Thursday, December 24, 2009

Life at Santa Fe Trail High School - Part 1

It has been some time since I last wrote on the blog about my first year teaching experiences, and I think it's time for an update! I've had a lot of interesting experiences this year, and I have to say that I have been having a very good year. While there are a lot of reasons for this, a few stand out.

1) Three Lakes Educational Coop, the district I work for, has proven to be a good district to work for. I have enjoyed my fellow colleagues who work there as they have been very helpful this year in keeping me up to speed on the various requirements my students call for. Their support has really helped me stay calm about all the ins and outs of being an Interrelated Teacher, and I feel that my job could be a lot harder if it weren't for them.

2) Part of being a new teacher is attending multiple New Staff Orientation inservices. Currently, we are working on a book by Fred Jones Ph.D., a clinical pshychologist called Tools for Teaching. This book has been an amazing resource for me and how I approach each day, and here's why. They are simple. There is no need to remember a whole bunch of steps or overly practice the techniques--in fact, most often the only things you need to do is to stay calm and in many cases, when students are being obnoxious, say nothing and calmly but blankly (think Queen Victoria) look them between the eyes and watch them back to work. It's taken some practice, but I have found that it works very well for me. Here's his website for more info. I will see what I can do about putting some excerpts from his videos/book on my school wiki, in the upcoming "Teacher's Lounge" page.

One of my main concerns coming into this year was whether or not Santa Fe Trail would be receptive to using technology in the classroom. Overall, my concern has been laid to rest. I have really had an amazing time with my kids, teaching them how to use various components of technology from making their own videos from scratch on sites like to showing them how to do advanced editing functions on Microsoft Office, to making their own website with My students have really enjoyed doing these things, and it has helped me be at ease about doing things differently. I can actually tell that they are learning by using the information to create things that are completely unique and interesting. These are the kinds of things that make history relevant and interesting to kids, because they get to control how it looks, and they get to see firsthand, why the things that happen in history are important. Pretty cool if you ask me.

I have also been asked to join both the Santa Fe Trail District and the Three Lakes Educational Cooperative's Technology Committee, and have enjoyed demonstrating technology and it's applications to the classroom to folks who really take an interest in these things. Being accepted as part of these committees is no small thing in my opinion because it shows that at least the two districts are receptive to new and brighter ways of doing things. Also, it will be interesting to see what kind of changes we will be able to facilitate for the two districts in the next few years.

Finally, I have just completed my first semester of grad school at Emporia State University. It went by really fast, and spring semester starts before you know it. It will be interesting to see how things go. I am taking two courses next semester and then I'll be full-time during the summer. If you are curious about how their distance education grad program works, feel free to let me know. The ESU website is really well laid out so any questions you have can be found either through the grad program link or by searching for it in the search bar.

Well, that's all for now. Happy Holidays!

New Job, Christmas Eve, and a Blizzard

I started my new job at a floral shop last Friday. I thought I was going in for an interview but apparently I didn't need an interview- they just put me to work!

I've had several different jobs over the years and every time I experience stress and anxiety. There is always so much to remember when starting a new job. This makes even working part time feel mentally exhausting. Will the other people like me? Will I like them? Will it be hard? Will it be boring? Will it be fun? Oh my.

So far (knock on wood), I have had only good experiences. It is always a challenge finding your place in a new work environment, but everyone at the shop has been very patient and trusting with me so far. This is good since I'm a big people pleaser. Hopefully it continues to be this way as I wanted a job that was MUCH LOWER on the stress scale than the daycare.

Even though I had to work Christmas Eve, I'm not complaining . . . look what I got to take home with me! And yes, I made it ALL by myself :).

Sometimes the flowers just start loooking shabby, then we get to take them home (with permission).

*Disclaimer: Flowers you buy at the shop look MUCH prettier than these, so don't be turned off by the saggy petals and brown edges.

Look what I drove home in. There is a layer of rain, topped with ice, ice pellets, and snow. Plus, the snow is blowing everywhere. It took me twice as long to get home.

The bright side is that we will have a White Christmas! Luckily we won't be traveling anywhere until Saturday, and hopefully by then the roads will be clear :).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sugar and Spice Makes Christmas Nice

We have a small artificial tree that until yesterday had no decorations (all of our ornaments are on the big tree). So, I decided to make cookie ornaments for the little tree. Boy do they smell GOOD! They're hard as rocks but smell heavenly, and whenever you're near the tree you smell cinnamon deliciousness. The recipe is from

Gingerbread Cookie Ornaments

3 T. shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teas. baking soda
3/4 cup water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon of cloves, ginger and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy, stir in molasses. Sift the dry ingredients together. Stir them into shortening mixture in 3 parts alternating with a 1/4 cup of water each time. Dough will be stiff. Refrigerate overnight. Cut dough into 3 pieces. Knead to warm dough slightly, then roll each piece out about 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookie out with a gingerbread pattern of your choice

Use a drinking straw to punch hole in center if ornament will be hanging. Place cookies on cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes, turn oven off and let cool in oven.
Remove from cookie sheet and place on rack to dry for about 3 days to totally harden.
These cookies are purely for decorative purposes and not to be eaten.
If you wish you can seal cookies with 3 coats of clear acrylic and decorate with colorful acrylic paints when dry.

I decorated the tips of the stars and angel wings before baking with Fairway Silvers. I'm not sure how old they are because they were in a huge box of spices and baking goods I inherited when my grandparents moved into the nursing home. Plus, the bottle looks straight out of the 50s. I figured it was safe to use them on something we wouldn't be eating ;)!

I went ahead and hung them up once they cooled and I didn't seal them with acrylic. I was too impatient to get the tree decorated :). You can almost smell the cinnamon just looking at the pictures . . . mmmm

Sugar and spice makes Christmas nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Today's Inspiration

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-Lao Tzu

Photograph by Robert Kruh, Photoblog

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Missing the Farm

While Topeka looks pretty in snow, it's not the same as the country.
We sure miss the farm.

DJ misses chopping wood for the fireplace.

The rest of us miss sitting in front of the fireplace!

The cats liked the kitchen window, where they could keep an eye on all the birds.

Walking down the driveway, especially in winter, makes you feel like you're in Narnia.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the dogs in the snow. Of course Anne has her head burried in it, she's so smart.


The house.

We really miss this place! It's always there for us to go visit, and we were blessed to have had the opportunity to enjoy it, even though it was only for a short time. Some day we'll find a place in the country again.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Tis the season of waiting.

Waiting for test scores.
Waiting for paychecks.
Waiting for job offers.
Waiting for grad school applications.
Waiting for friendships to grow.
Waiting for inspiration.
Waiting . . . .
for the anniversary of Christ's birth- which makes the waiting worth it.

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint"
(Isaiah 40:31)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

O Christmas Tree(s)

"O Christmas Tree" ("O Tannenbaum")

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!
Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!
The sight of thee at Christmastide
Spreads hope and gladness far and wide
Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thou tree most fair and lovely!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou hast a wondrous message:
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou hast a wondrous message:
Thou dost proclaim the Saviour's birth
Good will to men and peace on earth
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou hast a wondrous message

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
You stand in verdant beauty
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
You stand in verdant beauty
Your boughs are green in summer's glow
And do not fade in winter's snow
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
You stand in verdant beauty

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How laden are your branches
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Your presence here enhances
Your silver star does glisten bright
Reflecting all the candlelight
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How laden are your branches

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
You fill all hearts with gaiety
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
You fill all hearts with gaiety
On Christmas Day you stand so tall
Affording joy to one and all
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
You fill all hearts with gaiety

Christmas Present . . .

The Topeka tree 2009.

Munchkin, pretending to be a Christmas present. The animals really do think the tree skirt is a bed . . .
Christmas Past . . .

The Main Street Apartment, Munchkin as a kitten and Newton Christmas decorations. A very strong memory from that Christmas was the noise of the snow plows at 1am in the morning- we certainly do not miss that!

Our first Christmas tree 2007, cut down from the pasture at the farm- the "Charlie Brown Tree". I had to wear gloves to decorate it because it was so poky!

Christmas 2008, we moved out of the apartment on December 20, but I had to have at least the little tree up before we moved so it would still feel like Christmas even though all our stuff was in boxes.

The Farm, one of the first things we did after moving boxes out of the living room was set up the big Christmas tree, and look who decided to take a nap after all the unpacking and decorating!

So cute.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy B-day Wifey!

I love you sweetie! You are beautiful, talented, lovely, and amazing in all the ways a person could possibly be. Thank you also for being such an amazing "Mom" and taking care of your four-legged babies!

We Love You!

Me, Dan, Anne, Aster, and Munchie

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Project- DIY Cat Scratcher

Our two cats are great, EXCEPT when they decide to scratch the furniture. I have trained Aster to use the scratch post but no matter how persistent and positive I am with Munchkin, he never shows any interest in using the scratch post. When I catch him scratching the furniture I pick him up, place him in front of the post, tell him he's a "good kitty" and show him what to do by scratching the post myself. He doesn't get it. He always walks off with his tail in the air like I have bored him to death.

I did some research this week on cat scratching issues and found that most scratching products you buy in stores are not tall enough or long enough. In addition, some cats do not like scratching vertically. A light bulb went on when I read this. On Munchkin's first Christmas Elissa had bought him a horizontal cardboard scratcher that contained catnip and he loved it! I refrained from buying another one of these because he kept flipping it over causing catnip to spill everywhere. In short, it was messy.

I checked out some websites and found a DIY cat scratcher that looked easy to make. I found it on Apparently they make organic/green mattresses but they also have a bunch of DIY ideas.
Here's the picture from their site:

Looked easy enough for DJ and I to do!

*x-acto knife
*ruler and pencil
*duct tape
*hot glue gun

We finished the project in about an hour:

Munchkin was already getting excited. Mark three inches from bottom all the way across the cardboard, draw a straight line all the way to the end- this makes cutting easier and so you don't have an uneven spiral.

Cut strips 3 inches wide (make sure you have cardboard underneath what you're cutting so you don't ruin your floors). While DJ cut I rolled the cardboard into a tight spiral- you can see it at the bottom of the picture. I duct taped each end so it would stay tight.

You can make the circle as big as needed. Then, cut fabric strips three inches wide and hot glue them around the outside. We also cut a circle the size of the scratcher and hot glued it on the bottom so that the catnip wouldn't fall out.

Once the scratcher was completed we sprinkled catnip over the top and then shook the scratcher so the catnip settled on the bottom.
Here's the finished product! It looks even BETTER than the store bought one and it's heavier so it won't flip . . .

And the cats LOVE it! Munchkin is hugging it :).

We're hoping this will save our current furniture (ugly as it is) and any nicer furniture we buy in the future! We do not plan on getting them declawed- so this better work!

Catnip makes Munchkin a bit loopy, the video is of his, and Aster's, first experience with the new scratcher:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dreaming in Digital

What do I dream about? A digital SLR! I am ready to go digital. Film for my Minolta SLR is pricey and many stores are no longer processing film. I will keep my film SLR on hand though for when I have access to a darkroom and can shoot in black and white again (someday).
Hopefully I will be able to save up some money once I'm working more and then I will buy one of these:

Nikon D200

Canon EOS Rebel XSI 450D

I would buy a more professional grade camera but they are a bit out of my price range! Plus, the photograph is only as good as the photographer right?

Here's my current cameras:

My "old school" Minolta

Canon Powershot G5- this one actually belongs to my parents who are letting me use it because my point and shoot Canon died :(

One of these days my dream will come true. In the meantime I'm thankful to have two working cameras to satisfy my photo taking obsession :).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

DIY Project

My latest DIY project was recovering my sewing machine seat. Can it be called a project if it took me five minutes?
The seat had no padding so it got quite uncomfortable sitting on it for long sewing projects.
My solution:

Before: Flat seat, funky olive green fabric.

First I layered new fabric, memory foam padding, and the chair seat. Then I pulled the new fabric over the edges and stapled it on with a staple gun.

Ta-da! Brand new seat . . .

with much more cushion!

The Topeka Rental

I debated on whether or not to post these since we seem to move every year! However, I know how much I like looking at photos of peoples' houses, so here's our current home:

Front of House: We're on a corner lot so we have a huge front yard.

Side of House: I spent our first month here pulling up the overgrown landscaping (weeds) next to the house. I also did the brick border, I think it turned out pretty good! Hopefully I'll be able to plant more things in the Spring.

Backyard: We were lucky to find a rental with a fenced yard for the dogs- even though it's half the size of the front yard! It's still big enough for us to play fetch.

Bedroom: The beautiful quilt was made by my Aunt Annette for our wedding. The colors are perfect for Fall.

Office: Also known as the storage room, sewing room, scrap-booking room, guest room . . . If you haven't noticed it's hard to take photographs of the interior of our house because it's so tiny! Half of the office is missing from this picture :).

Bathroom: One of the reasons we chose this rental was that the bathroom is newly remodeled- no dingy tub and tile!

Kitchen: Tiny but functional.

Dining Room: We had to leave our nice big wooden dining table and chairs behind, so we borrowed this collapsible one from my parents. We have to get creative for seating when we eat at it.

Living Room: When we moved we left behind most of our big furniture. We started off watching TV and eating in our office chairs! Now we have places to sit when you come visit. My solution to semi-ugly mismatched furniture was making slipcovers and matching pillowcases. I think they turned out pretty good!

Thanks for looking!