Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Get your party on....

It is a blog party going on over at Five Minutes for Mom, so get over there and check out the incredible blogs (over 1000 now!!). In the meantime, I'll share some of my favorite party pics with all of you...forgive me, I have some very wonderful and bizarre friends:

My dearest Michael - the hostess with the mostest!! All parties begin and end with him!

Mrs. Poopy, Dominique and my honey Glen on Halloween

Tyr - Michael's better (really??) half...

My honey and I on New Year's Eve 2006/2007 (at Tyr's house of course)

And finally, the day on which I decided the potatoes REALLY needed hats (don't ask me, really, don't ask)

(In case you can't read the hats - they say Happy Potato Day)

So what are you doing still here...go check out the PARTY!!!

Spring Cleaning

Many of my favorite sites are focusing on Spring Cleaning 2008. They are challenging all of us to get our spring cleaning done and post pics of the progress. This may be insane, but I want to be a part of this.

Yes, I'm generally a neat freak. Yes, I am aware that I live with 2 men, a dog and a cat. Yes, I'm aware that I work a minimum of 10 hours a day. But in one week (yep, one week!!), I have Spring Break. So what better to do than make a nice, clean home for all of us?

So yes, I'm challenging myself to get some spring cleaning mojo going and start the cleaning. The best part is with a little tweak of my FlyLady routine, I can do this in a reasonable manner instead of my usual 'clean all day until I'm exhausted and can't do anything for the rest of my vacation' plan. Yay!

I'll be posting updates to the blog as they come! Wish me luck!!!

Update: Developed pneumonia on the last school day and spent the entire Spring Break in bed with extreme fevers, labored breathing and exhaustion. So yeah, no real cleaning got done!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WFMW - Wedding advice

So, for this edition of works for me wednesday: backwards edition we are asking questions of our readers and awaiting responses! So please, please dear me, advise me, lend me your knowledge in this matter....

My question is:

What are some great frugal ideas for a backyard wedding?

I'm looking for anything about the wedding or reception. We're marrying on May 3rd in Palm Springs, California (my hometown) at my Grandmother's house. We're 33 and 39 years old so didn't feel the full blowout of a wedding was appropriate. We'd rather use our money elsewhere. So we're seeking great ideas to cut costs without sacrificing taste or style.

So please post any ideas below and I will be eternally grateful!!

Thank you for your help. If you feel the desire to guide others in their quest for answers - go on over to Rocks In My Dryer.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Keeping control in a difficult classroom

I promised I would speak of teaching and education on this blog and I do believe the time has come at last.

First of all, I'm a long-term substitute at a local Middle School teaching 6th grade earth science. That's 6 classes a day, 45 minutes each, with about 32-38 students. So 200 children walk through my classroom everyday and I have to reach ALL of them!! That's a challenge!!

I will begin to address the many challenges of teaching in this blog, but the first should come as no surprise to any instructor - Classroom Management! It is impossible to get them to learn anything if you can't get them to be quiet, sit still, stop stabbing each other with pencils, etc. (Beware ye readers - this is a LONG one)

My students are quite difficult; not all of them, just a few select individuals that required a bit more time than others. I will summarize some of them here:

1. The distractor, aka: "Turtle Boy" - this is the child in class who, bored with the work, decided to repeatedly say the word turtle in my class, over and over, until I sent him outside for 10 minutes. He has continued to be an issue, but I moved him to the front of the classroom - in a bench seat so he can stand if bored - and spoke to his mother. The problems have been limited. But the most important thing I did was sit down with him after class and talk about his behavior and the affect he was having on other students. He's a deeply sensitive kid and so when I mentioned that his behavior might keep OTHER kids from being able to work and result in them getting kept behind - that's when I saw it click!! Since then, he's been quite helpful and as long as he finishes his work, I give him a certain amount of lenience in his busy work.

2. The sloth, aka: "Whatever boy" - this particular student tests exceptionally well on standardized tests but refuses to raise a pencil in class or turn in a single sheet of homework. I'll admit, this one had me frustrated, baffled and angry. He didn't disturb the rest of the class, but seeing a child with potential choosing to waste it is heartbreaking. So one day, on one of his many lunch detentions with me, I started asking questions that had nothing to do with school. Through the 12 year old grapevine I knew he was dating one of my best students so we chatted about her. Slowly we developed a friendly relationship rather than battling. Then one day when we had the room to ourselves again, I simply asked, "So, what's up with the not turning anything in?" I had fully expected the traditional, "I don't know" but instead got a thoughtful statement about him realizing that the elementary school couldn't hold him back (he'd been held back once already - maximum in california) and so he just didn't want to try anymore since there was nothing the school could do to him. Wow! I was floored!!! So we began discussing how he's in a new school now with new opportunities. We finally worked out a system of work for him (he'd rather work at lunch or before school than take things home) and let him help others to demonstrate his intelligence. So far it's working and I've become an adult he can share things with now.

Well, this post is longer than I thought so I'll summarize with these two categories of students. You will notice one distinct commonality between these very different students...they both needed to be heard!!

Sometimes as teachers, we tend to look as kids as numbers (test scores, absences, tardies) and not for the very unique individuals that they are. I am learning now how to move past that and take the time to connect with EVERY student. It must be working since I have 7-10 kids before school and another 7-10 kids at lunch in my room. We sit and talk and they know they can talk to me privately at anytime. They also know that I have a duty to talk to counselors and CPS about worrisome things, but that doesn't stop them.

I love being a teacher but it took the difficult students to remind me why I like it so much! Funny how that works!

(I'll continue the list of students in the future - maybe some new teacher will benefit from the concept and another student will benefit from the approach)

Losing a source of income

Well my bloggy friends - the last month has been difficult. For reasons of pride, or privacy, or....well, whatever, I have yet to share with you that we are now living off of a single income. Yes, a single, substitute teacher income, in one of the most expensive parts of California.

How did that happen you ask? Well, remember that gigantic bubble that seemed to grow without end over the housing market in California...yeah? Well it went BOOM. My fiance's job as support personnel at a real estate agency went with it! Luckily that qualified for EDD (unemployment) but due to a tremendous glitch at the EDD office, we've been battling for over a month to get any money. So since January 8th, we've been living off of my sub salary ($95/day) and my tutoring money ($30/hour).

But here is the surprising part -- we're doing quite well!!! The first week or two were tension-making, but we've cut silly costs. We've been using gift cards for anything extravagant (we received quite a few of those at Christmas time) and have had some lovely dinners and seen a few movies (sans popcorn and snacks). I'm actually very proud of the ways we've managed to
pick ourselves up and cut those budgets down without a single argument!

So...what have we been doing????

  • As avid readers we have fully taken advantage of paperbackswap and are just beginning to use their sister company DVDswap as an alternative to Netflix.
  • I've begun doing FLY lady which keeps my mind and hands busy at night and helps us from deciding to go out to dinner when I've already had a meal planned
  • I've discovered the joys of frugality with Target, Walgreen's, CVS and Rite-aid. This works well since Glen has more free time and can take advantage of those offers while I'm working my 10 hour days.
  • We've realized that fast food is not a necessity anymore and our waistlines are definitely benefiting.
  • But most of all, we've worked together to decide where to cut the budget and where to keep more money allotted. By both of us making the decisions, no one feels upset or controlled by the other.

In fact, his birthday was this week so I started with the free things I could do. I printed 16 little versions of happy birthday notes and taped them up all over the house so he would discover them throughout his day. Then I put up the "family" happy birthday sign (a special gift from my Mom). I made sure all of his sodas were in the frig and that everything was ready for him to make his daily breakfast. I had the towels washed and a fresh one on his towel rack, along with his pills laid out for the day.

Then I took advantage of a $10 Best Buy coupon, a great sale and a left over gift card to get him 2 Justice League movies he has been jonesing for!

Finally, I took our bag of coins to our local coinstar and was able to get him two of the star wars figures he wanted so badly.

And the funny thing is, I think we actually had a better day because of it! We had a nice steak dinner (at home) that evening and watched some shows on the DVR that we just never seem to make time for.

What I find most amazing is that we are doing this TOGETHER. No arguments, no blaming, nothing! He grew up getting everything he wanted. I grew up in a home where it was necessary to count coins to make sure we could get bread that week. But somehow we have found a very happy medium that hasn't stressed us to the point of breaking. I think that gives us a good prognosis for the future.

BTW - the EDD thing is finally sorted and we'll be getting the makeup check this week. I think I'm going to put the whole thing in savings since we've been managing so well without it!

So here is my question to you....what ways have you found to save money???