February 28, 2011

Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon 2.27.11

Hi friends!  After a whirlwind weekend trip and return to school, I finally have a moment to breathe.  As I sit here shivering with my foot in a bowl of ice water, I must throw a shout out to any runners who can handle a full ice bath.  I almost cried when I first put my foot in here.  I have been dunking if for about a minute at a time before wimping out...after spending the past few days in 85 degree weather, this is torture!!!  Anyways, I can't wait to tell you about my weekend adventures!!

After spending Thursday night and all of Friday at my brother's house in Florida enjoying sunshine, beach, and delicious food, my brother, dad, and I headed to Disney Saturday morning for the race expo.
Holy crowded!!  By the time I waited in the excruciatingly long line for packet pickup, I was so ready to leave that I just took one quick sweep around the expo booths, barely even glancing at the princess apparrel and other merch.  I did snag a new pair of recovery socks on sale for $30!  Win!  I wish I had taken a few more minutes to check things out, but what can I say, dad and brother were getting antsy and crowds aren't my favorite thing...I did enjoy seeing this glass running slipper:
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening hanging by the hotel pool and enjoying the 80 degree weather, miniature golfing, and basically lounging around.  Oh, and enjoying fantastic Mickey Mouse ice cream bars:
I guess my mid-western winter body forgot what it's like to be out in the sun, because it sure tired me out!  I made it in bed by 8:15 and was out by 9!  It's a good thing, too, because 2:45am came awfully early...yes, you read that right.  2:45.  AM!  I had to be on the bus from the hotel between 3 and 4, and since there were tons of princesses staying there, I figured earlier was better...and I figured right.  Once we were on our bus, there was already a looong line of runners and spectators waiting for the next one!
My Belle-themed race number and the wonderful towel Mickey left for us by housekeeping :)
It took awhile to drive from the hotel to the parks (even though we were on the property...I never remember how ginormous the disney property is!), and even longer to walk from the parking lot through the "backstage" roads to the starting corrals.  Even though it was about 60 degrees, I was freezing thanks to a chilly fog that was lingering in the air...loved that cold clammy feeling!  Oh Florida and its drinkable air...

By the time our corral was heading to the starting line, my nerves had given way to a general antsy-ness.  To run.  To move.  To get this show on the road.  And in true Disney form, a show it was!  The Fairy Godmother (from Cinderella) said "magic words" and counted down each wave, and--get this--instead of a starting gun, we were sent on our merry running way with fireworks!  Um, can every single race please have a fairy godmother and fireworks?  If that doesn't get you excited to run, I don't know what will!

The first 5 miles felt GREAT!  We ran from Epcot down the highway to the Magic Kingdom.  I kept a steady 12 minute pace and stuck to the 3/1 intervals of run/walking that I'd been training with (even though it was soooo tempting to just RUN!!).  Between miles 4 & 5 (I think...), we ran under the sign at the Magic Kingdom entrance, and I literally got chills. :)  Even though I knew we were still about 1 1/2 miles from the actual park, I coudn't contain my excitement!  Running through the Magic Kingdom was why I signed up for this race in the first place!
Finally, around mile 6 we turned onto Main Street and were greeted by a crowd of spectators, including Dad and Brother!!!  I was SO excited to see them, not to mention to be running through the Happiest Place on Earth!  I put on Katy Perry's "Firework" and dashed down the cobblestone paths through Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland...and, yes...through Cinderella's Castle. :)  Disney was really great about having tons of volunteers lining the entire course.  There was always someone ready and willing to grab your camera or phone and snap a quick picture of you.  Of course, I couldn't resist stopping to take this one!

Running through the Magic Kingdom was wonderful, and I hated to say goodbye and head back onto the back lots and highways!  The race got really tough for me around mile 7.  While my calves have been killing me lately, they actually held up great!  I attribute this fact largely to the extreme amounts of foam rolling and massage I'd put in, as well as to running in my recovery socks.  I may never take those babies off again...However, I DID get an awful pain in the muscle (tendon? who even knows anymore...) behind my right knee that I couldn't seem to stretch out.  Soon after that, my left foot started freaking out too, both the arch and the outer edge/heel (which is STILL killing me, hence the ice bath pictured above).  Any thoughts on what that pain might be?  Please don't say another stress fracture...When the pain started, I figured it was time for a quick break, and what better break than a photo opp with my all-time favorite princess:
I was trying to "flex" like Gaston, but my chicken arms just look silly...oh well!
There were lots of characters on the course, but as an already sloooow runner, I figured I better not spend too much precious time waiting in photo lines!  This one was worth it, though!  Thanks to the foot/knee-ish pain, plus some "hills" (okay, they were just highway on-ramps, but when you're born and raised in the Prairie State, EVERY incline feels ike a MOUNTAIN!!!), I definitely did more walking than I would've liked in miles 8-11...oh well!  When we got near Epcot around 11 1/2 miles, my leg and foot were ACHING, but I started to get a little of my spark back, especially when we got closer to the Epcot ball:
Right outside Epot, around mile 12, I saw Dad and Brother again!!  It definitely gave me the burst of energy and enthusiasm I needed.  Awesome brother even snagged this video.  

For the record, I thought he was taking a picture, which is why I kept the exact same pose and kept looking back towards the same direction lol!

Once in the park, I decided it was time to go for it.  I listened to "Firework" on repeat and decided I'd done my walking, it was time to run.  What was I saving it for, the ride home?  I plodded through Epcot, and, when I realized I was getting close to 13, I let loose.  Suddenly I was passing runners right and left (Where did that energy suddenly come from?  Why didn't I tap into it sooner??), mostly because I glanced at my Garmin and realized that even if I wasn't going to make my "dream race" goal of 2 1/2 hours even by a long shot, I could still come out under 3.  I would like to personally thank Katy Perry for pulling me through that last mile and a half. :)

Suddenly, the finish line was in sight--I was practically in tears by this point, overcome with I don't even know WHAT emotion.  (BTW I got teary like one million times during the race.  I am a sucker for any sort of "in memory" or "in honor of" shirt, or any with a picture.  One just said "FOR MOM" and I almost lost it.  I guess running makes me even more of a basket case than usual!).  
I crossed the finish line with a final time of 2:51:30 (according to both my Garmin and my brother's stopwatch).  Even though I had to walk a LOT more than I had hoped, I am very proud of my time and honestly just glad that, in spite of every crazy training obstacle, I FINISHED!  The straggler's van wasn't even in sight. :)  This (amazingly blinged out) tiara medal was well-earned!  (So was, I guess, the gross heat-rash-something I seem to have developed on my upper back...Thank you, 85 degree heat and buckets of sweat...TMI?  Sorry...)
After a shower and some brief "laying time," what better way to refuel than with one of these awesome Mickey Mouse waffels courtesy of the hotel food court?
Seriously, after this, I may never be able to race a non-Disney race...
All in all, the half-marathon and weekend in Florida was an amazing experience.  I am so glad that I had the crazy idea 7 months ago to impulsively register for it after barely starting to run again, and glad I decided not to drop out when I got my stress fracture.  I'm also incredibly grateful to the support I received during my training and during the race weekend.  From emails with motivating words to facebook messages to texts to surprise notes slipped into my purse before leaving, mailed to my brother's house to greet me race weekend, and hand delivered to my house to be waiting for me when I got home ((thanks you for the notes, A, T, and N--I feel so ridiculously loved!!!)), you guys have been amazing, and I can't thank you enough.  Not to mention the amazing support from my blogger friends!!!!  I could not have done this without all of you!!

And as long as this foot pain is not another stress fx (dear god, I cannot make it through another 4 months of agony...), it will be worth the aches and pains too.  Now, as my runner hero M suggested, should I quickly sign up for half number 2 before "the excitement wears off and the [real] soreness sets in"??
Possibly this amazing-sounding race???


Guess what?  I finished the race!  13.1 miles baby!

It is 12:08 am.  I just got home from the airport, thanks to wonderful thunderstorm delays.  I have to wake up at 5.  Kill me.  Thus, I'm going to make this a super short post.  Look for a race recap in the next couple of days....for now I'm just trying to distract myself as I ice my aching foot!  soo cold...

February 27, 2011

Everybody neat and pretty?

Actually, scratch the pretty part...awake is all we're shooting for at this point! It's 4:30am and I have been up for 2 hours already. I am NOT a morning person, btw. In any case, I somehow made it up, dressed, and into the runner's area for my half. We still have about 20min before they will start herding us into our corrals, and I've already caught up on facebook and google reader, and am starting to get antsy. Also unfortunately I have a bit of a tummy ache...I'm hoping it's just a nervous tummy and not going to stick with me through the race! I guess at this point I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best. :)

February 26, 2011

Racing to Happily Ever After

For the past month, this has been the background on my computer:

If only the mice from Cinderella (in cartoon form, not costume, obv) were really going to be along the race course... Oh well.  I guess I will make do with the many characters that will be there...plus, running through Disney World should keep me from being bored... :)  Kidding.  There will be nothing boring about this race or this experience.  When I first heard about the princess half last July, I knew I had to do it.  Running a half-marathon had not really even been on my radar.  But I signed up right away.  I think somehow the Disney Magic effect had taken hold on me and convinced me I could do something beyond anything I had ever attempted.  Last July, this race seemed SO FAR OFF in the future...but now it's almost here.  Tomorrow, in fact.

I am so freakin' excited to run through Disney.  I LOVE Disney.  My family and I went to Disney World several times when I was growing up, and since my brother moved to Florida in 2005 we've done several one-day trips to the parks while visiting him.  I'm not much of a theme-park girl (give me beach and a book ANY TIME over waiting in a long line), but there is something about Disney that is just...magic.

I'm a realist.  I've never been in love, I'm pretty cynical when it comes to relationships, and I value my independence.  I'm not a girl who likes to be rescued or taken care of, or who likes seeing ANY girl rescued or taken care of.  I like it when movies have realistic endings where not everything works out perfectly.  I'm not a girl who should love fairy tales.  Yet for some reason, there is something about a Disney princess movie that just gives me butterflies.  And something tells me I'll be feeling those butterflies and that Disney magic all the way from mile 1 to mile 13.1.  Even if I'm crawling across the finish line, tiara (headband) askew.

Because in a "world" where an intelligent bookish girl can save her father's life and tame a beast, where a mermaid and a man can somehow cross all boundaries to be together, where a girl from China can impersonate a soldier and rescue her entire country,  where a princess can defy her father and marry the man she loves even though he is basically a homeless pick-pocket, where good ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wins in the end, and where dreams come true, maybe a girl like me who was never an athlete but decided to "dream big" for a change can run (walk/hobble/stagger/crawl) 13.1 miles.  In any case, I am sure excited to try.

February 23, 2011

Sub-induced Mania

^No, I'm not referring to the whole lotta crazy that tends to occur when kids are left with a sub (at least my kids!).  I'm referring to the whole lotta crazy that overcomes this obsessive teacher when she's preparing for a day off!  I think I prepare the longest, most detailed sub plans in the world.  Plus I have a sub binder that has a few pages of information on all of our routines, procedures, and helpful tips for handling certain extra-needy students.   I get fairly obsessive over just an afternoon off, much less two consecutive days.

Because I am determined to worry about the darlings while I'm in Florida (which is impossible, but I can dream, right?), I made sure I was extra organized for my sub this week.  Enter the SUB TUB:

Combine this with 8 typed pages of plans (for the two days) and a to-do list left for my two most responsible girls, and my sub should be ready for any potential disaster that comes her way.  I wonder if in a few years I will chill out a bit and worry less about leaving the kiddos?

After finally shutting down my computer and cutting myself off from proofreading the sub plans for the five millionth time, I headed to the gym to attempt a LIGHT and EASY run...you may remember that I skipped my taper long run Sunday to let my aching calves rest.  Today's run actually wasn't so bad!  I wore my super sexy hot pink recovery socks in hopes that they would help my calves stay knot-free, kept my pace sloooow, and managed to make it through 3 miles with minimal pain.

Now, this is definitely a celebration since last Thursday's 3 mile run was filled with awful leg pain...buuut it is still VERY nervewracking that SUNDAY will be over 4 times this distance!  I know, I know, I'm ready, my adrenaline will kick in, and it will turn out great.  But still.  Let this worrier get it all out now so that by the time I'm in Florida I'm nothing but calm, cool, collected, and confident.  :)  

My new favorite recovery drink:
While I'm still experimenting with yummy protein smoothies after more intense workouts, I read an article about the benefits of chocolate milk for muscle recovery.  These little chocolate milk boxes are awesome!  I got a big pack at costco, and the really cool thing is they don't need to be refrigerated.  Now obviously they're better cold, but it was convenient to toss one in my gym bag to enjoy after my run today.  Yum!

In other news...today's little happy was when one of my girls brought me this little guy:

February 22, 2011

"My furry dog is as warm as a comforter fresh from the dryer"

^ My personal favorite simile from the simile love poems we wrote on Valentine's day.  :)  I really loved teaching this lesson, but I was floored by some of the finished products that have been trickling in this week!!

We spent about an hour on the actual Writing Workshop lesson (mini-lesson + writing time + sharing time). but the kids have been working hard on them during Daily 3/general Writing Workshop time.  I challenged them to get creative with their similes, not just saying things like, "His hair is as brown as chocolate," but going one step further with something like, "His hair is as brown as creamy rich hot chocolate."  Once they got the hang of it, the kiddos completely ran with the idea.  

Some of the finished poems: 

Turns out we need to work a little more on stanzas and line-breaks.  But for a first-crack at poetry, I'd say these babies are something to be proud of.

Between the individual books the kids wrote for Celebrate Reading and Writing last month, the class book of Pourquoi Tales we worked on together earlier this year, and now this book, we are starting to accumulate quite the collection of student-authored books!  The best part?  The kids adore reading each others' work.

Student Author Bin
One other thing I did before peacin' outta school today was pull books for my ISAT read alouds next week. Figured it was better to have them ready early than be scrambling Monday morning when I'm back from my trip!  Here are some of my favorite read alouds for during testing...

  • Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr. Seuss--A hilarious testing must-read about a school that teaches all kinds of fun, silly things.  When testing time comes, the students are all super nervous until they realize that they are being tested on all the silly things they've been studying!  I remind the kids that we have learned all of the things on the tests too (partly true...), and that this is their opportunity to show off!
  • Testing Miss Mararkey by Judy Finchler--This book is as fun for the teacher to read as for the kids.  It mostly highlights how uptight the parents and teachers get over testing!  Reminds kids how silly all of the stress is, and that things will all be back to normal soon.
  • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco--One of my favorites to read ANY TIME (although I always get a little choked up at the end!!).  A real-life story of the author's struggle with learning disabilities and the teacher who saved her.  I love reading this book and talking about the individual gifts we all have, especially at a time kids might feel a little stressed out or nervous.  
  • Salt in His Shoes by Deloris M. Jordan--This story about Michael Jordan's childhood highlights the benefits of hard work and believing in oneself.  Michael Jordan is one of the skinniest, shortest kids on the basketball court, and even though he wishes and prays to be taller (sprinkling salt in his shoes even...), what really matters in the end is that he gives it his all.  The rest is history. :)
What are your favorite books to read aloud (on test days or any day)?

Gearing Up for FLORIDA!!!

Here's the thing...I'm running 13.1 miles in less than 5 days!  Eep!

Here's the other thing...My legs are in probably the worst shape of all of my training.  Okay, that's not true.  But they were in the worst shape of my training about a week ago.  I've been battling these wicked calf knots, and after my 12-miler two Sunday's ago, I literally could not walk!!  They were sore all last week no matter how much I worked on them with the foam roller and the stick (plus 2 professional massages!).

After taking the weekend off from any and all working out (besides a few walks), they are feeling waaaay better.  But I'm still super nervous about the race.  I'm going to swim tonight and try a short run tomorrow, but I'd rather take it super easy this week and not have any new knots for Sunday than try to get some last minute miles in!  Talk about the most dramatic taper in the history of racing!  (Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating again!)

I did this for about an hour last night:
I can tell the knots are finally working themselves out because it didn't bring me to tears this time!!  Hooray...any small victory, right? :)

In other race-related news, I got an exciting gift from Mrs. Mentor Teacher this morning!
(This is the corner of the white board that my desk is right up against.)  Guess which magnet is from her. :)  When I exclaimed, "But I haven't run 13.1 yet!!" her response was that now I HAVE to because I already have the magnet!  Thanks Mrs. Mentor Teacher :)

BTW the magnet right above that is one of my absolute favorite Jack Kerouac quotes:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awwww!"

^Rather appropriate when you're gearing up for your first big race, isn't it?

My bags are officially packed! (A few days early, because my wonderful dad is driving down to FL tomorrow!  He'll be staying down there to spend some time with my brother after the race.)  When he announced that he'd drive down, my thoughts immediately went to, "This means I can bring an unlimited amount of STUFF in my suitcase and not worry about expensive bag check fees on the plane!  Wahoo!!"  Confession: I am an extraordinary overpacker.  Proof?  I will be in Florida less than 72 hours.  I have four pairs of shoes packed and enough clothing for a week and a half.  Why?  Well, you never know! :)  Better safe than sorry!

What are your "must-packs" for race day?

February 20, 2011

Stylish, who me?

Thanks, Mrs. Sunny at The Caffeinated Teacher, for giving me this award!  Make sure you go check out her blog if you haven't already!

The Rules
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 5 great recently discovered bloggers
4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about the award

7 Facts about me:
  1. I am a second-year fifth grade teacher.  When I graduated college, I was unbelieveably excited to get into the classroom and make a difference.  I never imagined how hard the first year would be!  In fact, I almost quit part way through last year because of how hard everything was and how incompetent I felt. 
  2. I am SO GLAD I pulled it together because this year is one bajillion times better, mostly BECAUSE of all that I learned during my baptism by fire.  I fell in love with teaching again this year.  It's a wonderful feeling. :)
  3. I am one of those elementary school teachers who has NO desire to teach primary grades.  I feel like most young teachers love the little ones and would hate teaching 5th grade, but I am exactly the opposite.  The little ones are adorable, but I just love the way you can actually have conversations with the big kids.  They understand my sense of humor, first of all, which is a plus. :)  Seriously though, I would freak out if I were moved to first grade!
  4. I loooove reading, but I rarely venture out of children's and young adult lit these days!  I like to pretend that this is because I'm a teacher and am reading these genre to help relate to my students, but the truth is I'd probably read kidlit even if I wasn't a teacher!  When I actually do open an adult book, my first thought is usually, "The print is so TINY!"
  5. I can't cook.  Seriously.  This is partly because I actually am a terrible cook (once recently I managed to ruin rice in a rice cooker.  Those things are supposed to be idiot-proof), but mostly because when I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is cook.  I do make a fabulous bowl of loaded oatmeal though, if I do say so myself...does that count as cooking?
  6. It doesn't take long for me to get completely hooked on something (ahem...Twilight, Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Hunger Games...the list goes on...), especially books and TV shows!  Once I do get sucked in, I temporarily can't focus on ANYTHING else!
  7. I'm a terrible runner...slow, bad form, etc.  I run anyway. :)  After months of injury-filled training, I am running my first half-marathon in Disney World in exactly ONE week!  Yikes, where did the time go?
Be sure to stop by these fabulously stylish blogs I've been loving reading lately!

February 19, 2011


I spent 4 1/2 hours this morning at a CPR/First Aid training for Girls on the Run.  Did you know the American Heart Association changed the recommendations for breaths/compressions in the past few years?  While I have been trained in CPR MANY times, a refresher is always good!  I am pretty pumped about GOTR coaching!  I have my coaches training Monday and we are starting in just a couple of weeks!

While at CPR training, we were sitting on the floor the entire time.  I have gotten into the habit of working on massaging out my calf knots with just my fingers any time I'm just sitting around...then I realized I probably look pretty weird, running my legs...oh well. :)  At least I'm not as weird as this guy:

It's from a series of Adidas ads, "Runners: Yeah, we're different."  Go check out some of the others; they're hilarious.

While last night's massage helped in a big way, there is still work to be done on my leg.  That's why I'm plopping down in front of the TV with my foam roll this afternoon!  (SO thankful for my grading-free weekend...these are far too rare and must be savored!)

Happy Saturday. :)

February 18, 2011

Muscle Ouches and Meatless Protein

It appears my body is just self-destructing.

First, it was my tibia pain resurfacing (even months after my stress fracture).  Thankfully that seems to have passed... *knocks on wood*
Then, it was huge knots in my calves that have been coming and going and coming and multiplying the past few weeks...
Most recently the outer edge of my left foot has been in pain...why?  WHY???  Oh, and my arches were bothering me too.

Come on, body!  We're sooo close!  In fact, a week from now I'll be in Florida gearing up for 13.1!
Pull it together!!

Getting massages (a new habit which I may need a part-time second job to support!!), foam rolling, and using The Stick at home have all helped...but soo painful!  There have literally been tears during these torture sessions!  My plan to make sure I'm not an injured mess next weekend is to skip the long run this Sunday (I had planned on doing 8 miles) in favor of some cross training, and do 1 light, short run this week instead of the 2 I had scheduled.  Mrs. Mentor Teacher who has also become Mrs. Running Advisor (she's a marathoner herself) reminded me that I have already put in the work and built up the stamina.  I will make it through the race whether I run 8 miles Sunday or not, but I DON'T want to go into the race already sore and injured!  So resting it is. :)

I've also started making super yummy protein smoothies that I've been devouring after runs.  So delicious and satisfying.  I've been considering supplementing my diet with protein powder for awhile now, ever since it dawned on me last year just how little protein I was consuming.  I've been a vegetarian since 2007 and am in general a healthy eater (aside from my chocolate habit), but I'm a big time carb lover.  Additionally, since I moved back home with my parents after graduation (2009), I've become unbelievably lazy about meal preparation...I HATE cooking and it is way easier to eat whatever my parents are cooking minus the meat.  That generally means little-no protein.  ANYWAYS, I've been trying to get my act together for the past 6 months or so, but protein powder seems like a great addition.  I know most veggies can get enough protein just from their plant-based diets, but this seems like a good thing for me right now.

My yummy smoothie recipe was inspired by Caitlin over at Healthy Tipping Point:

  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 4ish ice cubes
  • 1 banana
  • big handful frozen blueberries
  • generous spoonful peanut butter
  • 1 scoop french vanilla Designer Whey protein powder
Result: 1 delicious, high-protein glass of delight.  Drink up, muscles!

mmmm protein....
With that, I'm off to ice my calves after a very deep tissue massage...60 minutes spent JUST on my calves = just what these aching muscles needed.  But I'm going to be feeling that tomorrow, I'm sure!  Why does it have to hurt more before it can hurt less??

Any other advice for getting these aches and pains sorted out before the race?  
Other suggestions for smoothie add-ins?

Fashion Advice from 11 Year Olds, Test Prep, and other Thrilling Events in my Teacher Life :)

Hi Friday.  It's been too long. :)

This week has been, in a word, exhausting.  It definitely has not dragged...in fact, it's been so jam-packed that I feel like I've barely caught my breath!  Tuesday I didn't get home until 10pm...no, not because I was working in my classroom until then like that one horrible day from last year (my first year)--thank goodness!!  I had lots of work to do in my room, a parent meeting at 4, then a school event I was volunteering at from 5:30-7.  Then I packed up/finished my work, and headed to the gym for a run.  By the time I stretched, showered, and got in my car, it was already 10.  YIKES!  Nothing like days when you are only home an hour before you head to bed...Yesterday I didn't even walk out of the building until 7.  Thankfully, my to-do list has shortened SIGNIFICANTLY this week, which means this weekend will be low-stress. :)  Yay.  This includes a mountain of grading (I actually have NONE home this weekend!!!!!!!!!), report cards (!!!!!), test pencils sharpened, desks moved into rows, and name tags covered with construction paper.

^Those last three things are all ISAT (our state tests) related...testing doesn't start until the week after next, but with me being at school only Tuesday and Wednesday next week because of Presidents Day and heading to F L O R I D A (!!), I knew that I'd kick myself in the face if I didn't get those little things ready beforehand.  I like getting the kids into "test formation" a week early so they have time to adjust.  I have tons of posters and anchor charts around my room that we use all year round, and we are allowed to keep things like that up for the Big Tests (as long as they have been up all year and been part of our teaching).  Throughout the year, I have trained the kids where to look when they need help with certain types of problems, and it's important that they get used to looking for these things from the place in the room where they'll be sitting for the actual test.  Also, kids suck with routine changes.  Fact of life.  Just like runners don't try anything new on race day, teachers don't try anything new on testing days!!

You'll notice the clotheslines of signs in the background.  Those have my math vocabulary and formulas.  We literally ran out of wall space... I also covered name tags with construction paper.  The Test Police don't allow us to have any visuals (multiplication tables, place value charts, etc.) on desks, and they are printed on all my kids name tags.  It's a shame we have to cover them, because the kids use them all year round, and now suddenly they can't.  Another reason to cover everything a week early and get used to it...

I am so sick of test prep BTW.  It is the bane of my existence.  I know any non-teachers out there are probably thinking, "Then do less!" and any teachers who teach in a school where the kids just naturally meet/exceed on your tests are probably thinking, "Test prep is not best practice!" let me assure you I understand your point of view.  But not doing mountains of test prep is simply not an option in my school.  There is so much at stake and so much pressure...our kids are so behind that we basically try to cram every math/reading term or concept they haven't learned yet into the weeks before the test, hoping something will stick.  It's sad, really.  I apologized to the kids today for subjecting them to this crap, assuring them it is literally as stressful and painful for me as it is for them...little do they know that it is most definitely MORE stressful and painful for me!!!

In other news...I had a FANTASTIC post-observation with Mr. Principal this week!!!  He came in last Friday to observe my reading lesson and left me a very kind note, so I knew he would have positive things to say, but I was literally floored by some of the positive feedback I got.  Mr. Principal is leaving next year, so I think that had something to do with his praises, especially after the hell he's been putting us through lately.  I was completely touched by his kind words (which included fantastic and dynamite)--and it is just so wonderful to know that someone sees how hard I work (especially when I was already yelled at by an unreasonable parent once this week!)...and more importantly, to know that I AM in the right profession and that all of that hard work has really paid off.

I'm a bit exhausted...it may be time to curl up with ice cream and a book. :)  But first, my student work gems of the week.

Prompt: Write about a time you gave someone advice.

Of course there is an OH SO GOOD illustration...

The classic jersey girl style reminds me of a bondi band...perhaps I will rock that look tomorrow, without the circles of blush... ;)

God, I love my job. :)

February 14, 2011

I Love...SIMILES!!

Yes, that says "similes" not "smileys."  Although I love those too!

I want to share a fun Writing Workshop lesson I taught my kiddos today.  Yesterday while I nursed my aching legs it dawned on me that I had included zero valentines-y lessons in my Monday plans.  While I am a scrooge about most holidays, insisting it's crucial that we keep working and not waste time with silly things, I often try to find a curriculum connection for holidays.  For me, the easiest place to do this is Writing Workshop.  In winter, for example, I read aloud the book Snowmen at Night, and the kids wrote stories about what other objects might do at night.  Some of them turned out fantastic!

The wonderful ReadWriteThink website and all of its lesson glory saved me on this one!  I taught a condensed version of their lesson "Lonely as a Cloud: Using Poetry to Understand Similes."  It's not technically a Valentine's Day lesson, but I made it work. :)  This lesson killed 2 ISAT birds with one stone: similes practice and a poetry overview, two things my kiddos struggle with that are on ISAT.
For this lesson, I distributed copies of the poem "Willow and Ginkgo" by Eve Merriam.  Before finding it on ReadWriteThink, I had been unfamiliar with this poem, but I really loved it both for its message and for the UNBELIEVABLE mentor text it makes for teaching similes!

Here's a quick snapshot of the poem:

The willow is like an etching,
Fine-lined against the sky.
The ginkgo is like a crude sketch,
Hardly worthy to be signed.
The willow’s music is like a soprano,
Delicate and thin.
The ginkgo’s tune is like a chorus
With everyone joining in.

The author goes on to contrast the two trees using simile after beautiful simile.  While I read the poem, the kids underlined the similes they heard on their copies.  Then, we made a list on chart paper of the things the willow is compared to, as well as the contrasting gingko comparisons.  
Don't mind my messy scrawl...I have absolutely atrocious handwriting for an elementary teacher!!!
The kids and I discussed how these columns differed from each other, and what the author was illustrating about the two trees based on these comparisons.  They did a really great job (with some guidance of course!) and understood the poem better than I had expected!  I was very impressed.  The even "got" the ending stanza, which is my favorite part of the poem:

The ginkgo forces its way through gray concrete;
Like a city child, it grows up in the street.
Thrust against the metal sky,
Somehow it survives and even thrives.
My eyes feast upon the willow,
But my heart goes to the ginkgo.

After we had discussed the trees and the reasons the author chose to illustrate them using similes, the students each chose a person, place, or thing that they love to write a poem about (aha!  The Valentine's Day connection!  I'll bet you were beginning to wonder!).  We used this graphic organizer to record traits of the "loved thing" and practiced writing detailed similes.  I pushed the students to go beyond similes like, "My bear is as soft as a brown comforter," to similes like, "My bear is soft as a brown comforter warm fresh from the dryer."  With a little prodding, most of them came up with some really excellent things!  Rough drafts are being finished for HW tonight, and I plan to make a class book of the final copies that will trickle in during Daily 3 this week.  I definitely like this lesson, and would love to follow the RWT lesson more closely if I teach this in the future.  Theirs included a few more days of direct instruction using other materials. 

I'm excited to see the finished products soon!  

February 13, 2011

Tiring Twelve

Other possible names for this post include:
"Miles of Misery"
"Cold Face, Sweaty Everything Else"
"Ouch my calves hurt"

I just woke up from an hour and a half nap.  It was...unreal.  Amazing.  Fabulous.  Why do I not feel guilty about napping away the afternoon even though there are still papers to grade and lessons to plan?  Because this morning I ran 12 miles.  Wait, let me rephrase that...I ran...walked...shuffled...crawled...hobbled 12 miles.
Last Sunday I wrote this post about my amazing, energetic, dreamy 10 mile treadmill run.  Today did not go nearly as well.  However, I am not feeling bad about myself or my run because
a) I did the best I could
b) I believe that exercise is never something to feel bad about, no matter how well or how poorly the workout went
c) I did not quit.

^Especially that last one.  Once upon a time I was Little Miss Quits When Things Get Tough (specifically workouts).  I quit runs at the first sign of fatigue.  In fact, I would usually quit at the first time I had to walk.  Since I've switched to the Galloway Method of run/walk intervals, obviously I have gotten over my lunatic belief that walking = failure.  I have also gotten over my silly little notion that any imperfect workout is a failure.  The only time I fail myself is when I quit (this of course does NOT refer to running injured.  My tibia, gratefully, held up through the entire run with no pain.).  So today's run was a success.  No matter how miserable I felt while out there!
Today's Running Mantra
Let me recap...I was excited last night about the prospect of the first outdoor long run of 2011.  Well folks...it left much to be desired.  Since there is still a TON of snow on the ground, running on any trails/bike paths is not an option.  I had to be content with neighborhood roads.  Almost as boring as the treadmill (okay, that's an exaggeration, but they certainly lack some of the *sparkle* of the forest preserve paths I adore).  Also, even though the temperature is currently 48 degrees (??????? That's almost 60 degrees higher than it was Wednesday morning!!! Oh midwest...), it was still in the mid twenties with a light wind this morning.  I'm not really a winter girl, which is why I've been hiding indoors on the treadmill all winter.  It drives me crazy when, running, your face is freezing but the rest of your body is sweating.
The Starting Line...YAWN!!!
This run was just not fun from start to finish.  I had a tummy ache and some side stitches, one so painful that I actually had to kneel down for a minute.  Why?  I did nothing differently than the past few long runs!  What happened?  Also, my knotty calves plagued me throughout.  While they weren't unbearable while running, any time I switched to a walk I could just feel them tightening up.  As I walked at the end to cool down, I probably looked like a hobbling 90 year old.  Don't worry, as soon as I press "publish" here I'm off to subject myself to what likely will be a foam rolling session filled with tears of pain, before heading to a massage that I'm sure will be anything but relaxing.  It will be worth it though, I have no doubt.  (Side note:  I'm thinking about adding some protein shakes to my diet to help my muscles...I'm a vegetarian and getting adequate protein is a constant struggle for me.  I know many veggies who have no problem supplementing their diet, but I have always had a hard time getting enough.  Thoughts?)

After Mile 7 I stopped at home to shed a layer, take a potty break, and take a 5 minute mental break.  I did not sit on the couch or anything--I definitely would have been tempted to just quit.  But I really needed 5 minutes to just gather my thoughts and give myself a little pep talk before heading out for the last 5 miles.  I think it really helped.  I told myself that I only had 5 more miles, and 5 miles were a piece of cake.  That's what I told myself all the way through then end of the run: Just 4 more miles now!  That's 2/3 of the way DONE!  Just 3 miles left!  That's just a 5K, you can do those no problem!  Only 2 to go now!  Homestretch! 1 measly mile left!  Half a mile!  Quarter of a mile!  ALMOST THERE, JUST KEEP MOVING!!!"

And, somehow, I made it.  12 miles.  Almost the entire half-marathon distance.  My pace may have been so slow I was almost standing still, but 12 miles is 12 miles.  And I'd say, that is definitely something worth celebrating, no matter how badly it hurt.  Actually, maybe even more so because it was a rough run, because in spite of all of that, I didn't quit.

Alright, foam roll time...owowowowowow...

February 12, 2011

Gearing Up for the Big 12 Miler

I spent my afternoon today with my good ol' Everyday Math manual...aka the bane of my existence lately.  I've mentioned before how crazy EDM drives me, but the mid-year chapters are really the worse.  The order of the lessons just plain doesn't make sense, it teaches things the kids really DON'T need to know, and skips fundamentals that they absolutely DO.  Lately I've been dreading opening that manual because I know it will inevitably just mean planning supplemental lessons and creating tons of my own worksheets because the journal pages are too complicated/confusing/ridiculous.  Today planning was made slightly better by a delicious pomegranate oolong (spelling?) tea and a brand new pad of pink post-its.  Yep I'm a big dork.  I adore new office supplies ESPECIALLY post-its.

This evening has been spent with my good friend Mr. Tennis Ball.
Yes, I have more knots in my calf muscles.  WHY???  I'm stretching and foam rolling, I promise!  Ugh this is driving me crazy.  I'm hoping that I have managed to work them out enough with the tennis ball that I will make it through tomorrow's 12-miler with minimal muscle pain.  I know last week after making it through 10 miles I was feeling super optimistic and confident, but I'm getting a little nervous tonight...I guess it's time to blast my absolute favorite running songs, lay out tomorrow's running clothes, and tell myself over and over how amazing the run is going to be!

Exciting things about tomorrow's run:

  1. I will be setting a new distance record!
  2. Getting a massage tomorrow evening (just on my legs...) 
  3. FIRST OUTDOOR RUN OF 2011!!!!!!  Yes, you read that right!!  It's going to me mid-twenties early tomorrow morning and only going up from there!  There is going to be a wind...but I'm optimistic. :)  
The only downside is there that there are still 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground, so I'll just be running down the street around here...we'll see where the 12 miles take me!  I do miss my running paths though. :(

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Me = 5th Grader

This afternoon I was making the math errors of a 5th grader.

Tonight my mid-night snack demonstrated that I have the palate of a 5th grader:

Ladybugs on a Log (OMG so yummy)...which I followed with chocolate pudding.  Refined as ever. :)

Any other teachers out there finding they act more and more like their kiddos every day?

February 11, 2011

Staying Motivated

I have been having a little trouble keeping my training motivation up this week.  As the big race draws closer and closer (just 2 weeks from Sunday!!), and as I get more and more excited, I feel like the logically thing would be for me to be as on top of my training as ever.  But the truth is...I am sick of the treadmill and I have been just plain EXHAUSTED with school lately.  Tuesday evening I was so stressed and burned out that when I arrived at the gym to find every single spot in the parking lot FULL, I just didn't have the energy to circle the lot until one opened up, or to park at a different business and hike over.  I went home.  I should have gone home and done some cross-training on my indoor bike trainer...but I didn't.  I rested.

Wednesday evening I was planning to make up my run.  But by the time I left tutoring at 6 and got in the car...my priorities shifted a bit.  I was literally half-way to the gym when I made a u-turn and headed back to my house.  Where I proceeded to nap.  For an hour and a half.  I did manage to peel myself from my bed to jump on my bike (indoors of course), but it was a struggle.  Thursday I redeemed myself somewhat--I did actually make it to the gym and knock out the 5 miles in my training plan.  But after the prior few days of near stagnancy, my muscles were feeling it today!  I have been practically living in my recovery socks:

So sexy, I know
Have you tried these guys before?  I bought them a few weeks ago to help with my awful calf knots and soreness, and I really have felt a difference between the socks, a lot of foam rolling, and a couple massages focused on my legs.  

Two other fun reminders of how close the race is arrived this week:

This bondi band (running headband) I ordered!

I know, how adorable.  I had toyed with the idea of running in some sort of tiara (because why NOT do that if it is socially acceptable at a race??), but when I saw this headband on the bondi band website, I knew it was perfect.  A tiara that can keep my unruly hair outta my face and sweat outta my eyes?  Win.  A dream come true for this running princess! ;)

Also, I received this email in my inbox yesterday:

Better get my "glass running slippers" ready!  I'm gonna need them on Sunday's 12-miler!!  Yikes!

How do you stay motivated in your training when running is the last thing you want to do?

Tell me the kiddos are not rubbing off on me...

Happy Friday!  Whew, after last week's snow-a-rama, this week sure felt loooong!!!  Make that long and stressful.  I have been complaining for weeks about my February woes, but this week the two big ones were my "surprise" observation and the ever life-draining ISATs that grow closer and closer every day...seriously, I feel like the funeral march should be playing in the background in the school hallways these days...

But we made it through another week, mostly intact with minimal squirliness (although some squirliness is inevitable with the amount of test prep we are subjecting these poor innocent kiddos to, and the fact that they can't play outside thanks to the scary cold temperatures!).  Mrs. Lit Specialist did have to call the parent of one of my angels after he called another student a "mother f-er" (although he said the ACTUAL words...), but at least none of us has killed each other yet!

In any case, after this stressful week, Miss Second Year Teacher (my friendship with whom was cemented last year as we together fought through the HELL ON EARTH that was our first years) and I decided to reward ourselves with some margaritas and bottomless chips and salsa.  Bliss.  The reason I am mentioning this, though, is that as we wrapped up and paid the check, I experienced the ultimate 5th-grader moment.  You know what I mean...one of those moments when you do something soo much like your students that you have to step back, take a good look at your life, and evaluate how much time you spend with the darlings v. how much time you spend with adults your own age.  Here's a visual (I apologize for the super blurriness):

This is the bottom of my receipt from post-school snacks.  Any guesses why there is a big scribble on my receipt?  Anyone?  No?  Well...when I wrote down my tip...I SUBTRACTED it from the total.  Yup, you read that right.  Makes so much sense, I know!  The killer though is that just last night I was grading a math test and practically screaming about how some of the kids refused to look at the sign and added when they should have subtracted (or vice versa).  *takes big gulp and blushes furiously in shame*
Please don't tell my students...

In other news, my observation is finally over.  I will be the first to admit that I am a pretty high-strung person even on a good day (hence the inordinate number of nightmares I had about fire drills earlier this year...that's just not normal!), and I have been majorly stressing about this month's observation.  If you remember, Mr. Principal emailed us a few weeks ago to let us know that this would be a surprise observation.  That's pretty normal for our 3rd observation of the year, but the worst part was that he didn't tell us the subject area he'd be coming in to see.  What that boils down to is that we had to submit extra detailed lesson plans and be teaching super awesome lessons in all subjects every day.  Of course, as teachers, that is ALWAYS the goal, but add in the extra anxiety of constantly wondering when he will be popping in, and if you're me, you end up pretty worked up.

Obv Mr. Principal would end up coming into see me on Friday, after I have been nervously watching for him all week long.  But I am happy to report that the lesson was a big fat success.  He came to see a creative language arts lesson that I had developed myself and was actually pretty proud of (yes, I supplemented the literacy series with my own ideas...gasp!!), the kids were engaged, they grasped the concepts, everyone was on their best behavior, and I was actually calm enough that I could forget Mr. P was there and just enjoy my teaching.  I know I've been complaining a lot lately about Mr. Principal, but my favorite things about him are that he is truly a nice man and honestly cares about/supports me.  I've come a long way from last year, and Mr. P knows that.  And lets me know that.  Which is so, so nice.  The best part about my day was getting this note from him after he ducked out:

I know that most workers in other professions don't get regular validation from their bosses, and I don't mean to sound like I need constant praise, but in a profession in which we are so regularly berrated by the public, in which we are constantly being asked to give more more more--more time, more effort, more of our own money, hell the district even called me Tuesday asking me to give BLOOD :)--and in which we frequently are sent a message that no matter what we do, it will never be enough, a little praise goes a long way.

We are two weeks from ISATs...there is so much I am still worrying about...my to-do list is still 10 miles long...but tonight I will sleep well knowing I did my best, and actually enjoyed teaching in the process.

February 8, 2011

Hmmm...good try, but no...just, no...

Okay, seriously.  I know we fail at teaching social studies these days (no, thank YOU NCLB!), but...I mean...honestly...I have no words.

February 7, 2011

Once upon a time, I sacrificed ISAT practice in favor of actual good teaching...

...and I only feel a little bit guilty.

I tell ya, coming back to school today after a surprise 5 day snow weekend was not the easiest thing in the world.  But it was nice to see the kiddos. :)  Even if they did seem to forget how to raise their hands...can someone explain to me why that always seems to happen?  Oh and I have ANOTHER new student.  That makes #4 this year.  Yikes!  Good thing he seems like a sweetheart, or I'd have to send him back... ;)  Only kidding!

In the midst of a jungle of ISAT PREP that will only get worse over the next 3 weeks til the big tests, I managed to squeeze in a few fun things.  One area the kiddos always struggle in when it comes to testing is literary genres. Since I have hit them and hit them again during literacy, I decided to sneakily fit in a second dose during writing workshop.  For fun I did a mini-lesson on fairy tales today (not that this is a genre they need help with...but sometimes you just gonna teach something fun).  We brainstormed elements of fairy tales, then I read aloud part of Rapunzel. (I don't always read an entire mentor text for WW because it takes too long.  They need to be writing the majority of the time!  All it usually takes is part of a story to get the gist.  The kids begged me not to stop, though, so I will probably finish it during another lesson later this week.)  Then I gave them a story starter for their fairy tale: "Once upon a time there lived a prince/princess with a big secret..."  We did a 2 minute quick-write after that building on the sentence frame (I ALWAYS write with them during quick-writes.  I love it!), before going off during writing time to work on whatever projects their little writer hearts desire.  Some of the kids continued running with the fairy tale idea, and I loved hearing them during sharing time.  Now that we have fairy tales set in our heads, what genre should I try next?  Mystery maybe?  

I am also looking forward to kicking off a science unit tomorrow.  We have been deep in social studies land since early December, and I just realized that report cards are mere weeks away and I have ZERO science grades...oops!  The next unit is on Matter, so we're starting with some hands-on discovery lessons this week. Even though science was my arch nemesis as a child, I kinda love teaching it.  Updates to come on how the carefully planned lessons go in the real-life classroom!

No sign of Mr. Principal's surprise observation yet... :-/ gosh I hate these things!  I get nervous enough when I know when they are/what he'll be observing!  This is just cruel.

Side note:  Some of you know that I moved back in with Mom & Dad when I graduated from college in '09, mostly to save $$$ and partly because I am way too lazy to look for an apartment.  While I am planning to move out in the near future, I will be the first to admit that I've got it pretty good here, and am in no real hurry...Case in point, here's what was waiting on the counter for me when I got home from school:

Costco sized box of my favorite cereal (9 grams of protein per serving?!  be still my vegetarian heart) and giant bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioner.  Come on.  You can't beat that.  Oh, and my dad was making tofu and veggie stir fry.  Seriously.  Do I have to grow up?

February 6, 2011

Terrific Ten

Ladies and gentlemen...for the first time EVER I banged out a 10 mile run this morning!  And on the boring treadmill no less.  (It is snowing AGAIN...)  This is how I feel right now:

Wanna know the really amazing thing about today's run?  Other than the fact that it was ten freaking miles?  I did not feel tired at the end!!!  Well, (let's be real) maybe a little exhausted, but I definitely did not feel like I was going to pass out/fall off the treadmill/die like I have after some runs.  This makes me SO happy because it means I've actually figured out fueling and pacing strategies that WORK for me!  

I knew I would need plenty of energy throughout this run, so I had my usual pre-long run snack of gel & water about 20 minutes before leaving for the gym.  During the run I sipped a water bottle of 1/2 powerade and 1/2 water.  This was the first time I've tried that, and I was really happy with it.  I felt hydrated throughout  the run.  I also had a second gel after 5 miles.  All of that sat really well in my super sensitive tummy, which is a major celebration!  

As far as pacing goes, I am ALWAYS slow.  But I've been working on starting off even sloooower on the long runs, and increasing speed veeeery gradually.  I'm running the race in 3/1 run/walk intervals, a strategy I started as I was recovering from my tibial stress fracture that I have really come to like.  For me, it totally works.  I have SO much energy at the end that the last few miles I can really kick up the pace.  I did the 10th mile with no walk breaks, knowing that this was the time to use all of that stored up energy.  And I felt great the entire run!  (minus some pain in my knee the last mile...I'm not worried about it, though, because it stopped immediately when I slowed to a walk for cool down and is feeling fine now.  Maybe my body was just was confused about the long distance I was suddenly expecting it to do!)

Besides pacing and fueling correctly, another thing I have learned while training for this race is the power of a positive attitude.  While getting dressed and on my way to the gym this morning I listened to my favorite pump up songs on repeat.  I talked the run up in my head, and reminded myself how I had dominated my 9 mile run last week.  What's one more tiny little mile?  I wrote my favorite mantra on my wrist:

Trust the Process
But you know what?  I'm not sure I even needed all of that.  The long and short of it is, I was ready for this run.  My body has come SO FAR in my training.  I was ready to run 10 miles today.  I will be ready to run 12 miles next week.  And in 3 weeks I will be ready to run 13.1.  Can I just say that I'm starting to get REALLY excited???

February 5, 2011

10 reasons why tomorrow's 10 miler is gonna rock my sweaty socks off

Since I am training for my FIRST half marathon and since I've never been a distance runner in the past, for the past few weeks every long run has meant a new personal distance record.  This means that every Sunday morning I am met with a big scary CHALLENGE.  But more importantly, this means that every Sunday morning I am met with a new opportunity to push myself and ultimately surprise myself.  6 miles felt wonderful.  7 miles felt fantastic.  (8 was skipped because of injury...).  9 miles was bliss.  But this week we are entering new territory...DOUBLE DIGITS.  eep!  Because I know how valuable optimism can be in training, I plan to psych myself up all afternoon/night for tomorrow's run, starting with this list of 10 reasons why it's going to be pretty much epic.

10. 10 miles at my snail's pace = almost 2 hours of uninterrupted time to rock out to some awesome dance tunes!  In a busy teacher's life, how often does THAT happen?  Note to self: do not attempt to dance on treadmill.

9. It's 9 miles more than what I once thought was the furthest I could ever run!

8. After this run, I have only 1 more long run on the (dread) treadmill!  Hopefully spring will decide to show its lovely face again soon!

7. 10 miles means breaking into double digits for the first time ever!

6. People who run 10 miles just sound badass.  "Oh, I just ran 10 miles.  No big deal." (Except if I attempt to say that right after, it will likely lose some of the effect as I will simultaneously be gasping for breath and cramming a granola bar in my mouth.)

5. I will be rewarded with a wonderful massage afterward.

4. License to bum around on the couch the rest of the day.

3. This run marks just 3 measley weeks until I get to run here: 

2. This means I am just 3 miles away from half-marathon distance.  Whoa.

1. 10 miles = invincible me.

Let's hope I don't slice my mouth open on my gel again this week...cross your fingers for me!
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