last week was nothing short of torture. I was sore all week from it.

Highs of the Week: That glorious 90-minute interval on last week's long run when I was sure I was really running 15 miles for the first time.

Lows of the Week: Seeing Matt's unopened Gatorade and knowing that I'd made a wrong turn. And Thursday's 10-mile run; I was so sore that each step caused me discomfort. Hopefully this next week will come with more triumphs.

Number of Miles Run: 26

Time Per Mile: 10 minutes (still holding on strong)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spontaneous Cheese Date

Yesterday I came home from the school with a raging headache, only to come home and find Matt at his wit's end as he slogged through hours' worth of French homework.

Something had to be done.

We needed some cheap cheese, and stat.

Remember this bad day, when the only fix was a 50-pc. discounted box of Fat Boys from the nearby Fat Boy factory?

Well, in order to fix our humdrum day yesterday, we decided to go take a short little vacay to Gossner's cheese, where they have cubes of cheese and cracker spreads just waiting for hungry (and poor) little mouths to snatch them up. Did I mention that this is all for free? Oh, how I love that we are so close to all these factories and farms where all the magic is made (Translation: Oh, how I love that we are close to all these factories and farms where I can pick up all my guilty pleasures for next to nothing).

We couldn't leave without Matt picking up some cheese curds for the way home, so we picked up a cheap $2 bag and went away squeaking with happiness.
Oh, and then we got milkshakes from Arctic Circle with a Buy One/Get One Free coupon I had, and came home and watched Rush Hour 2.

Here's to cheap, spontaneous dates!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book #3: Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire

Title: Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire
Author: Rafe Esquith
# of Pages: 240ish

Last year, Matt and I checked out the Scholastic Book Fair mega-sale on USU's campus, where we ended up spending about $180 on two dozen books that would have cost us $500 anywhere else. This book by Rafe Esquith was a spur-of-the-moment purchase that I added to my stack just before check-out because I thought it might come in handy when I became a real teacher.

Well, my bookish instinct was right. Mostly.

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire is the true story of how Rafe Esquith, a 5th-grade teacher at an inner-city elementary school, has accomplished phenomenal things with his ten-year-old students such as full-blown Shakespeare plays, cross country trips, a School of Rock-worthy class rock band, etc. Rafe is the kind of teacher that movies are made about--devoted, self-sacrificing, and possibly a little bit obsessed, or crazy (or both). In this book, he shares some of the unusual methods he has used in his classroom to achieve extraordinary results.

I am now about halfway through my student teaching experience, which, although rewarding, is often stressful, frustrating, and thankless. I picked up this book with the hope that it might re-inspire me to continue forward and try new things and do more for my students.

I'm kind of torn with how this book made me feel, though. There were times while I was reading it that I had true ah-ha! moments---like when Rafe talks about how he teaches his kids Kohlberg's 6 Levels of Moral Reasoning. Since I have often lamented the complete lack of morality or empathy shown by many of my students, this book gave me the idea that I could incorporate the 6 Levels into the literature unit we're starting next week, which would not only help the students understand the literature better, but also themselves. So I was excited about that.

However, hearing about how this teacher starts teaching his students special classes at 6:30 AM (for those who want to come that early) and doesn't go home until 6:30 or 7 at night (because he's helping the kids put on a full-length Shakespeare play and teaching them rock music), I kind of got discouraged. I mean, I'm all for the idea of planning meaningful experiences for your kids and going the extra mile to help them reach high goals. But a 12-hour day at school wouldn't work for most people. I don't even know how it works for him, considering that he's got his own wife at home. So I guess I kind of came away feeling guilty---guilty that I couldn't put in the kind of effort that he does and guilty that I don't really care to. But I know that the students are actually NOT my number-one priority--my family is. I think there's a fine line between being the best you can be at your job and letting it take over your life. And besides, while many of his ideas would work brilliantly for an elementary-school setting, where you only have 25 students all day long and where the kids are still at an age where they want nothing more than to please you and do the right thing, I just don't think his ideas would work very well in a middle school setting, where I have 110 students for 50-minute spurts, and who are just trying to navigate their way through adolescence, much less change the world.

But the book was inspiring, and it let me know that I DO need to have higher expectations for my students (despite the challenges of their age group), and that I DO need to constantly be seeking for ways to truly inspire them to become more than they think they can be. I am just not willing to sacrifice everything else in my life to meet those two objectives.

And I'm okay with that.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*I discovered something very important about myself today. Apparently, I would prefer running 12 miles at a humanly-normal pace (aka, 10-min. miles) rather than running 3 miles at an unhuman pace (for me, that's apparently 8:50 miles). I have a feeling that I'm going to start dreading my Tuesday speed runs...

*I discovered something else very important about myself yesterday---apparently I'm a total computer addict. As part of my To-Be List challenges for myself, I set a goal that I was going to cut back on blogging/Internet surfing so that I could make time for more important things (like cleaning my house). My goal was as follows: no blogging or Internet surfing until both my personal scripture study and my daily run/exercise were done, and then when I did get on, I was to limit myself to 30 minutes. I didn't think it would be that hard. I was wrong. Apparently, my default mode is that I go get on the computer whenever I'm bored, stressed out, seeking entertainment, or trying to avoid something I don't want to do. So there you go, folks: I am suffering from severe digital overload. But I'm seriously set on reforming, no matter how challenging it is for me.

*As a result of everything mentioned above, I have a feeling that I'll actually be reading a lot more books now (just like I've always meant to). Apparently I always did have the time. I just liked feeding my blog addiction more.

*Our heater is still not fixed. I was never so excited to go to the school as I was this morning---ahhhh, the simple pleasure of 70-degree indoor temperatures (even if half that heat comes from un-deoderized, adolescent bodies)

*So there's this one girl in my classes that has turned into a teenager overnight. You wanna know how I could tell? The fact that first thing every class, she would roll her eyes, open her mouth wide, and say something to the effect of, "This is so totally, like, LAAAAAME." So today when she came in, I noticed that she inadvertently used a simile while complaining about the Miley Cyrus song playing in the hallway. So I congratulated her on applying in real life what we've been learning in class, to which she gave me a bewildered stare, wrinkled her nose in disgust, and then put her head down on her desk with, "Ugh. I hate myself." Ah, the joys.

*Today is the first day that Matt has gone into work in a week. I sure don't like how they keep calling him in and cancelling on him...not cool...

*Because I accidentally only ran 2.6 miles today instead of 3, I tried to make up for it by doing an intense strength training leg workout. I think I pulled every muscle in my bum. And then some.

*My mom bought me a Bountiful Basket for this Saturday. I kinda sorta can't wait to find out what's in it. You're the greatest, Mom!

*So I tried out "real" Greek yogurt finally (instead of the awesome stuff that they say is Greek yogurt but is really just flavored, thick normal yogurt). I kind of hated it. I mean, I knew that I hated fat-free Greek yogurt, but I thought that the 2% kind would be bearable. Apparently I can only choke it down with gobs and gobs of honey spooned into it. Oh well. I'm still getting some benefit out of it, right?

*We've been on this big microwave popcorn kick lately. The only problem? We have the most wretched microwave in the whole world for cooking popcorn. It works great for everything else, but it WILL NOT pop all the kernels in the bag (or even half of them) without burning a hole through the bag. So, to get around the problem, we just make ourselves two half-bags of popcorn and call it a good day.

*K, my 30 minutes are getting pretty close to being up. Anyone got any funny stories they want to share with me about what's happened to them on this chilly Tuesday?

Monday, February 20, 2012

To-Be List

While the rest of our holiday weekend hasn't exactly been as magical as planned (for starters, our heater blew out last night and we have been freezing all day, hence the Matt-burrowing-into-his-coat picture above), I did have the chance to get started on this week's To-Be List.

Can I share something pretty miraculous first? So yesterday, I was asked to be a sub in Relief Society and teach the lesson next week. I didn't think much of it, but rather went on in my To-Be List studying as normal. As I was studying, I kept getting the feeling that the exact topic I was studying was giving me a little deja vu, like I had recently heard a conference talk on it or something.

Then, after all my studying was finished for the day, I decided to just pull out the talk I was supposed to be teaching about this Sunday.


The conference talk that I had been trying to remember was the talk that I'll be teaching this next week.

I'm thinking that this was a message I really needed to hear right now.

 I love it when that happens :)

For this week's To-Be List, I'm studying Romans 12:3 (if you're new to my whole To-Be List thing, check out this post).

Romans 12:3

"For I say . . . to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."

My study questions for the week are:
*How hightly (or not) ought I to think of myself?
*What is the link between thinking soberly and the faith that God has given us?
*It says that "God hath dealth to every man the measure of faith"--what does that mean?
*How can I learn humility, other than just through trials [because I know that they teach me humility!]?

I've only studied the first question today, but if you want something to ponder for the week, check out: Moses 1: 9-14, Daniel 4:35, Helaman 12:7, Ether 3:2, Psalms 8: 4-6, Job 7:17-18, and this talk.

I love how my experience studying today just solidified everything that I read--that although I may seem insignificant compared to God's creations without number, I matter to him. It truly is "the paradox of man," like Pres. Uchtdorf said in his talk.

Anyway, I'd love to hear about insights that you all have, and I invite you to join me in my study quest. Happy becoming!

This Week's To-Be List:

*Don't think of myself more highly than I ought (Be Humble)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marathon Training, Week Seven

Matt and I made a big decision this last week about our marathon training: we decided, after much stewing and deliberation and advice-seeking, to switch up training programs. Thus far, we've been on a training program that called for running 6 days a week, with the shorter runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, mid-length runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and long runs on Saturdays. While this training plan worked great at first, we've been running into problems these last two weeks especially--Matt's knees have been giving him serious problems, and my stomach has been giving me grief more days than not, which has made me miss more than a couple days these past few weeks.

Since the beginning of our marathon training, we've heard snippets here and there about a three-day-a-week training program, which a lot of studies have proven to be just as successful (if not more so) than an everyday running program. So, this week, we decided to make the switch.

We're hoping this decision doesn't come back to bite us in the figurative butt.

The new program has us running Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Tuesdays, we'll do speed sprints for short distances, on Thursday, we'll do a mid-length tempo run at the speed we want to run for the marathon, and Saturdays, we'll do our long runs (at a slightly slower pace than tempo).

And you know what? I've felt GREAT this week--my runs have been SO much easier, I haven't had any problems with my breathing or getting sideaches (which I ALWAYS struggled with before), and on my 12-mile run this last Saturday, I felt amazing: like I was finally feeling like "a runner." And I know it's too early to tell whether we did the right thing or not, but I'm feeling really good about this decision. I think that come race day, we'll be very glad we switched.

High Point: How easy all my runs felt this week--I didn't do The Stall before going out the door like I usually do, my body wasn't achy and sore at the beginning of each run, and I just felt like I could go farther each time, and faster.

Low Point: You know? I really can't think of one. I've had a truly excellent week of training. It's about time!

Number of Miles Run: 28

Avg. Time Per Mile: just under 10 minutes

Question for the Runners Out There: Since this new training program involves cross training, what would you all recommend that I do on my non-running days?

Holiday Mid-Point

We're only halfway through the holiday weekend, and I don't know if we can pack much more fun into it.

Our good friends, Kayla and Sam, came up to stay with us last night to celebrate Sam's birthday (above).

We started the evening out with a hot chicken and corn chowder, then went up to spend a couple hours at the hot springs in Idaho.

After, we came home to birthday cake, sparkling cider, and a little Big Bang Theory.

I love friends.

And, in case you're all wondering, this is what an Oreo with 20 fillings in it looks like.

Pretty awesome, huh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To-Be List

A few months ago, the woman teaching Relief Society made a comment like this, "We make to-do lists, but why not to-be lists?"

Although the comment made a strong impression on me, I didn't really do much about it at the time.

Meanwhile, over the past two weeks or so, I've had the awesome opportunity to attend a lot of different church meetings that have inspired me as to what new directions I need to take in life. Ever since I got home from being a full-time missionary over a year and a half ago, I have struggled to find a method of studying the scriptures that was inspiring enough to me that I could stick with it. Sadly, what too often happened was that my scripture study did not get done at all, or if it did, it generally held little inspiration.

Until last week.

I finally hit on an idea that I thought I could really stick with.

On my mission, I was reading in Romans 12 and marveling that the entire chapter was basically a how-to guide as to how to "live as becometh saints." What I decided to do was to start breaking down the chapter into small chunks (just one or two verses at a time) and ask myself how I could apply those verses to my life. For this first week, I focused on Romans 12: 1-2, which say:

"...Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

After deciding to start my focus on these two verses, I came up with five questions that would guide my scripture study throughout the following week. The five questions were:

1. What does it mean to present my body as a living sacrifice? How can I apply that?
2. What are the signs of being 'conformed to this world?'
3. What can I change to not be conformed to this world?
4. What are some actions that I need to take to renew my mind and transform myself?
5. How do I prove the will of God?

Each day, I have tackled a new question, and recorded the scriptures I've found and the insights I've had in my study journal.

Guys, I'm here to tell you---I have noticed a HUGE difference.

So, first off, on my To-Be List:

*Be a nonconformist (with the world)
*Be a thought transformer

I would love it more than I could say if any of you wanted to join me on this challenge. I would love to hear any of your insights!

Happy Becoming!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All, Valentine's Edition

*Yesterday I came home from the school to find all of this waiting just inside the apartment. You can imagine my confusion (as yesterday was the 13th), and I was thinking that Matt just got his days mixed up and gave me my present a day early. But it turns out, he planned it that way---he said that he wanted it to be a surprise, and he knew that I wouldn't be surprised if it was on Valentine's Day, so he decided to do it all a day early. Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever heard?

*Oh, and the letter he wrote me? I was crying by the second line.

*Ooo, let's not forget to mention how excited I am that he bought me Crossed. Now I'm not going to have to wait until the library's copy is available!!

*Today at school, I started off our poetry unit by having the students create poems using just the words that were written on conversation hearts (I gave them each their own box). Utter madness ensued...but I think that was partly because everyone was so hyper and hormone-driven about the dance that was to immediately follow the school day today. Ah, the days of junior high dances...

*My cooperating teacher got me a 6-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper for the holiday. Best. Idea. EVER. I really needed that today (just one of course, not all six. Although I'm sure I'll need them the rest of the week).

*As for tonight, I decided to try my hand at the extravagant candlelight dinner thingy for the first time. It took me almost two hours to prepare, but we sure enjoyed ourselves over Martinelli's and the fancy-schmancy pasta I only make once in a blue moon because it's so expensive and so fattening. It did turn out delicious though, if I do say so myself...

*After dinner, we did our usual Tuesday night ritual of watching The Bachelor. Man, the disbelief just keep growing every time. I mean seriously---if something doesn't change quick, I just don't know what I'll do with myself--I already spend way too much time as it is thinking about that show. And after last night's episode...yuck!

*This morning before Matt left for school, I snuck a bag of caramel Hershey Kisses (so good that we call them "make-outs" instead of "kisses") into Matt's backpack with a little note that said, "This is so I can KISS you all day long." I love cheesy Valentine's Day stuff. What did you guys do for your significant other?

*Even though this isn't V-Day related, I want to give a big shout-out to the anonymous person who dropped off a big bag of meat on our door last week after I posted how meat had been too expensive to buy lately. I love you, love you, love you! You have no idea how much your kindness meant to me, especially during such a hard week. The world is truly full of angels.

*Some of my students gave me little treats for Valentine's Day. Bless their hearts.

*When I passed out all the conversation hearts today, only two kids out of 110 said thank you. Bless their hearts, I love their self-absorbed little selves anyway.

*To finish off the festive evening, we tried out this recipe I found. Although the cookies were a little more fattening (and kinda greasy) than I usually go for, I've got to admit, they were pretty delicious. (Note: I used red velvet cake mix instead of strawberry; hence the red color rather than the pink).

Hope you all had an amazing Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Funny

So I just finished grading all of my students' personal narratives, and I have had way too much fun reading over them. For a list of my favorite lines from their stories, check out my teaching blog:


Marathon Training, Week Six

I knew it would happen eventually--a week where I couldn't get in my required mileage for one reason or another. I failed a bit in my training this last week because I wasn't able to go running Wednesday or Thursday (Wednesday because I was feeling nauseated and a little lightheaded, and Thursday because I just didn't have the time due to class and meetings after school). But I did ramp up my mileage on the other days just like I was supposed to, and let me tell you--I'm for sure feeling that today.

Saturday was the first time I've run 10 miles at once, and it was both exhilarating and painful. By my last mile, I was flying high on endorphins, but the second I stopped moving, I just about crumpled to the ground and never got up. You wouldn't think that adding just a mile and a half to your longest run would make that much of a difference, but apparently it was.

Matt ran 12 miles on Saturday, and remarked to me that it was depressing that he was so wiped out, and he hadn't even run a half marathon.

True story.

Sometimes a tiny little part of me thinks I'm crazy for attempting this marathon business, especially because I've never ever run in any other race--not even a 5k. And here I am attempting to train for a full-on marathon, almost the grand-daddy of all races (unless, of course, you count Iron Man and other such nonsense). But I think that my ignorance is part of what spurs me on---I think I can do it, because nothing has shown me otherwise. I love that.

I was able to run a 7-mile run on Tuesday, as well as 4-mile runs on Monday and Friday. Remember back in week one, where 7 miles was my max and I was wistfully thinking that someday I'd be doing that all the time? Well, that time has come, folks. And while it may not all be peaches and whipped cream, I am pretty dang proud of myself.

Highs of the Week: Being able to say I've run 10 miles at one time. And maintaining my pace throughout the whole thing. (Plus on a couple shorter runs, I improved my time).

Lows of the Week: Not getting those two runs in. I felt like such a bum.

Number of Miles Run: 25 miles

Average Time Per Mile: 10 minutes (sometimes faster, but very consistently at 10 minutes)

Question for the runners out there---this goo stuff you all tell me about: where do I find it? And is there a brand name I need to look for, or is it just goo? And do you recommend having it while on the run, or before, or what? Because right now I'm just running these really long runs without water or goo or anything, and I don't know when I should start incorporating that kind of stuff into it. So what do you do?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book #2: Matched

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
# of Pages: 400 (although the actual story is a little less than that---I'm just too lazy to get out my own copy and look it up)

I don't know how it's possible, but the idea of a teen dystopian novel just never seems to get old for me, especially when there's a love triangle involved (as long as that love triangle isn't frustrating of course, a la Twilight or even The Hunger Games). I first heard of this trilogy by Ally Condie when Matt and I went on this date night, but I didn't get interested until I started talking to one of the other women at church who had been anxiously awaiting the release of Crossed, the second book in the trilogy. As we all know, I can't stand to be out of the loop in the tight-knit reading club of America, so I asked for Matched for Christmas, and my sister-in-law so graciously indulged me.

Matched tells the story of Cassia, a 17-year-old girl living in what would seem to be the perfect society, where vocations are assigned to you based on your interests and skills, where mutations and disease have been bred out of the population, and where everyone dies at the age of 80 after a celebratory banquet in their honor (at which they are present). But the most intriguing aspect of the society (and the fundamental key to its success) lies in the Matching Ceremony--a ceremony where youth go at the age of 17 to discover who their ideal match (and future spouse) will be, based on years of data compilation of the two subjects. Although rare to be matched with someone from your own town, Cassia is happily surprised to find that she has been matched with her lifelong friend, Xander. However, everything veers off course when for a brief second, Cassia sees another face on her Matched microcard that is NOT Xander's--but rather her other long-time (but less known) friend, Ky. Despite the Officials of the society coming by to say that a terrible mistake had been made and Ky's face was not supposed to be there, Cassia becomes caught in the confusion of trying to know who her true match is, and in the process, she starts to develop a forbidden love that threatens to tear apart everything that she knows and loves.

Although part of a trilogy, Matched is fun to read in its own right--I mean, who doesn't love a good story of forbidden love, serendipitous mistakes, and a little bit of rebellion against The Man? The book doesn't wrap things up as neatly as say, the first Hunger Games did (which could be read and understood pretty much in its entirety without reading the rest of the trilogy). In other words, to find out the rest of the story, I'll absolutely have to read the next two books (the third one of which doesn't come out until November. This must be the year where I start trilogies that don't have all the pieces yet). However, the book is a quick read, with a strong female lead that doesn't annoy me (yet) and a slightly different twist on the idea of the dystopian society. Of course, the creepiest thing about most dystopian novels is that most have elements of truth in them that reflect how society is already trending. The Matched series reminds me of the eHarmony trend--how long will it be before we're all matched to our "soulmates" by electronic data? But that's a different blog post for a different day.

Have any of you read Matched? What did you think of it?

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ferocious Flirt #5 & #6

Even though I'm not too great at doing this ferocious-flirt-a-day business, I did try out a couple new ideas, in between preparing for my first observation over at the middle school and keeping up with my church responsibilities.

Since I'm too lazy to go and find the book, I'll just summarize.

Ferocious Flirt #5: Send your significant other an e-greeting card on a normal day, just to say that you're thinking about him/her.

I actually used to send e-greeting cards all the time four or five years ago, but I haven't been in the habit of doing it lately. My go-to website for online greeting cards is www.egreetings.com, because they have funny cards for super random holidays and great cards for everyday stuff. Although they do have a ton of Valentine's Day cards out right now, I decided to send Matt a card that was under the "Everyday" section under "Love." (Side note: I LOVE the interactive cards. WAY too much fun.)

Matt got the greeting card when he wasn't with me, which is just how I wanted it to be. He sent me a very sweet text after he got it that made me feel all giggly inside :). The great thing about going out of your way to express your love is that your significant other will nearly always reciprocate that love action in some way. So then you both have gained something from it. (Not that you should do cute things because you expect something back, of course. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm more just pointing out the fact that love tends to breed love, is all.)

Ferocious Flirt #6: In your sweetie's backpack or briefcase, put a Twinkie with the following note attached: "You're the Twinkie in my brown bag of life."

I thought this one was too funny to pass up. The only thing was I didn't really have much time to actually make a note, so I just put a Twinkie in Matt's backpack and planned to text him the note as soon as he was on his way to school. The problem was, I forgot to text him. So like five hours after all that, I get this text from a very confused Matt asking, "Did you put a Twinkie in my backpack?"

Rather than explicitly confirming, I just sent the text back with the cute little saying.

He obviously couldn't tell if I was just messing with him or not (and must have been worried about the Twinkie being poisoned), because he said, "Did you really put a Twinkie in there? Seriously?"

I got a good laugh out of it.

And  he got a Twinkie.

It was a win-win.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mid-Week Boost: Finding Joy

 Today I'm excited to introduce you to one of my new favorite bloggers: Jodie from jodienoted! I found Jodie's blog a few months ago and just fell in love with her positive outlook on life, her thought-provoking personal stories, and her beautiful craft ideas. Go check  her out--you won't be sorry!

From the moment Torrie contacted me about writing for her Mid-Week Boost feature my mind has been going nonstop. What am I passionate about? What excites me? Where do I focus my time and energy? And honestly I was kind of stumped. At one point or another I've always had a specific passion. Music, for one. Or baseball, writing, sewing, friendships, and the list goes on. They used to consume my thoughts and actions. Lately, however, they are missing. For the longest time I could not put my finger on why I had lost all zest for these things that I normally love. What has happened that they no longer have a place in my life?

It didn't take long for me to answer my own question. Life. Life is what has happened. I've become so overwhelmed by what life has handed me that I haven't given my old interests the time of day. This got me to thinking, though. If I have no passion right now - no gusto whatsoever - how am I still able to get through each day? And it hit me. I am passionate about something in my life right now. Something that means the world to me. I realized that through good times, bad times, stresses, trials, busy schedules and everything in between, what I am perhaps most passionate about is living and loving my life regardless of what comes my way. 

I will be the first to admit that I don't have an exciting life. At least not the kind of exciting that the rest of the world looks for. I haven't traveled much of anywhere. Heck, I've never even been to California. I don't spend money on big TVs or new cars or a nice house. I didn't graduate at the top of my class from a well-known university. I haven't climbed the corporate ladder. I can't offset my bad days with retail therapy or a quick weekend getaway. Frankly, I'm just a normal girl living one day at a time. But my little life and my simple days are all I'll ever need. 

If I spend a day cleaning up my daughter's messes and burning dinner and only get a breath of fresh air when I walk to the mailbox greeted by a stack of bills, I have still lived a great day. I have reasons to smile. Why? Because I have a daughter to make messes with and to hug and snuggle and love. And I may have burned dinner but we had food to eat and a dinner table to sit around together and laugh about my culinary failure. And the bills may pile up and will seemingly never stop, but my husband was able to receive an excellent education and we have a house that is warm in the winter and a car that gets us where we need to go. If I can't find joy in the most ordinary of days, then I've failed to understand the meaning of true happiness. It is in the simplest activities that I'm able to see how meaningful my life is. 

It might seem silly that finding joy is my passion. But maybe the joy we all find and learn to recognize is what leads us to more good things. Maybe finding joy in the ordinary is just the first step in allowing ourselves to really see what we have to offer and the great things we can accomplish.

Building a fort on a rainy day  /  Learning how to make the best sugar cookies from Grandpa

Thanks so much, Jodie! (P.S. I loved your last post on what faith means--I haven't stopped thinking about that quote, actually!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tell-All Tuesday

*I've always thought that I have pretty great luck in life. Apparently that all changed this week. My car sputtered and slowly died this morning while I was still 4 blocks away from the school, I had a minor panic attack while giving plasma last night that required them to put an oxygen mask on me and have a nurse babysit me for half an hour, and I have realized (once again) that no one expects anything out of student teachers. I mean, I've cried TWICE already this week, people. This just does not happen.

*But of course, in all trials there is a silver lining--my cooperating teacher felt bad about my car, so she bought me a Dr. Pepper to save my sanity, and the second my car died, I immediately had people come to my aid to help me push my car to the side of the road. Plus I had a guy come and park behind me and make sure everything was okay about 2 seconds after I put my emergency lights on. People are so good here.

*I was just grateful that I remembered how to actually turn on the emergency lights in my car (something I did not know how to do for the first two years that I owned the thing).

*Luckily, the car is now fine. Apparently cars need gas or something. (In my defense, I was planning on filling it up right after school, and I thought I still had a good 50 miles left on the tank. Guess I was wrong.)

*On the bright side, I have a new episode of The Bachelor to watch tonight and a really great husband who came to my rescue and filled up my car with gas and moved it to the front of the school while I was teaching class. (Not to mention how he listened to me bawl my eyes out for about 45 minutes straight last night, made me dinner, and gave me a foot rub). Matt, you are so wonderful! Kiss!

*I'm trying to go meatless this week because there haven't been any great sales on meat lately. Anyone got any good ideas besides grilled cheese sandwiches of what I can make?

*I started a new scripture study technique on Sunday that has brought me so much comfort this week. I'm hoping to have time to post about it a little later.

*I entered a writing contest for the first time in years yesterday (the main writing contest that Utah State sponsors). As I've been lucky enough to win in years past, I'm trying not to hope too hard that my luck can stretch just a little further and allow me to win this year, too. A couple hundred extra bucks would sure help me out.

*I think all my students drank Red Bulls before class both days so far this week. I've wanted to rip my hair out (or theirs!) this whole week. Must be a sign that we're due to start a new unit soon. Or that we all need a holiday.

*I will be finishing Matched today. I would have finished yesterday at the plasma center had my body decided to not freak out. I'll be posting my review of it shortly.

*Here's to hoping that the rest of my week goes much better than the first half.

*Is it the weekend yet?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ferocious Flirt #2, #3, & #4

I love poetry--I have scads of poetry anthologies tucked away in bookshelves all over the house. For this reason, Flirt #2 was particularly easy to pull off:

When writing a love letter . . . "steal from the best! Use freely from the bard, the lyrics to romantic love songs, and poems."

On Thursday night, I didn't have much time (or frankly, much motivation) to do anything out of the ordinary. Truth be told, I just wanted to eat chocolate and check in early. But then I read something in Ferocious Flirting that made me realize that I was just wanting to act selfishly and that the best way to get out of my funk for the day was by serving. So I pulled out an old sketchbook, tore out a page, and handwrote this poem and then taped it up on our bathroom mirror. Even though poetry has always been more my thing, Matt came downstairs with a big smile on his face and swooped me up into a hug and then asked me if he could keep the poem in a special place. Isn't he sweet?

Flirt #3 was not necessarily something that I could provide physical evidence of (unless I'd had the forethought to take a picture), but it's a good reminder nonetheless. Matt and I have set a goal this year to go on more "real dates" together, instead of just sitting around the house every weekend and watching movies and eating junk food. So even though Friday, we did just your typical movie-and-dinner date night, I made sure to keep this ferocious flirt tip in mind:

"Remember to make going out or spending time with your hubby a special occasion. Take the time to get dressed up for your spouse every now and again, just as you would an 'important' person you were going to spend the evening with. Just because this guy loves you doesn't mean you shouldn't make him say 'wow' every now and again, like when you were dating."

Now, I'm the kind of girl who gets ready for the day no matter what, regardless of where I'm going. But I have realized that since starting marathon training, I often look better for my 7th graders than I do for Matt, because he'll come home to find me still in my jogging spandex with my hair pulled up, working on the computer. And even when we do go ou, I usually just wear whatever it is I was wearing earlier that day. But on Friday, for our date night, I made sure to change into my "date jeans" and a more feminine-looking shirt than what I had on. I revived my hair and reapplied some makeup. And even though Matt didn't say anything (which he normally would), I still felt better about myself because I'd put more thought and time into my appearance. Ferocious Flirt #3 accomplished!

The last Ferocious Flirt I'll share today is one that I'll be working on for the next couple weeks, esp. with all the Valentine's Day decor around. It's called "Preparing to be Spontaneous":

"Has this ever happened to you? You feel particularly grateful to your sweetie and want to do something extra special to show how much you feel. You think up something, but of course you don't have it around the house. Then you run to the store only to find that they don't have what you're looking for. You end up spending a lot of time and not being able to do what you wanted to do anyway. So now, instead of feeling grateful, you're feeling frustrated. What you need is a "spontaneity kit." This kit is a collection of simple things that will allow you to do something special for your sweetie on a moment's notice. My kit includes:
*I Love You stickers
*Candles - both scented and otherwise
*CDs with romantic music
*DVDs we both appreciate
*Heart-shaped box
*Massage oil
*Blank greeting cards with romantic, friendship, and appreciation themes
*Chocolate kisses and hugs
*Index cards with various romantic thoughts on them"

While I don't have a lot of these items on hand, I do have a few, which made me able to be spontaneous last night after we got home from stake conference with a romantic chick flick (Just Like Heaven) and candles. I decided this week that I need to pick up some of the other items, so I can have some fun spontaneously surprising Matt later on (like putting little stickers everywhere!).

What other things do you think I could include in my spontaneity kit?

Marathon Training, Week Five

Matt and I have now been officially training for over a month, and over that period of time, I've learned quite a bit about my running self.

Each day before I'm due for my run, there is inevitably The Stall. You fellow exercisers know what I'm talking about---the moment where you know you need to go out and get sweaty, and you just look for every little excuse to keep pushing it back. The other day I talked Matt's ear off for a solid 30 minutes until he finally said, "Get out and go running. There will be no sun left if you keep talking to me."

Of course, once I'm out, I accept the inevitable and get on with it already.

During mile one, I feel all the spots where I'm tightest (tailbone, inner thigh, hips, knees), and I am keenly aware of the freezing temperature, the wind pushing against me, and my own failure the day before to stretch adequately.

In mile two, I get a sideache. Without exception.

By miles three to four, my sideache gradually wears off and my muscles are warm enough not to be giving me grief.

During mile five, I usually feel like throwing up. Or I get gassy. (TMI?)

By mile six, I realize how thirsty I am (after all, by this point I've been out about an hour), and all I can think about from then on is how nice it's going to be to get to the apartment and drink a dangerously full glass of warm water when I get home. Somehow this makes me go faster, and I start running closer to the ground and taking longer strides.

By mile seven, my body is starting to feel the length of the run and my limbs start to hurt for the first time since mile 2.

By mile eight, I am so close to home that I get a huge adrenaline rush and about double my speed. Usually by this point, my body is a furiously effective machine, and I feel like I could go on running forever and ever because of all the endorphins racing around my bloodstream.

Of course, the second I stop running, I want to die.

But overall, the training is going great. The biggest obstacle in my way is always myself and my own motivation---I think for me, running is about 75% mental and 25% physical. If my head's not in it, my body's not in it. Those are the bad days. Lucky for me, most days I have a ton of thoughts swirling around in my head, which helps me to crave the exercise a lot more--running has given me a great way to release stress and ponder about problems that need fixing.

This week, we boosted up the mileage on a few of our runs. I bumped my short runs from 3 miles up to 4.3 miles. My semi-long runs stayed at 5.5 this week, but they'll be bumped up to 6 by next. And then I added another mile onto my longest run, which puts me at 8 for that day (although, since my speed increased this week, I should have run 9). Matt and I finally mapped out a new route, too, which helped a ton with yesterday's long run, since we've been getting a little bored with the routes we've been doing since the beginning. I had no idea that First Dam was such an ideal distance from us.  (remember that photo walk? First Dam is pretty much the same thing, but just a few miles closer). I discovered that changing up the route is a great way to re-motivate me to get out there and get my miles done.

This next month will bring some exciting challenges, like running the distance of a half-marathon by the end of it and trying out some speed exercises. Bring it on!

Number of Miles Run This Week: 30
Avg. Time Per Mile: 10 minutes (slowly but surely, I'm getting faster!)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Teaching Update

I've finally gotten around to updating my teaching blog with a couple more posts.

This time, I weighed in on parent-teacher conferences and funny student remarks.

Check it out here:


Cartoon via cartoonstock.com

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ferocious Flirt #1

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I decided to whip out Ferocious Flirting (this cute little book we got at our wedding that's full of little ideas to make your marriage wonderful) and start trying out some of the suggestions. I always try to serve Matt every opportunity I get, but this book gave me some ideas on how to go out of my way to make him feel loved.

My goal is to try out one new idea from this book every day until Valentine's Day.

First Experiment (quoted from the book):
Before your sweetie gets into the shower, start the dryer going with some towels. Just as they are finishing, get two towels out of the dryer and leave them for [him]. A nice warm towel after showering is a luxury he may not have experienced before.

I didn't realize how challenging this experiment was going to be until I actually started going about it. First of all, Matt rarely showers while I'm at home. As I've said before, our schedules are very different this semester, and we don't see much of each other except at night. So when he happened to be getting in the shower while I was around, I jumped on the chance.

Then a second problem happened--his towel (we only have two towels) was hanging up over the shower rod, so there was no way I could steal it without him noticing. But I took it anyway, only to have him ask, suspicious, "What are you doing with my towel...??"

"Oh, just a little surprise," I said innocently, then bounded off down the stairs.

When I came up with a warm towel for him ten minutes later, he loved it. I got an extra big (and extra-drippy) kiss for it. So even though it wasn't a surprise, I know he still appreciated it. And I giggled to myself because it just felt good to do something out of the ordinary.

I dare you all to try this out this week, and let me know how it goes!
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