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London Calling. (Please Answer the Phone, Emma.)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

My sister Emma, who is super cool and laid back FYI, is planning on spending next spring, 2016, studying abroad. We really wanted Sydney, but it's super expensive to get there, and you really need to stay at least two weeks if you are visiting, which is hard when you are a teacher and school is in session. So we have now set our sights on London.

You may or may not have picked up on this already, but this is totally partly about me. I love, love, love, love to travel, and I have not been anywhere overseas since I returned from Prague in 2007. That is like a lifetime ago, and if you do not think my soul dies a little bit every. single. day. then you do not know me. Not at all. At all.

So Emma is working out all the details for studying abroad, whilst (check it!) I am planning what I am going to wear. (Lest you think I am not helpful, I do check in with Emma from time to time in really considerate ways, such as texts that read "Knock knock, who's there, I'm interested, I'm interested who, I'm interested in finding out where we are studying abroad!") I have had this picture of myself wearing a yellow jacket in London, so I went on a Google image hunt for the one I have in my mind.

This one really stood out:




... so imagine my shock when I clicked on it and realized it's Burberry London! Ugh. So meant to be.

I got these shoes for Christmas:



... and totally see myself trotting about London in them and leggings.

As London is rainy, and I have frizzy hair, I believe I will need a hat. Something like this perhaps:


... which I bet my sister Erin can make for me! (Right, Erin?)

I shall also be bringing along my faux leather boots, purchased from Payless of all places:


Naturally I will also be packing my Chanel heels (bought in a little out of the way place nobody goes in Maine, long story for another day) as well as my patent leather nude heels in the event I am invited to the palace by my BFF Kate Middleton.




Oh, and I'll need my Wellies too, I'll bet! Don't want to be unprepared!




So, clearly, I am pretty much ready to go, all I need now is a plane ticket, someplace to stay, instructions on how to make my phone work overseas .............. and Emma to confirm we are going.

Details.

Someplace Horrible.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Friday night I was flipping channels and I saw that "Enchanted" was on. Never one to shy away from a feel-good fairy tale movie, especially one I really like, I turned it on. It's a great movie, full of happiness and happy endings -- the best kind.

As I was watching, one line jumped out at me. The prince's evil stepmother doesn't want the prince to get married because his new wife would then take her crown. So she plots to send his fiancee to "a place with no happy endings."

Put another way, our world.

Source.
That's sad enough, but that line reminded me of a couple of others I'd heard before on Once Upon a Time. On that show (if you still have not seen it, loser.), the evil queen puts a curse on the fairy tale characters, and, as Rumplestiltskin tells Snow White, she plans to send them "someplace horrible ... no more happy endings." The queen herself calls it, "Somewhere horrible. Absolutely horrible." And, finally, our world is known as "a land without magic."

Man oh man.

All of these fairy tale shows and movies refer to the "real" world as a horrible place with no magic and no happy endings.

Source.
And sometimes it's really easy to think that they might be right. No one ever had to pay rent or a gas bill in the Enchanted Forest did they?

But honestly, who wants to live like this? Live someplace horrible with no happy endings? Not me. And I bet not you either.

And I know that's not a very realistic point of view or stance to take, but who wants to be realistic? You know what, I don't. None of us started out realistic. We started out as kids with dreams and hope and a belief in magic. Somewhere along the line someone taught us to be realistic. Ugh.

I was looking through my big book of quotes that I've been keeping for years the other day. I saw a quote in there that I love but hadn't thought about in a long time. And it is this:

People say that the movies should be more like real life.
I disagree.
It is real life that should be more like the movies. 

Can I get an Amen? 

Regular People Helping Regular People.

Monday, January 19, 2015

This past weekend I had one of the best Saturdays I had had in a while. I sit on the board of an organization called The Divine Intervention, and our mission is to provide spiritual guidance to people who are suffering, hurt, or need help and comfort as well as to help local organizations that serve the poor. It was the latter part of the mission that we were working on on Saturday. We held our first-ever Winter Warmth Drive, a drive to help provide blankets, socks, underwear, coats, and other items that would help someone stay warm this winter to people in need. We give our donations to a place called the Eastern Cabell County Humanities Organization (ECCHO); they serve the poorest of the poor in our county. They are fully staffed by volunteers.

Before I go on, let me back up. Back in November we held our first-ever food drive. We are a small organization and we really had no idea who, if anyone, would show up to donate food. We were afraid no one would come, and we made ourselves okay with that. Man were we wrong. So, so wrong.

So you'd think we'd have learned our lesson, right?

I am embarrassed to admit it, but after we planned the Winter Warmth Drive ... well, I was really afraid no one would come. I totally remembered the whole food drive thing, but I made excuses to myself, like blankets are pretty expensive, we're not talking about a .49 can of green beans here, blah, blah. Well, this happened:



And this was only halfway through the day. In the middle of our drive Saturday, I told my friends and fellow volunteers Lisa and Kim that I thought God was laughing at us. We of little little faith. We planned a food drive, we doubted, God came through in a big way. We planned a winter warmth drive, we doubted, and God came through in a big way. As my mom said, if we keep worrying ECCHO will never lack for anything! Haha.


The thing is, it's easy to forget that people that live down the street from us or whose kids go to school with ours really need our help. ECCHO serves something like 420 families a month, and that is just from one part of our county. Their funding has been cut, and, like many nonprofits, they are having to do more with less. Just as soon as items go in the door at ECCHO they go right back on out again. They always need food, and they told us Saturday that things like blankets, socks, underwear, coats, hats, mittens, and scarves are also so desperately needed. People cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter, so blankets are truly life-saving.

I absolutely had the best time Saturday hanging with my friends and sorting donations as they came in. I really think this is how the world works -- regular people help other regular people and then we all do a little bit better.



Calendar Bunny.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The day finally arrived! I received the calendar with the picture of the world's cutest rabbit in it!

Look at Baby Snickers!



He is, of course, April -- the month of Easter.

Needless to say it will be April all year in this house. Forgive me if I never have any idea what day it is. :)

Want your own calendar? Just click this link and buy one to support Little Victories!

The Champagne of Toilet Papers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

After yesterday's more serious post I thought I'd take a more lighthearted approach today.

And, really, what is more lighthearted than a discussion of toilet paper? :)

After we went to the Y today, my mom told me she had something for me. I assumed it was just a textbook I ordered and had delivered to my parents' house. While she did have my textbook, she also had something else.

A 12-pack of Charmin.



Now, that may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but you have to understand that I have stated on multiple occasions that, "You really know you have arrived when you buy name-brand toilet paper." Because toilet paper ain't free, know what I'm saying?

The commoners among us choose to purchase the 1-ply, 6-roll pack at WalMart that costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.99. So what if you feel like you're wiping your bum with tree bark? Pain is temporary, but being able to pay your rent? Priceless.

But the Kathy Lafferres of the world refuse to allow their bum to touch anything that is not the 2-ply Charmin Ultra Soft. You know the stuff. It feels like pillows and is clearly made out of clouds.

The thing is, I really hope I don't get used to the champagne of toilet papers. Because after this pack is gone, it's back to reality. But I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

And, as Mom said when she handed it to me, "At least you know someone was thinking about you."

I'll take it.

Play and Read.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

So my friend and coworker Sarah and I were talking about something the other day, and in the middle of it she said, "I think this should be a blog post! Because we cannot be the only people hearing us talk about this."

As funny as that was, she's also totally right.

Now, caveat, we are first-year teachers, but we already have a very real understanding of the "system": teachers, administrators, parents, government, etc. and how it all works together. We also really love our jobs, but we do spend something like 60-80 hours a week at school teaching, grading, and planning.

Here's what we were talking about: something that's really pushed in education now is 21st century learning skills. In fact, there are 21st century standards that we're supposed to incorporate into our teaching so our kids learn them. They are skills like:

21C.0.5-8.2.LS.1 -- Student engages in a critical thinking process that supports synthesis and conducts evaluations by applying comprehensive criteria.

21.C.O.5-8.2.LS.4 -- Student creates thoughtful ideas and solutions and takes risks as he/she works toward goal despite mistakes. Student begins to consistently think of all the possibilities and diverges to become more expansive with his/her thoughts/ideas that lead to the creation of original products.

21C.O.5-8.3.LS.3 -- Student sets challenging goals and strategically plans to reach those goals, monitors performance and adjusts effort and strategies, seeks assistance when needed, and demonstrates focused commitment to reaching the established goals.

The truth is, there is a lot we can do as teachers to help cultivate these skills. We can insist on group work, have students set and meet goals, etc. But there is really only so much we can do. Because when you boil it town, you know what talents these standards really require? Innovation, problem solving, and creativity. Which is also what you need in the workforce now. As Sarah and I agree, you know what helps with innovation, problem solving, and creativity? Reading a book. Playing outside with neighbors or siblings. Play where one has to use his or her imagination to make up a story, game, or situation.

You know what does not help with these skills? TV. Playing endless hours of video games. Playing with apps on a cell phone or iPad. Unfortunately we have a lot of students that refuse to read a book, that look for the absolute bare minimum of what they have to do to get a passing grade, and who have no idea how to read and follow directions.

Not to be the person who starts every story with "When I was your age ..." but WHEN I WAS MY STUDENTS' AGES (and younger) I played with my sister Erin a lot. We didn't have Nintendo or phones or electronics of any kind. We had some Barbies, a few other toys, dress up clothes, board games, and a gazillion books. Erin and I played for HOURS and HOURS in our room ... all kinds of games. We played with whatever we had. We had one white hamper with a lid that we used as the check out counter at our store, the altar at our church, and the teacher's desk at our school. Our hair ties were lunch food and grocery store items. Our Barbies were dressed and redressed through all sorts of stories. We played outside in our magnolia tree, aka our pirate ship, and on our swing set, aka our Double Dare obstacle course.

The thing is, I know (and Sarah knows) that there are all sorts of debates, discussions, thoughts, and opinions about what's going on in American education today. And I don't know what the solution is really, and that's not the point of what I'm writing here. But I do know that what would really help all of our students today, regardless of what the standards are, is a lot LESS video games, cell phones, and TV and a lot MORE playing and reading. I know there are veteran teachers who will probably say "duh" because they have been dealing with this for years. But these are just some thoughts from first-year teachers with 51% of the year under their belts. Really it's as simple as that. Play and read. As I tell my students at least twice a class period READ A BOOK! Want your kid to be successful in life? Teach them to love reading and playing. Every single one of my top-performing students is a reader. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. That's not a coincidence.

Just to reiterate, I love teaching and so does Sarah. We have good students for the most part, and most all of our discussions have to do with how we can do better for them. I just wish they'd hear me when I tell them to READ A BOOK!


Reminders.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

One of those days, man. You know the kind. When nothing big and bad really happened, but it's a day just the same. It's freezing cold out; you can't find your keys in your purse; for every thing you cross off your to-do list, two more things get added; you find out it costs $110 just to renew your passport (and checks only, of course, don't even think you can put that on a credit card and pay it off over a period of a couple months); you have a headache; your rabbit camps out in his litterbox right when you were getting ready to clean it; you stand in line at Family Dollar while the cashier and her coworker tell stories about how much they hate their jobs (while you mentally correct their grammar, not because you're rude but because you literally do it all day long and your brain can't turn off); and did I mention it is FREEZING COLD OUT?!

Winter. Blah.

I was dusting this evening because it's Thursday and that's what I do, and, as always, I gently moved my copy of Once Upon a Time, best gift ever and authored by The Great and Powerful Story, to dust underneath. On a whim I opened the cover, and I was glad I did because I needed to see what was in there.



Nesting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Today I'm over at my friend Miranda's awesome blog Our Nesting Place contributing to a post about day planners! Pop on over, and I hope you enjoy her site! Click here.


BSC

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One reason I was really pumped to start school yesterday was that right before Christmas break a very special sixth grader bounced up to me (trust me, she bounces!) before class one day and said, "Miss Lafferre, did you ever read The Baby-Sitters Club?"

BE STILL MY HEART!

This is like that legendary teaching moment you'll never forget. Because I lived and died for The Baby-Sitters Club for the majority of my young life. Heck, I even follow Ann M. Martin on Facebook to this day! I've even blogged before about my unparalleled ability to recall the names (first and last) of all the BSC clients, along with their phone number (KL5-3231) and the street where they had their meetings (Bradford Court), amongst other useless details.

I have almost every single BSC book ever written, well, most are in boxes at my parents', but I digress, and from time to time my mom used to ask me if I'd like to donate them somewhere. But I've never been able to part with them because they are so special.

But over break, I rounded up 6 or 7 of them and put them together to give this sweet girl our first day back. I told her to start with those and to keep them as long as she wanted and come back whenever she needs more. It took all I had not to ask her if she wanted to form our own Baby-Sitters Club because I'm not 13 anymore and that is weird.

But I can't tell you how much I love that she is reading and loving them. BSC 4 lyfe.

2015: Looking Ahead -- A Link Up

Monday, January 5, 2015


I recently stumbled upon a new blog called Here I Am, the Handmaid of the Lord. What a cool blog title, one that really carries with it a lot of weight. I happened to find it right as Natalie, the writer, was hosting a link up called 2015: A Look Ahead. She provided a list of questions to answer, and I thought I'd join up!

1. Do you think you will be going to school at any point in 2015?  If so for what?
Oh man, I sure will be, and, in fact, it begins in just a week or so! I'm continuing in my second semester for my Master's in Teaching.

2. Will there be a job change for you in 2015?
I sincerely hope not. The most I'd like to change in the upcoming year is maybe teaching an American history class (nerd alert), but I'd be thrilled to be doing exactly what I'm doing now.

3. What adventure or event are you most looking forward to during this coming year?
Well, I am certainly looking forward to taking my 8th graders on their class trip to Washington, D.C., in May! We depart our school on a bus at 4 a.m. and the trip just gets even more crazy from there! Should be a really good time. I'm also looking forward to my first "free" summer since I was a kid. Of course, I'll be packing in four (hopefully online) classes and getting my classroom ready for next school year (I hope), but I'd like to take my grandmother to see my aunt and uncle in Greer, S.C and visit Ashley in Tulsa and Colleen in D.C.

4. Do you think there will be a move to a new house/apartment/city/state/country in 2015?
No, not in 2015. Maybe 2016!

5. What do you see as the direction of your blog in 2015? Design update plans? Link-ups coming down the pipes? More or less posts?
I'd like to do more posts. I really ramped it up last year, but I'd like to do even more in 2015. I think what I need to focus on is planning so I have a general idea of what I'd like to write about every day.

6. If you could guarantee that one thing could happen this coming year what would it be?
If I could absolutely guarantee something it would be that there would be no sicknesses or deaths in my family or close circle. Other than that, I'd like to guarantee that my Master's program will work with my current job so that I can continue teaching at the school where I am now.

Bonus!

I found my verse of the year for 2015. I was really surprised by it, as I am usually much more of a New Testament girl, but there must be something God wants me to know in this. The verse is:

Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them. I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don't you see it coming?
- Isaiah 43:18-19

An Ode to the First Monday Back After Break

Sunday, January 4, 2015

'Twas the night before Monday
And all through the town
Every teacher was celebrating
Their last precious moments of sitting down.
Yes break ends today
And tomorrow is the first day back
We'll all be getting our rest tonight
Because the students will all be wack.
Tomorrow's outfit is all picked out
And a packed lunch awaits
And we're vowing for at least a week
We won't be running late. 
But although we've enjoyed our time off
And our time with family and friends
We've really missed our students
So we're kind of happy spring semester begins! 

************************************************

It's all true! I swear it! I actually am trying to get a jump on things this semester. I was at school for several hours today finishing preparations and just completed a few more things at home. I got my first day back outfit laid out, and I packed my lunch and my clothes for the gym after school. Right now I am kicking back with a delicious hot chocolate in a beautiful mug, both of which were given to me by a sweet student for Christmas.


Although Sunday nights are always a little bittersweet, this one even more than others, one great thing is helping me ease back in to Monday. And that is DOWNTON ABBEY! It returns this evening, and don't you worry, I'm all prepared for that too:

Just like the Brits do, right? :) 

Oh, and just a little funny for you in honor of tonight's premiere ... and the fact I believe my real last name is Mountbatten-Windsor. :)

Thanks for finding and sending this one, Erin! 

Whether you are a teacher or a non-teacher, I hope everyone has a great day back at work tomorrow!

Dinos and Sharks

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On the last day before Christmas break, my friend/coworker Sarah and I decided we'd wear silly Christmas sweaters and hair ribbons to celebrate the day. So we did. I also had bought my students some cookies and Capri Suns and allowed them to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas for half the class. (No, not all the class, I'm not that nice. Haha.)


The eighth graders came in for 4th period, and I had a writing activity for them to complete the first half of class. (It was fun, I swear! I'm not a Grinch either.) I put a writing prompt up on the board, gave them about 3-5 minutes to free write, and then I changed the prompt. (I do this from time to time, and it really is fun! At least for me. I would have loved this when I was in school. I guess not everyone is like me though. Sadly. :) ) As they were writing, I realized that my sore throat really needed a drink of water. Usually I have several water bottles in/on/around my desk, but that day there were none to be found. Then I realized ... I have a Capri Sun! So I popped one of those suckers out of the box, stuck the straw in and drank my Capri Sun. I carried it up to the laptop with me as I went to click the slide to the next prompt. As I did, one of my students said, "Miss Lafferre, I really hope that when I'm 30 I will still be wearing hair ribbons and drinking Capri Suns."

That REALLY made me smile. And I told her -- and the rest of the class -- that my hope for them is that they never get too old for Capri Suns or ice cream trucks or cartoons. And I realized that if I can teach them to love the little things and grow and mature while keeping a childlike heart, then I will have done all I need to do.

Incidentally, some of my favorite silly things are dinosaurs and sharks. Sharks and dinosaurs. Do not even get me started on the cinematic wonders that are Jurassic Park and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. In fact, if you have any questions about my love, feel free to check in with my friend Colleen. Imagine how thrilled I was, then, yesterday to discover this gem at the local Aldi:



Dinos AND sharks in one bag?! Sold! Obvs it was then time for Mega Shark vs. Giant T-Rex:



Oh and you may remember that time I mentioned that I feel like the internet read my mind and knew that the only thing that would talk me off the ledge of internet going in and out hate is a picture of a dinosaur to bring me the bad news? Well the internet outdid itself. Check this out:



 It is quite obviously time for me to go back to work. I can't be left to my own devices one more day.

Hezky Den

Thursday, January 1, 2015

As my Czech friends would say, hezky den! Which translates to have a nice day or have a beautiful day. And I hope you all do have a very hezky den today, this first day of 2015.


As I said to my sister last night, 2015, man. Who thought they'd see the day? As Erin said, life is weird.

And it is.

I love new beginnings as much as the next person, and I take full advantage of the clean slate the new year brings. While each new day is a chance for a new beginning, there is something special -- magical you might say -- about the year changing. You have a fresh, new day planner with nothing yet written in the pages, and it's comforting to know that.

I don't necessarily subscribe to new year's resolutions per se. I think it's always good to set goals, but I also don't believe you should start a new year with setting yourself up for failure. (I'll lose 10 pounds by the end of January! Yikes.) However, I will say my best resolution of all time came a few years ago when I boldly stated I'd like to wake up every and ask myself, What would Kate Middleton wear? That was something I could actually do. (And my friend Story kindly turned it into a piece of wall art I have hanging over my closet to this day!)

But what I do love is choosing a word for the new year. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I first heard about it on Conversion Diary, one of my most favorite blogs. Basically, it's a word that you meditate on that year and set your goals around. And I thought it about it for about two seconds this year before I realized what my word would be.

And that world is HELP.

I realized that something I'd like to intentionally focus on is helping someone every single day. Helping someone in a real way, be it big or small. Some days somebody might need some serious help through organized volunteering. Other days, someone carrying a lot might need me to open a door for him or her. Either way, I'd like to help someone every day. I think it might be fun when 8 p.m. rolls around and I realize I haven't helped anyone yet that day. I'll have to find something to do! The most important person I am going to try and help this year is Joseph. We have until October 2015 to find him a family. Can you help?

I also like this fun idea that's been floating around the internet. I'm not sure I will be able to afford it, but it seems like a manageable way to save some money, so I am going to try! In fact, I just moved $1 from my checking account to my savings account, so I'm off to a super good start!

Oh, some fun news. In the next day or so I'll be featured, along with some other writers, on my friend Miranda's blog talking about day planners! (One of my favorite topics.) I'll post the exact link here when it's up, so be sure to read my thoughts on my awesome Kate Spade Bella Bookshelf planner!

Whatever your hopes, goals, dreams are for 2015, I hope it all goes your way in 2015. Here are some thoughts to leave you with:




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