Thursday, September 30, 2010

Think About It Thursday

Think About it Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at 1001 Books. Each week she'll ask a reading related questions and challenges us to 'think about it'. This weeks questions is:

Tell us about your usual reading environment. Big cozy chair? Out in the yard? On the bus? Complete quiet or ambient noise? Where do you do most of your reading?

I can read almost anywhere as long as it's quiet. I prefer the couch even though it's not very comfy and I find myself flipping into different positions every few minutes. I can read in bed, but I try not to because when I get a good book, I wont be able to put in down no matter how tired I am. I have stayed up until the wee hours of the night by saying, "just one more chapter"...

I can not read in public, I'm too nosy. There are too many people to watch when out and about. I had to take the bus home from work earlier this year when my husband needed the car and I always brought a book to read while waiting and for the ride...but I couldn't focus with everyone coming and going. I've even tried reading in the library, and even though it's quiet, I hear everything and can't help but look at the person whose giggling or talking to themselves.

So, where do you read?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I signed up...have you?

Within the last month or so the number of people who read my blog (I like to call you 'readers' not followers') has almost doubled. This means that the number of blogs I read have also increased. I've spent the last week or so trying to make my way around and visit as many people as I could and leave nice little comments. (Side note: I am making a conscience effort to write more comments on blogs I read...I realized that I often read but didn't comment as much as I should have- I'm sorry!). While exploring my new blog friends I came across numerous giveaways, link parties, and challenges that I really want to participate in and I thought I would share them with you too!

Here is what I have found so far. To be fair, I have listed them in order of their END dates.

Christy from A Christy Production is hosting a giveaway filled with cute handmade goodies. I love the flower hair clips and headband! She'll be drawing a winner on Thursday, September 30th.

Lydia from Scrap Notions is having an Elmer's Giveaway. Find out what Elmer's has to offer other that white glue and check out the cute project she made with Elmer's products with step- by- step instructions.  Winner will be drawn on Friday, October 1st.

Sparkle Dreams Challenge Blog is a new blog that will be hosting challenges on the 1st of each month starting October 1st. Each month a prize will be given to a lucky participant. As a thank you and to generate followers, they are hosting a Welcome Giveaway...if they reach 100 followers by the 1st they will include an extra something in the giveaway. I hope to see some of you there!

Lynn from Happier Than A Pig In Mud is hosting a Pumpkin Party! If it looks like a pumpkin, smells like a pumpkin, or tastes like a pumpkin you can link up on Thursday, October 28th.  

Jessica from Pretty Ladies Scrapbooking is hosting her fist giveaway and includes items from the "My Mind's Eye" collection.  She's a new blogger and a newlywed, so hop on over and support show your support. Winner will be announced on October 29th.
Stacy form Scrap with Stacy is hosting a NEW Tim Holtz Blog Candy Giveaway! Look at all the goodies that she is throwing in! Stacy will be drawing the winner on October 31st.

La from A Musing Potpourri is a sponsor in this HUGE blog hop gift card giveaway. There are already over 200 blogs participating! This will be running from December 1-5th, so you have plenty of time to check them all out!

Susan from A Southern Daydreamer Reads is hosting a Fall Reading Challenge. It will run from September 22 thru December 20. I'll be posting my list of books soon and I hope to see yours too!

If you have a giveaway, challenge, or link party planned and would like me to give you a "shout out" just e-mail me at I would like to create a bi-monthly (that means 2x's a month right?)  post about all the giveaways and link parties going on in blog land. I love participating in all kinds of activities on my blog and I know that my followers come from all walks of life and have a variety of interests I like to share.

Happy Blogging!

5 Fall Favorites Giveaway Winner

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the 5 Fall Favorites Link Party! This was the first link party that I have hosted and it was so much fun  to both write my own posts and read all of yours! I see that most of us had fall foods in our top 5 and there were a lot of apple lovers too. Thank you all the participants that also visited and left such wonderful comments for one another, it is so nice to see us supporting each other.

Here is just a quick review of what I loved about each of your entries...

Meredith from Meredith and Maggie- for reminding me about the joy of Fall Festivals, I just found one in our area and I am looking forward to attending. 

La from A Mussing Potpourri for sharing your apple picking adventure, it reminds me of when I was a child.

Happier Than A Pig In Mud  for inviting everyone to the Pumpkin Party you are hosting on your blog on October 28th! I'm very excited about it.

Erin from I Teach for a Living...What's your Superpower? for reminding me that I can use the crock pot to cook.

Parsley from Seasons of My Mind for reminding me that the purpose of raking leaves is to jump into them.

Sherry from Blessings from our Nest for sharing the recipe for Deep Dish Honey Graham Apple Cobbler...I can't wait to try it. 

Julie from A Journey Not A Race for being the only person to include hunting in their list-that makes you original. 

 Donnie from New Blessings Everyday for reminding me that a nice drive to see the sites is an awesome way to celebrate fall.

Shannon from A Southern Belle with Northern Roots for inspiring me to try Pumpkin Pie again with the beautiful one you cooked. 

Debbie from The Paint Splash for sharing the adorable costumes modeled by your granddaughter. 

Angela from Sew Loquacious  for making me go check out the moon to see if it is bigger in the fall.

Roberta from Con-tain-it for the amazing slide shows you put together for your fall favorites...the food collage was hunger inducing!

Thank You All!

Now, for what you have all been waiting for...the winner. By random selection (slips of paper in a basket for each entry you received) The 5 Fall Favorites Basket is going to the lucky lady who's fall word is


Congratulations to

Sherry from Blessings from Our Nest

E-mail me your address and I'll get it to you shortly...once I figure out how to package it.

Thanks again to everyone who participated and commented. And Welcome to my blog for those of you who have recently joined. I look forward to reading more from each of you. I'm thinking about doing this again...maybe for the new year with the theme of New Years Resolutions...what do you think? Would anyone be interested?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Think About It Thursday and A game of Tag

Rachel from 1001 Books hosts this weekly meme in which she posts a reading related question that makes us think. This weeks question is:

I want to know if you have kids (or nieces, nephews, grandchildren, whatever) do you read to them and what are your favorites?

Nope, I don't have any kids of my own and our nieces and nephew live on the east coast so there isn't any reading going on. I should read more to my students, but there just isn't enough time in the school day.

A Game of Tag

Erin from I teaching for Living....What's your super power? tagged me this week for a little game of 8 questions.

1. What is your favorite TV show and why?
Even though the last season was last year, my favorite TV show is still LOST. Carl said he was going to get me the complete box set for Christmas, so don't expect much blogging from me once I get it.

2. What book do you recommend I read?
My favorite book, A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith. It's a about the love story of Richard III.

3. If you had to give up one piece of technology, what would it be?
I could give up my cell phone. I really don't think I'd miss it except that most public pay phones have been removed. The only reason I have one now is because we don't have a home phone.

4. What is your favorite part of fall?
See my 5 Fall Favorites here.

5. Pick one word to describe yourself.

6. Besides Blogger, what website do you spend the most time browsing?
I check my Google Reader very often...other than that, not much of any site.

7. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. Yesterday I discovered that I had accidentally bought a Hersey's bar with almonds to make s'mores with the kids at school...we have a strict 'no nut' policy at school so I hid the evidence in my mouth!

8. What is your dream job?
I have it! I love teaching my kids. If I had to do anything else, I would want to work with my husband as as Special FX Make Up Artist.

I know I am suppose to tag 8 other people with 8 of my own questions, but I am not going to. Why? Because I want my followers to focus on writing about their Fall Favorites and linking it up to the 5 Fall favorites Link Party. You have until Saturday to get your post linked so I can draw a winner on Sunday! Consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Story Tellers, Part 3

I'm linking up with A Southern Belle with Northern Roots for Story Tellers.
I am using this weekly feature to transcribe an audio tape that my grandfather recorded in the early 80's. If you are just joining me, click Part 1 and Part 2 to catch up.

This week my grandfathers tape begins with a little background information on his mother, his parents relationship, charity, and what I think is a pretty funny story about a 'licking'. Enjoy!


My grandfather, his sister Bernice, and their mother.
As for my mother… she was born and raised here in Concord. Received a high school education and she told me she worked as a seamstress in various department stores or clothing store in downtown Concord. She was an accomplished pianist and enjoyed playing the piano. She also was a …her favorite past time was card playing and she was also… had a reputation as being a fortune teller with cards and by reading tea leaves. I can recall various people coming to the house, all acquaintances of hers, friends of hers, on weekends or evening and she would tell their fortunes with the cards and I can picture her now in my mind- the people watching her and listening very carefully to what she had to say. She often told me that she done this for her own amusement and to please her friends. She knew and she often told me she had no ability whatsoever to forecast the future, it was just a game to her, but some of the people that came to her took her very seriously. I remember one lady in particular, always came to the house on a Saturday night to have her fortune told. This woman is still alive today and the one thing this woman always wanted to know was who she was going to marry, she always had the desire to marry into a rich situation. But she never married and is still an old maid to this day. She is in her 80’s.

My mother was a very devout catholic. I recall seeing her in my mind now, sitting and reading book after book about the life of the different saints.

I can recall her also sitting in a chair, quietly saying the rosary, which she did every day of her life. She was very fond of children… no matter what neighborhood we lived in. She was always making cookies, some type of pastry, which she passed out to the kids as they came to the house, of course they always knew she was good for a cookie or two. When we lived on Sexton Ave, down by the railroad tracks, the tramps or bums as we use to call them, hobo's, knew they could get a meal at the Bunker house, which sat just above the railroad tracks. It use to make my father mad,, but it wasn’t that bad actually… only sometimes she’d get over enthusiastic about it and there’d be more than 2 or 3 of them on the back step eating bowls of soup and bread. But when we moved away from that section of Concord that ended the hobo (laugh) part of our lives, so to speak. She was a great talker, my mother would talk constantly to anybody, friends, strangers, she loved to converse. Just the opposite of my father who was the silent type and was lucky to get 2 words out of him in the course of the day. Strange pair- but a great pair.

My great aunt Bernice and my father as a child.
As man and wife I recall my father and mother as being you might say two opposites. As I said before, my mother loved to talk and my father didn’t -or possibly was the type that just couldn’t put his thoughts into words. Whatever, he had very little to say, even as close as he and I were we never had that much to say to each other. Just being together….(voice cracks) seemed to be all that we needed, no words were necessary. I enjoyed talking with my mother, up to a point, and use to… I don’t think it bothered my father… the need to listen to her babble on about the various events of the day or books she had read or movies she’d seen, he would just sit there and listen. I can truthfully say I never heard a harsh word spoken between them. My father never failed to kiss my mother good-bye when he went to work. She always was there to prepare his dinner, lunch, I think they had a good relationship, in fact I know they did. He was devoted to her and to her health, which was shaky at times. She wasn’t a strong one, a good cook, but the housework my father took care of most of the hard work, washing the floors or anything of that nature that required any effort he took care of it.

My grandfather and his sister Bernice
As a family growing up my brother Lawrence and my sister Bernice… times when we were children we got along well as a family. There was the usual childish arguments- fights if you want to call them that – they never went beyond the word stage. I recall only getting one licking or thrashing as you want to call it, that occurred was as a result of me sticking a pin into my sister behind one Saturday night as she was taking a bath. And my father chased me around an old shred out in our backyard down on Downing Street until I ran outa breathe and he put it to me good he.. uh… (laughs)… think back now and I deserved every damn whack he gave me. I could have hurt her very badly when I jabbed her with that pin. But I still have to laugh at the sight of her jumping out of the tub (laughs). That was the only licking I can ever recall. Harshest thing he ever done was just to look at me with his look he had and say quietly “you know better than that”. If anything in life I think my father and mother ...what I can recall is the fact they emphasized honesty, not cheating, not stealing, be honest in everything you done. My father neither drank nor smoked, he never criticized those that did, but he himself didn’t drink or smoke.


I hope you join me next week for Part 4 and more funny stories as told by my grandfather. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5 Fall Favorites Link Party

Let the Party Begin!

I can't believe the time has come! Thank you to everyone who has left comments and participated in my first Link Party. Here is a quick review of my 5 Fall Favorites.
(click the link to read the full post on each favorite)

Friendship Cake: A Novel

And let's take one more look at all the goodies that are going in the Fall Favorites basket.

I told you it was going to be overflowing!
*Antique pie tin *Antique pie server *2 scented candles *vanilla bean stocks *Apple pie and crisp spice mix *cozy blanket *box of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix *bag of mini marshmallows *Friendship Cake  by Lynne Hinton *bag of black jelly beans *bag of DOVE chocolates *Halloween pen and paper set *decorative pumpkin dish *vintage postcards of NH mountains *giant mug *Soup recipe book *$50 Visa Gift Card

Link Party Guidelines
1.) Write a blog post on your 5 Fall Favorites and link it up here using the Linky Tool at the bottom of this post.
2.) OPTIONAL by appreciated- Include the 5 Fall Favorites Graphic in your post (just copy and paste)
3.) Include a link back to me in your post.
4.) Comment on as many participants as you can...we all love the company!

Giveaway Guidelines-Mandatory
1.) You must be a follower
2.) Leave a comment telling me the word that sums up fall for you if you haven't already.
3.) Participate in the Link Party by following the guidelines above.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Favorite #5


I'm not a huge "shorts" fan and often find myself chilly even when the weather is hot. I bundle up all year round, but I love Fall because other people start layering the clothes on too and I don't feel so strange anymore! My favorite article of clothing for fall are sweaters. Button up's, pull overs, long ones, cowl neck, vest style...I love all kinds of sweaters.

With fall comes "Back to School" which means new school clothes. My mom was always pretty good about letting me choose my own clothes and make my own fashion decisions. I'm not sure if it was her or I that picked out this back to school outfit for the 6th grade...
Who wears a big floppy hat to the 6th grade? This outfit screamed, "Make fun of me please". I'm pretty sure I only wore it once. You can't tell because the bottom of the photo is dark, but the outfit is one piece, and they are pants that stop at my shins. And the outfit my brother is sporting is the folded down overall look that was popular in the early 90's.

I think my fashion sense has improved over the years. I have also developed a pretty cool ability to find a deal. Now that I am a teacher and have seen my clothes go from NEW to RUINED in one afternoon, I tend to look for clothes that are inexpensive and easily replaceable or washable.

I spent the weekend shopping for a few new pieces to add to my wardrobe. It's hard to dress here in CA because it is really chilly in the morning and then again at night but during the day it's still very hot. My solution to this is SWEATERS. Here are all the goodies I found.

Top Row (R-L): Black long sleeve T and Turquoise long sleeve T from Target $10 each, Red Knit Sweater from Marshall's $16.99, Blue Knit Shoulder Sweater from Marshal's $14.99, Black Cable Knit button up sweater from Target $22.99

Bottom Row (R-L); Brown and Grey leggings from Marshal's $5.99 each, Brown Dockers pants from Marshal's $16.99, Black/Grey plaid pants from Marshal's $14.99, Wide leg dark denim jeans from Marshal's $12.00 on Clearance!

Do you know how many combinations I can make out of just these? Plus, add to it what I already own and I think I could go a long time without wearing the same outfit twice. I always buy my sweaters a little big so that I can layer them over tops and so I feel like I am wrapped up. I loved the color of the knit sweaters, here is a better look at them.
I also picked up these great boots from Payless for $39.99- which may sound inexpensive, but this is the most I've ever spent on one pair of shoes-ever. (PS-I have giant size 11 feet so they look huge)

I wore them the other day with a pair of leggings and a sweater dress. Love sweater dresses too!

Okay, now for what you all have been waiting for...what's going in the basket?

A $50.00 Visa Gift Card to help you find your favorite fall clothes!

Thank you for stopping by, this has been so much fun! 
I can't wait to see every one's fall favorites! The Fall Favorites Link Party starts Tuesday, September 21st at 8:00 PM Pacific Time. You'll have until Saturday, September 25th at midnight to link up and the winner of my Fall Favorites Basket will be randomly chosen and announced on Sunday, September 26th!

To see how to get extra chances to win visit the Fall Favorite Link Party and Giveaway home page.
Although not required, I would appreciate it if you would include the Fall Favorite graphic in your link, Thanks!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fall Favorite #4

Soup-or anything else you can eat out of a giant mug!

I love soup. Potato soups are my favorite. I also love Campbell's Bean & Bacon soup. It's one of those condensed soups in a can and it kind of looks like dog food when you open it, but if you can get past that it tastes awesome!

Tonight I treated myself to some Loaded Baked Potato soup. Our grocery store, Ralph's, has excellent hot soup ready to go at their stores, so I picked up some of that and a loaf of bread for dinner.

Notice that I eat my soup out of a giant mug instead of a bowl. Here's why: I eat almost everything from the comfort of my couch. We don't have a dinning room table, nor a dinning room right now, but even when we did I always preferred to sit on the couch. I hold my plate on my lap and put my drink on the coffee table. However, it's hard to hold a bowl of soup-it's always too hot. Instead I use a large over sized coffee mug. The handle allows me to hold the side of it with out burning my hand.

 The other day my aunt Roberta from Con-tain-it e-mailed me a fabulous Apple Dumpling recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I picked up the few simple ingredients it called for and hurried home to try it. Let's just say I think I have a new favorite apple recipe!

I served myself a piece over french vanilla ice cream. YUMMY! I like eating desserts that require ice cream from my giant mug too, that way when the ice cream starts to melt it doesn't slide all over a plate. It smelled wonderful, it tasted wonderful, it was so easy to make and it was inexpensive!
The best part about it...

Thank you Roberta and Pioneer Woman, you are miracle workers! He has never eaten any of my apple creations before, but absolutely loved this one. It has a nice custard flavor to it...maybe it was the secret ingredient, Mountain Dew! (Side note: my husband was at work so I brought the Apple Dumplings to him and his co-workers to try. Please excuse his appearance-he has a messy job. Also, in case you were wondering-he is eating it out of a plastic dish and using a tongue depressor as a utensil)

Now, for the good stuff. I have included in this picture the items that are associated with my Fall Favorite #3 and #4 since my computer was having issues and a picture wasn't available for FF #3 the other day.

For Fall Favorite #4 I have added SOUP, a small and simple soup recipe book, and a GIANT mug...good for all your soups, desserts, and hot chocolates.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed my Fall Favorite #4 as much as my tummy did!
Fall Favorite #5 will be coming soon and I think I have saved the best and the biggest part of the giveaway for last. I'll be wrapping up and summarizing all my favorites on Tuesday, September 21st and then the link party portion of Fall Favorites will begin! I can't wait to see everyone else's Fall Favorites!

Tim Holtz Blog Candy Giveaway at Scrap with Stacy

Lovely lady Stacy is hosting a new Tim Holtz Blog Candy Giveaway at her blog Scrap with Stacy.

Just look at all the goodies she's included!

1 pkg Grungeboard (plain elements 94 shapes)
1 pkg Grungeboard (alphas- 234 letters, 9 fonts)
1 pkg Ranger Enamel Accents (black & white)
1 pkg Fragments (48 pieces- rectangles & squares)
1 pkg Sprockets Gears (12 pieces)
1 pkg keyholes (5 keyholes, 10 fasteners)
1 pkg Word Keys (7 keys)
1 pkg Muse Tokens (12 tokens)
1 pkg Swivel Clasps (6 small, 6 large)
1 pkg Trinket Pins (15 pins)
3 Mini Masks- 1 Floret (7 pieces)
1 Compass (1 piece)
1 Regal (2 pieces)
1 Ranger Distress Crackle Paint - Clear Rock Candy
3 Ranger Distress Ink Pads - Worn Lipstick, Spiced Marmalade & Wild Honey

It's super simple to enter too! Just become a follower of Stacy's blog, leave a comment, link it in your sidebar and post about it on your blog. Easy as Apple Pie! You have plenty of time to enter as well, it's open until October 31st, so check it out and tell her Cortney sent you.

P.S.- Fall Favorite #4 will be up later tonight!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Favorite # 3

The Entire Month of October
That's right, my Fall Favorite #3 is the entire month of October and here's why:

  1. It is full of Birthdays: Nana, Bumpa, and Aunt Bonnie. All of their birthdays fall at the end of the month which means we would always get together for Halloween themed birthday parties. As a February baby, I was jealous!

  2. The fall foliage peaks in New Hampshire during the month of October. I always enjoyed driving up the Kangamangus Highway and the White Mountains to see the beautiful colors that October has to offer.

  3. My husband and I had our first date (10/27/02), got engaged (10/27/07), and got married (10/25/09) all during the month of October.

  4. HALLOWEEN! That means candy! I know you can buy Reece's and Snickers through out the year, but there is just something special about having a sack full of individually wrapped candies to make a girl smile!
Here's a look at some of my favorite October Memories

My brother, Wesley, and I in our homemade-by-mom costumes.
It gets really cold in NH even in October, so we always had to pack on the layers before heading out for trick-or-treating.
My cousin Mitchel, my brother Wesley, and I posing for pre-candy pictures.
My aunt Roberta, my mom, my dad as McGruff the Drug Dog, and my cousin Tim as ET.
My mom caught me dipping into the Halloween Candy!
My cousin Tim kicking our butts in a good ol' fashion bobbin' for apples game.

Carl and I on our first anniversary, 10/27/03
Our wedding day, 10/25/09. Nature couldn't have given us a better backdrop for our photo's.

Now, on to the good stuff. I can't possibly put the entire month of October into the basket so here is the next best thing. (Sorry, no picture of the basket-I pre-wrote this post with the intention of adding the basket photo-but now I'm having issues uploading pictures. I'll add the photo when Blogger decides to work right again!)

*In honor of my Nana's birthday- a bag of her favorites- black jelly beans *In honor of my wedding- a bag of DOVE candies (I gave DOVE candies at my wedding because Carl use to hide bags of them for me at work when we started dating) * a Halloween and Pumpkin inspired notepad and pen *Vintage postcards from the White Mountains of New Hampshire * a decorative Pumpkin dish

I hope you enjoyed my Fall Favorite #3. I'll be posting Fall Favorite #4 soon so stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Story Tellers

Story Tellers is a weekly feature hosted by Shannon from
I have been using Story Tellers to transcribe an audio tape that my grandfather made in the early 80's...but I have been really busy this week and didn't have time to transcribe it in time. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

 I still wanted to participate, so this week I thought I would share the story of how I became a Special Education teacher. Enjoy!

The only reason  I was able to attend college was because in my senior year of high school I received a scholarship to attend Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. The only stipulation was that I had to study be a Business major and maintain a 3.0 GPA. No problem! Yeah right. I failed Spanish 101 during the first year and lost my scholarship. I did not quit though. I completed another year of business classes as well as most of my core requirements but I was very unfulfilled in my studies. One class in particular "pushed" me over the edge.

It was Business Economics. I hated it. Let's just say the teacher was not very good. For our final assignment we had to write a paper on anything related to business, no guidelines. Some students did business plans, some did the stock market, some did company policy manuals. Here is what I did...FORGOT ABOUT IT! Yes, I totally forgot about the assignment. The night before it was due I remembered and I spent all night thinking about what the heck I was going to write about and couldn't come up with anything. All I could think of was how horrible the class had been and that he (the teacher) made me want to change my major. BINGO- I wrote my final paper on why the class was so bad, why I am changing majors, and what he should do to improve his class. I also forgot that we had to present the paper to the class. I initially refused to present because I didn't want to embarrass the teacher, but my classmates encouraged me- I think they thought I was shy-they didn't know what I had written about. I went up to the podium and let loose. No one clapped at first, they all kind of sat there and looked at each other...and then the clapping began. I think I got the longest applause. I said what they were all thinking. I got an 'A' on the paper, after all, it was business related. The next day I submitted my change of major form from Business to Education. I graduated with my AA in Education-Elementary and Special Education Pre-Major in May 2005.

I transferred to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and declared my major as Elementary Education. During my first semester I took Into to Education and Introduction to Special Education. I had to do my first clinical then. That semester I did clinicals in a 3rd grade classroom, a 10th grade English class, and a separate Special Education school. I did not enjoy the 3rd grad class and the Special Education school scared the crap out of me. I then submitted a change of major and declared myself as an English Education Major. (Side Story: My dad use to work for the New Hampshire Institute for Mental Retardation and use to bring us to work with him sometimes. One time, my brother and I were playing basketball in the gym at his work and a client who had MR came in and began strangling me because she wanted the ball and didn't know how to ask. I was young and scared-when I did my clinical at the Special Education school one of the students came up to me and attempted to grab my head/neck because he wanted to smell my hair-it reminded me of the incident with the basketball and I had a freak out moment)

I loved all my English classes. What I did not love was that to become an English Teacher I had to take 2 more semesters of Spanish...and since I failed Spanish 101 I didn't think I would do so well in advanced Spanish. During this time I had applied for a job as a teachers aid to work with a student with an Emotional Disturbance. I did not get the job. However, a few months later I got a call from the school saying they had a position open in one of the severe and profound special education classes. I accepted it. I loved it.

I submitted my final change of major form and declared myself a Special Education major. At UNCC there are 2 Special Education tracks: Mild/ Moderate (learning disabilities, emotional disturbances) and Moderate/ Severe (Autism, MR). I chose Moderate/ Severe. I graduated in December 2007 from UNC Charlotte and I was the only one with the Special Education- Moderate/ Severe Degree.

I graduated on Saturday, December 15th and started my first teaching job on December 17th at the school where I completed my student teaching. In December I will celebrate the completion of 3 years of teaching. I love my job, I learn something new everyday and I grow as a teacher and as a person.

Through my entire educational experience I have learned that
Things Happen for a Reason
and I continue to live by that motto each day.

Thank you for joining me for Story Tellers. I hope to have Part 3 of my transcription ready for next week. Is there anything you, my readers, would like to know about me? Which features on my blog do you enjoy to read?

TV Tirade

I've decided that the station TLC (The Learning Channel) should be re-named as Totally Lame Crap. I was sitting here watching TLC and I have been forced to change the channel. I use to like most shows on that station, but now I really only like a few.

The reason why I had to change the channel is a new show called Sister Wives. I don't even know the whole premise of the show but I don't need or want to. If it's what is sounds like then it's about this guy who is "married" to three women who happen to be sisters. WHAT? WHY? Who told TLC they wanted to watch a show on polygamy? I hope people don't watch it. I hope the ratings suck. I hope it goes off the air before the end of it's first season. I hope it is replaced by re-runs of all of TLC's other formerly good shows.

Here are some other shows that have pissed me off lately
Dancing with the Stars- Sarah Palin's daughter is NOT a star...and what kind of image does that send to teens- get pregnant and become a star. MTV hasn't helped in the matter of glamorizing teen pregnancy either. **I've never actually watched this show-it's always pissed me off.
Cake Boss- Buddy's voice makes me want to puncture my ear drums. AND just because you put a flower on a cake doesn't mean you made it! Give your staff some credit every once in awhile!
America's Got Talent- how many quarter, semi, petite, mini, almost finalist shows can you have in one season?
I didn't know I was pregnant- thank you for making me so paranoid that I now keep a stash of pregnancy tests in the bathroom.
Quints by Surprise- you are a cheap rip off of John and Kate plus Eight and you suck...and you don;t have as many kids.
Kate plus Eight- people are right- you changed.
Wheel of Fortune- how many "toss up" rounds can you have in 30 minutes? The contestants are lucky to play 2 rounds before the show is over. By the way- I always know the answer first.
Project Runway- Love this show but they moved it up an hour and I miss it because I go bowling on Thursday's.

What show gets on your nerves? Do you have the will power to shut the TV off? If you are one of "those people" who don't watch TV...share the secret of your self control please because I don't have any!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Classroom, Part 2

I thought I would start Pat 2 with a few definitions to help you understand the rational behind my room design and some of the terms I will be using. WARNING: This post is very long, I won't be offended if you just browse.

My students have Autism. Autism is defined by IDEA as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism falls on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) along with Asperger's and Persuasive Developmental Disorder NOS. My students fall on the severe end of ASD. Most of my students are non-verbal. One of our biggest goals in their education is to teach them alternate methods of communication whether it is through gestures, signs, pictures, or facial expressions. I have designed my classroom to meet my students needs and foster communication.

PECS- stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. It is a method of teaching communication skills to non-verbal students and helps students develop skills to initiate communication.

IEP- stands for Individualized Education Plan. When a student is diagnosed with a disability a team that includes parents, student, teachers, and service providers will write this document and create goals for the student and includes any modifications and adaptations to the curriculum needed.

Sensory- any form of input that stimulates a student. My students have a variety of sensory needs such as: dim lights, bright lights, and pressure to name a few. Students with Autism sometimes demonstrate behaviors such as 'hand flapping' or clapping, squinting their eyes, wearing head phones, rocking- this is their way of meeting their sensory needs.

CBI- stands for Community Based Instruction. Each week we go outside the classroom to a variety of locations in the community to practice the skills we lean in the classroom. For example- we go to the grocery store every week to buy our snack supplies- the kids help make the list, find items, pay, and bag the groceries.

First, the general layout...

It looks similar to the 'before' picture but there are some keys changes. I made new curtains for the window. The old curtains did not cover the entire window and my students were frequently distracted by what was going on outside. I made them out of bed sheets- they are cream with blue and green polka dots. I also added this large blue floor rug. We have a 'Sensory' time in which students utilize the open space to walk around, sit on bean bags, and use the "sit n' spin". We turn the lights off and put music on and the students are able to fulfill their sensory needs with out restrictions. It is a very calming time for them and the open space is very freeing for them. If you were to come into my room during our Sensory time it kind of looks like a free for all, but it is one of the most enjoyable times for the students.

A few changes on the other side of the room include: The bulletin board was moved closer to the door and now serves as a Classroom Information board. Our classroom behavior plan, transportation plan, supervision and break schedule are posted there. Although I requested 2 of the 1/2 walls, I was only able to get 1 so I am still using the book shelf as a divider. It helps prevent students from darting out the door.

Students will be storing their book bags in the top portion of this cabinet. I made matching curtains for this cabinet but I forgot them at home today. All of the sensory items I mentioned above (bean bags, spinners) are kept in the bottom of the cabinet along with our social skills activities like games and puzzles.

I added 1" binders to the cabinets with Velcro. Inside the binders are picture icons of what is in the cabinets. If a student wants something out of the cabinet  they have to request it by handing or touching the corresponding picture to staff. This is just one step in the process of teaching communication and initiation skills. You will also notice that there are giant locks on the cabinets-this is so the students are forced to communicate what they want. The word "forced" sounds harsh, but it is essential that students learn how to make requests when the items they want are unavailable. Often, students want things that are unavailable to them and they don't know how to communicate their wants- for instance, if a student eats at a restaurant and needs ketchup but can not verbally request it they may become frustrated. If they have been taught to use picture communication they can find the picture of ketchup in their portable binder and give it to a waitress.
Does that make sense? It's hard to explain.

Now, for the pride and joy of my classroom...

You may have noticed already, but all of the other walls are almost completely bare except this one. Why you may ask? My students are highly distractable. Since this is the only visually stimuli in the room, they are forced to focus on this rather than random wall decorations. Once they get the hang of using this system I will slowly add in distractors on the walls.

This is a brand new system for our classroom, and I am very excited about it. Let me show you all the components and how it works.

This is our visual schedule. It includes both written words and picture icons for each activity. In addition, you'll notice that some of the strips are colored and I'll show you why in a minute. There are 2 arrows, one is green and says "First" and the other is red and says "Then". These arrows move down the schedule as the day goes on and helps students visually understand, plan, and prepare for changes in activities. Students transition much smoother when they can see what is coming next and have a chance to prepare and participate in the change.
In addition to the visual cues for change and transition, some students need auditory cues. This timer is secured to the wall and is like a large egg timer- each time we transition to the next activity we set the timer for 30 minutes-when the timer goes off students know that it's time to transition.
I use this calender to write down major changes in schedule or events. For instance, next week we will be going on CBI to Ralphs. I will write it on the calender and put a corresponding picture icon so that students can prepare themselves for the trip and change in our typical schedule. It also gives the students something to work for...they love going out into the community but they also know they have to earn it.
Each student has a folder which contains my data collection sheets and notes. They are easy access so that if I need to grab a folder to call a parent, collect data,  go to an IEP meeting or if a student is being observed by a service provider they can get a glimpse at the students progress.
Each student has educational goals related to functional reading, functional math, vocation, and so on. Their goals are posted above the wok station as a quick reference guide for staff and service providers.

This is the newest addition to the room. It is our work station. The boxes contain a variety activities that correspond to the students IEP goals. For example- if a student has a goal of counting tangible items up to 10 then they could use Box # 3 which contains pegs OR Box # 13 which contain plastic lady bugs OR Box # 4 that contains plastic coins. There are multiple boxes for each goal so that students get to use a variety of materials and are able to generalize the skills.

This work station directly corresponds with each students Communication Binder.
I'll show you.
Each student has a communication notebook. "My Schedule" indicates which activity they are currently working on. Also inside each book is a page of reinforcers- things the students want to work for and earn. Reinforcers can be anything from a break, soda, hug, walk, sit on bean bag, coloring book, chips, etc. Before each work session, students choose what they want to work for and place that picture on the front of the notebook where it says, "I am working for"

If you go back and look at the schedule that was posted on the wall you'll notice that the "Functional Reading" schedule strip was green-like this one. The academic periods (Functional Reading, Functional Math, and Vocation) are all strips and each contain any where from 1-3 box numbers. Students must locate the correct strip and then find their box #'s at the work station. They get their box, complete or work on it and then put the box back. Once they complete a box they move that box # to the bottom under where it says "I am working for".

Once a student completes all their assigned boxes and the numbers are at the bottom, the student will receive their reinforcer. This process is repeated for each academic area. When working on a non-box activity such as Art, students still choose a reinforcer, but they earn star icons for good behavior like staying seated, sharing, and participating.

I am very excited to put this system into use. I experimented with something similar over the summer, so I think this will be successful. If it doesn't, I will re-evaluate and re-invent it again. The best part of the system is that it is adaptable to every ability level but it is still cohesive.

If you read this far...THANK YOU! I have truly enjoyed creating my classroom and sharing it with you. If you would like further information on Autism or strategies for teaching students with severe disabilities, please feel free to ask. I am not an expert by any means, but I am willing to help any way I can.
Teaching these students is my dream job and I am dedicated to their success...even if it means spends nights and weekends working on THEIR classroom.