Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Things First...

…I'm the realist.

Remember when I disappeared for about 10 days earlier this month? I didn't blog, I didn't read people's blog and I was way behind on my instagram feed.

Yep, I was so busy wedding planning.

Not for myself, of course, but with my best friend, Kaitlin. Now I KNOW I've talked about Jon & Kaitlin on here before, but in case you need a little refresher… Jon was Chris' roommate in college… Kaitlin was my roommate in college. They did not know each other. BUT they met each other at OUR wedding, and started dating shortly thereafter…. we have been WAITING 5 YEARS for them to finally get married! So as you can imagine, Chris and I were SO excited for this joyous event that we flew to Richmond, VA over a week early to help with all of the final wedding details.

We were SO busy, but I had so much fun.

You may not know this about me, but at one time I really really wanted to be a wedding coordinator/planner. When I was a sophomore in college, I even got an "internship" to be an event coordinator at a nearby banquet center. I really did like all of the details, and the planning, but oh my goodness, the hours are horrible! You work during the week and then you also work your weekends… sometimes until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning on Saturday night. It was miserable. I would come home and collapse into bed and wonder if my feet were physically bruised {which is how they felt.}

In the end, I decided to change my major from communications to Early Childhood Education. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE teaching, and I'm very glad I did change my major… but there is still a wedding coordinator stuck inside of me, I think. She waits until things are so hectic and then springs into action when stress levels are high and everyone is on detail overload. Sometimes I even surprise myself.

Anyway, the point is, I thrive on exciting times like wedding prep weeks. When Chris and I got to Richmond, there was still so much to be done. That's not to say that Kaitlin and her mom, Pam, hadn't been preparing, because they had clearly been working SO hard. It's just that in that final week there are so many details to finalize.

I jumped right in on Saturday morning {we got there on Friday evening} and started working on the layout of the Table Assignment board. We talked about some ideas, consulted pinterest {seriously… pinterest didn't exist when I was getting married… I'm convinced it could have drastically changed things if I had pinterest} and finally got started on a design.

We pretty much sat in the living room with our computers all weekend. There's no telling what time of day this picture was even taken at. 

I felt a little bad for Chris because he had… less to do when it came to the actually wedding planner. BUT as the best man, he did have some best man duties/emails/planning to do. He also brought our external hard drive from home and sorted through thousands of pictures. No complaining from me!

I also worked on a Wedding Vow board that Kaitlin wanted displayed. She's also a teacher and during the last few weeks of school {when kids are nuts} she asked her middle school students to rewrite the traditional wedding vows using figurative language… Omigosh, they were SO funny!

Hard at work! Seriously, we were so busy that I actually don't have that many pictures of the weekend and beginning of the week. I asked Chris to take this picture so we could at least document how hard we were working. What you can't see is that Pam is in the other room ironing and taping Oasis colored table runners… 17 of them. 

The traditional wedding vows… rewritten by middle schoolers. 
Here are just a few of them:

I, Ms. Dunnevant, take you, Jon Manchester, to be my husband.  If I had to choose between you and bacon, I would choose you.  Our love is like Charmin Ultrasoft, 3x stronger than the leading brand.  Our love for each other goes back farther than Lebron James’ hairline.

I, Ms. Dunnevant, love you more than hot wings and bacon wrapped in bacon.  When I see you, Jon, you put me in a food coma.  Your heart is as sweet as a triple-glazed Krispy Kreme donut, with a fat content of 100%.  You are the Keebler elf of the forest who bakes the sweetest treats.  You are a Paula Deen recipeI can’t get enough of the butter!  If you, Jon, take my hand, I will make chicken and waffles until this earth has no more chickens or flour!

I, Ms. Dunnevant, take you, Jon, to be my husband, to have and to hold like the Reading Throne does the Reading Emperor/Empress in your classroom, for A’s or for F’s.  You are the vowels to my consonants, the marker to my whiteboard, and the music to my Mondays.  For richer or for poorer, in sick days and in pay days, I will love you more than Shakespeare.  I will love and cherish you more than I cherish my smiley face eraser.  I will love you from this day forward, till death do us part.

I, Ms. Dunnevant, take you, Jon Manchester, to be my husband 5ever.  I will love you through Brad Pitt saving us from the next Zombie Apocalypse, and more than Olaf loved summer.  I love you more than Katherine loves Joey Graceffa (which counts as a hyperbole because that's a ton if you didn't already know).  Our love will last as long as Peter Piper's search for pickled peppers, which never ended.  Our love is Channing Tatum, strong and beautiful.  You are the color to my picture; the Kanye to my Kim.  Being with you makes me smile wider than the Pacific Ocean and Mount Everest combined.  I will love you through the flu and more than Zac Effron!

Hilarious, right!? Maybe it's my 1st grade background, but I was actually surprised at how good some of these are!

Comedic Seflies will help, right?
I almost lost it the night I was finishing up the table assignment board. The title "page" was actually 3 pages taped together. I finally got it taped EXACTLY right {so that the words lined up} and then realized that I should have cut the top and the bottom first. Now the three-page long paper was too long to cut in the paper cutter and I would have to carefully measure {we're talking down to 16ths of an inch} to get it completely centered. I didn't lose my cool, but I came close that night. But I'm happy to report that I got it completely put together, and it was as close to perfection as I could get it.

Kaitlin and I also sat on her couch for a pretty lengthy time going through all of the songs for her wedding. Kaitlin and I love a lot of the same music, so I loved going through all of the songs with her.

Of course we did have some fun… On Saturday night, Kaitlin took us to the Richmond Flying Squirrels Baseball game and we saw some fantastic fireworks! We were so happy when Jon finally got off work and came into town. We went out to dinner just the four of us and we also spent an afternoon at Jumpology which was a trampoline place. {Spreading my love for trampoline jumping, one by one.} We jumped all of our stress right out! We also had a movie night and enjoyed famous parmesan popcorn.

The night Jon arrived - I think it was close to midnight when we took this picture. But we were so happy to all be together!

Movie night with my favorites… Chris was there too but he didn't make it into the picture.

Fireworks at the Flying Squirrels Game. It really was a great show!

This is possibly my favorite picture from the whole trip. J&K took us out to dinner, and we had such a lovely evening together. It was the last time we really got time alone, just the four of us, before the wedding festivities began!

I'm sorry if you've already seen these pictures all over instagram. I just couldn't write a blog post without posting some of them. {And believe me, there are more of them.}

As I mentioned Kaitlin and I have a very similar taste in music. Whenever we get together we always seem to have a "theme song" for the trip.  

This time around we belted out "Fancy" {hence the title of this post} and in the past our nonstop playlist has consisted of Popular by MIKA, and also Popular from Wicked, Good Feeling, Hey Na Na, and pretty much any Backstreet Boys song.  We know almost every word and enjoy dramatically singing to each other in the car.

 I just wanted to include these pictures again, because it's one of my favorite things about Kaitlin. I can completely be myself and act like a crazy nut and she loves me for it. True friendship, I tell you!

{Cause let's just be honest, I'm not cute or attractive when I sing and dance. White girl alert!}

And for all you worried people out there, we were in Kait's neighborhood when this happened and most of them were while we were parked outside of her house. She was not, in fact, actually driving with her eyes closed.

 This concludes part one of my wedding posts… stay tuned for my recap the actual wedding festivities! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Children's Book Leveling

This post goes out to all you teachers out there. {And all you wannabe teachers - let this be proof that we work hard over the summer, too.}

When it comes to books and children, it can be hard to figure out what books are appropriate for different kids. Books can be leveled in a number of ways in order to figure out if they are on the correct reading level for each kid.

Leveling all of the books in your classroom library can be a very daunting task. I did some research before I finally came up with a plan and I can honestly say, it has taken me several weeks to get this plan into its final stages.

Step 1:
Sort through your books, create a database. This took a long time, but I created categories, and then separated all of my books into them. I have categories such as "Animals Nonfiction" "Holidays" "Presidents/US Symbols" "Alphabet" "Wordless Books"… the list goes on and on. I also put some of my books into Letter levels - A-Z {Although honestly, I had very few A-D & S-Z books…. just because of my 1st grade background.}

Once those books are all sorted, it's important to get them into a document somehow so that you have a list of all of your books electronically. I chose to use just a plain old excel document. It's simple but it's effective.

Step 2: 
Find as many sticky/post it notes as you can find and level your books.

This step probably took the longest because it takes some time to find each book. And many of the books cannot be found. Which is okay.

I used two apps to help level: Lit Leveler, and Book Wizard (by scholastic) I think I paid for the Lit Leveler (not much like $2.99, I believe) and the Book Wizard was free. I sort of bounced back and forth between the two of them as I went through all of my books.

Both apps are SO easy, you just scan the barcode on your book, and if it knows the Lexile/DRA/GRL it will bring it up! You can also search titles & authors in case there is no barcode. There will probably be some books that cannot be found or that are missing one of the three things. I just put down all the information I could find and called it good!

When in doubt, ask your cat to help. 

Each book got a sticky note with Lexile/DRA/GRL

Step 3:
Put all of the information that you found on the book levelers into your book database (in my case: my excel document.) This also was a bit tedious, but I have the best husband in the world and he typed while I read off all of the information. 

Side note: I have over 500 books. 

Step 4:
Put all of the books back into rubbermaid boxes and take a break! {That's what I did, at least…}

A few weeks later…

Step 5:
Kindly ask your husband to pull all of the books from the garage to the living room {again} and promise that you will not make a huge mess like "last time."

Begin making your labels for your books. Since I will be using Cara Carroll's {The First Grade Parade} "Chalk One Up For Being Organized" I sort of copied the same type of labeling system for my little labels so they will be easy for my kids to match. Whatever containers I end up using will have a bigger picture on it, so the kids will be able to match the picture on the book to the picture on the container. I hope that this will result in less books being thrown in whatever container the child feels like.  

I used Illustrator to make my Avery Labels, but of course you can use Microsoft Office if you don't have Illustrator.

{A lot of these particular books I couldn't find a Lexile/DRA/GRL… so as you can see I just left them blank.}

Step 6:
Print off your labels, and stick em to your books!

 {My wordless books… so there was no Lexile/DRA/GRL…}

Step 7:
Be sure to get your name in all of your books. I'm usually okay at this, but I knew I had some books that did not have my name in them… so I bought an awesome stamp to use in all of my books. I love it. 

I highly highly recommend Angelique Ink for any labeling stamps! I also got one with our address for a return address stamp - I LOVE it!

Putting that stamp to good use!

I still don't know how I will organize them IN my actual classroom, since I haven't been able to get into it yet, so that will have to be another post.

I hope you found this helpful… and if nothing else interesting about what us teachers do during our summers :)

Time to to finish my last container of labeling… wish me luck!