Saturday, May 30, 2015

A School Trip

There are a lot of things I like about being an 8th grade teacher; one of the many perks is the annual trip to Washington, DC. I've attended this trip as a chaperone quite a few times now. It never fails to be totally exhausting and totally worth it.

Here's a breakdown of our trip.
The grand total of students and teachers in our group ended up being 95. We had two charter buses to take us around the city.
The comments on this cracked me up. Our kids are generally really well-behaved on the plane and in public. There was some confusion regarding bags and boarding, but we were in the air by 6am and ready to start our tours by 9.
We did most of our walking on Wednesday. (One student tracked it on a pedometer and the final result was over 7 miles.)

I love Arlington and was happy to see it on the first day. Throughout the day, I found myself repeating, "This is one of my favorite memorials" and had to laugh. Apparently I just love the art and symbolism of them all!
The MLK Memorial.
The changing of the guard at Arlington's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Walking down from the farm animals to Washington's crypt at Mt. Vernon.
Needless to say, after the first day the kids were complaining a bit about their tired legs. Before the trip, we make it pretty clear that they'll be walking a lot, but they never seem to believe us!
Day two was set at a more comfortable pace. We took our time at the memorials and a few students found names of their parents' Viet Nam comrades on the wall. We didn't do the entire USHM (although I wanted to) and instead looked at the "They Were Neighbors" exhibit. The highlight for many students came after, when our guides surprised us with a trip to the zoo to see the pandas. They were awake and active! I think ending the evening on a light note was a great plan.
The WWII Memorial.
The Washington Monument.
The Supreme Court
Some of the teachers at the WWII Memorial.
Bao Bao was very active when we went to see the pandas!
By Friday morning, I was in desperate need of some alone time. Luckily, our hotel had a rooftop fitness center and pool. (I would have run outside but we actually stay outside of DC on this trip and I didn't know the area well enough.) Despite walking about 7 miles a day, I really needed a run, and it was glorious.
The view from the hotel roof.
I had the gym all to myself...I needed that!
After my run, I did some arm and core work, then headed back to my room to pack.

This trip had a few new things thrown in, including the National Portrait Gallery. It was fun to see the presidential portraits, but I was most excited to see the female Supreme Court Justices.

My students were curious about my love for RBG; I enjoyed having the chance to educate them about such a strong, fearless woman.
A highlight of our return trip was that, on our way to our gate, we heard clapping and cheers. An honor flight of WWII veterans was disembarking and people were applauding their walk down the concourse. It was a wonderful final moment in DC.

Words can't really express how exhausted I was after this whirlwind. I got home and was in bed by midnight Friday, slept until 11, woke up for breakfast, and then napped again from 2pm to 5pm. I'm still not functioning fully. 

The rest of my weekend will be dedicated to final grades and comments for the year. This last week is going to be insane...I've got blinders on for one more week, and then hopefully I'll transform back into a normal person again.

Have you been to DC? What's your favorite thing to do there?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Weekend Away

This weekend was a whirlwind. Here's the rundown. (I'm able to post today because I'm procrastinating packing for my next trip, which I leave for at 4am tomorrow morning.)

Matt and I flew up to Cleveland Saturday morning, spent time with my grandparents, caught an Indians game (and caught up with one of my fellow All Star teachers in the process), and popped by Meredith and Chris's rehearsal dinner.
Grandma made my favorite pie!
The pie has a meringue crust, lemon custard/mousse filling, and is topped with homemade whipped cream!
Me and Jacqui, the Indians' All Star Teacher!
At the rehearsal dinner, we saw the protests against the not guilty verdict at Brelo's trial. They were peaceful when we saw them, and I was really moved. If you're not familiar with the case, I recommend reading up on it.
Sunday we relaxed in the morning and took our time getting ready for the wedding. The ceremony and reception were held at the Tudor Arms Hotel, a huge, gorgeous old hotel in downtown Cleveland. I really don't cry at weddings, but this one got me.
Reciting the vows.
Pure joy!! Mere told me she brought a picture of my dress when she went shopping for hers; what a compliment! And hers was gorgeous!
Meredith and I went to school "together" for years, but she's a year younger than me; her friends from our school district were acquaintances to me, and I wondered if it would be weird to see them. It was actually pretty nice to catch up with familiar faces.
They provided yarmulkes embossed with the date of the wedding. Matt looked really good in his!
Waiting for dinner!
 One of the best parts of the wedding was the MOH's speech. She talked about Meredith and Chris's love and support for one another, but what touched me most was when she recalled that she and Meredith weren't easy friends, although they're sisters. They, as she put it, "built" their friendship, and that's made her more grateful for it. I remember Jacqueline as a kid, and the entire speech was so honest and heart-felt...It was just perfect.
With the gorgeous bride!
Doesn't he clean up nicely?!
With mom!
We flew out early Monday but didn't get home until after 7pm. I love how cuddly Archie is after a few days alone. I barely unpacked because I fly out again Wednesday. Washington, DC with 80 14-year-olds? I hope they're ready for us! (Obviously radio silence will resume while I'm on the trip. I really miss having a normal schedule!)

What's your favorite part about weddings?
When's the last time you flew?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Looking Ahead

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, based on the infrequency of my posts lately, that I have officially  entered the time of year when I need to buckle down and focus in order to survive! Okay, that's probably a little dramatic, but you fellow teachers out there definitely know what I mean.
Let's just round up to 3000 and call it a day.
Right now I'm absolutely bone tired, and some of the biggest and most difficult (and rewarding) days of the year are on the horizon. Here are some things that I'll be looking forward to over the next couple weeks:

Getting all my finals graded! I was able to grade all of my students' research papers, their writing finals, and other small papers this week. But their reading final still needs to be graded.

Our Trashion Show! This event is totally scripted and performed by the students. They are tasked with making outfits out of recyclable materials. It's a great event but it definitely takes a lot of planning and stress.
Me as a Trashion Show Thanksgiving Meal! This year our theme is countries, so I get to be Parisian.
The DC trip! I honestly can't wait to go to DC this year, even though it means 24 hour days of very little rest.

When we return from DC, the eighth-graders have their graduation ceremony. This is one of the most rewarding events of the year. It's so nice to give the students their diplomas and recognize their hard efforts all year, and we have a big dance with them afterwards. We also have school the next day, so the entire eighth grade team is usually exhausted after chaperoning and cleaning up the dance. (We're often at school until about 11pm that night.)

The last teacher day is June 8. I'm a little bit stressed about getting my entire room packed up, and I'm in charge of one of the skits we'll be performing. So that's adding another layer to my stress-ball-madness.

As far as non-school things go, I'm looking forward to quite a bit! I have Meredith's wedding coming up very soon - she's my oldest friend and it's crazy to think she's getting married. Finally, Matt and I are planning our trip for our 5th wedding anniversary this summer. 
Meredith and I on the first day of school. I think this is 3rd grade for me and 2nd for her; I remember that outfit fondly.
So while I may be incommunicado for the next couple days or weeks, it's not for lack of trying! I'm just trying to stay afloat until June when things start to settle down again.

How's your May rounding out?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Five

I don't usually do these "themed" posts, but May is just one of those months. My brain is completely overwhelmed with a million things; a random Friday post is just what I need!

1. Lately I've been kind of addicted to true-crime novels about serial killers. I just find them intriguing! Of course, the downside of this latest reading binge is that I've been a little wary about running alone at night. My head is filled with terrifying, true-life murders!
Killer Clown was surprisingly good despite the corny title. I'm really enjoying Harold Schechter's writing, too.
2. I needed a pick-me-up the other day and decided a new shade of lipstick would do the trick. I rarely wear anything brighter than a berry color, but lately I've been loving this red! I've gotten a few comments on it; the funniest thing is that I haven't changed the rest of my makeup routine at all, but suddenly people are like, "Oh, you're wearing makeup!" I guess a red lip is pretty noticeable.
I'm especially loving that this color stays on through a whole day of teaching!
3. Our gardenia plant is in full bloom right now. Matt has been picking the flowers and putting them around the house. They smell amazing and are just so pretty and delicate. I hope they last all summer!
Who needs to buy flowers when these grow in your backyard?!
4. One of my oldest childhood friends is getting married May 24 and I wanted to buy a new dress for the occasion. After ordering four dresses, I've finally found a winner. The only problem I'm facing now is deciding on my hair! It's time for a trim, and I can't decide how much shorter to go. I'm probably over-thinking this, but if I leave it how it is I could wear it up; if I cut it shorter I could wear it down, but it won't look very formal if I wear it down at its current length. I foresee a haircut in my future.
This is actually a super unflattering photo, but you get the idea. I don't usually wear light blue, but I think I like it! Also, I spy an Archie-bird.
5. The end of the year is looming! My students have been presenting their research this week and their final papers are due today. Their finals for ELA are early next week, we're on the fast-track to finish 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by next Thursday, and the following week we'll be in DC for the 8th grade trip! I need to have all the projects and finals graded before then. I love this time of year but it's understandably stressful and overwhelming. Emails like this from old students really help me remember why it's all worth it.
This student created a surprise for a teacher she loves this year, which is what she's writing about at first, but the bit about the research project is what really made my day!
We 8th grade teachers spend so much time trying to convince our students that high school is a whole different playing field and that we're trying to empower them to be successful in the future; every year current students don't believe us and previous students come back and tell us how right we were. I guess hindsight is 20/20 haha.

So that's it! I'm looking forward to a restful weekend. May is never a big running month for me, and I'm trying to stay active, but I'm also not stressing about missing runs. I'm not in training right now and I'm truly in survival mode; getting rest when I can is my top priority!

What five things are on your mind?


Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Maybe it's in my nature to over-analyze words and their connotations; I simply can't help it. Given that runners are sometimes a bit sensitive about how things are phrased, I thought clarifying some definitions/debates could benefit us.
This one's a hot topic, isn't it? So many runners get offended when they're called joggers!
As Mark Remy has pointed out, the main difference between a runner and jogger is that joggers are the unluckiest bunch in the world; they're always stumbling over bodies in the woods!

A runner, on the other hand, is anyone who feels a lightness and joy in their heart every time they put on their running shoes and step out the door!
I'll admit, sometimes when we talk about "fueling" I get kind of annoyed. What are we, cars?

If fuel is the good food we put into our bodies in the hopes that it will make us strong and power our runs, then food is all the fun stuff we get to eat afterward!
I honestly hadn't given thought to this until recently. I was reading an article (which I just spent 30 minutes trying to find, with no luck) on Runner's World about a marathoner who is offended by the term "half marathon" because it undermines the race distance.

You know, like, it's not just half a marathon. It's a race all its own; a 13.1 mile race! I can see where he's coming from, but I'm not personally offended by it! What do you think?
The last one kind of connects to this. I have the weirdest pet peeve about distances! "I ran a __" denotes, to me, that you ran a race of that distance.

"I ran 5k" means you ran a training run; "I ran a 5k" means you ran a race. I can't be the only one who gets annoyed by this, can I?!
This was a mindset change that I made purposefully. I was so used to hearing that sometimes we just have bad runs, but that we can learn from them and they make use stronger and tougher...But this mentality didn't work for me. It was too negative.

I've re-framed "bad" runs as "tough" runs. I simply don't believe that bad runs exist, unless you end up injured. And tough runs are valuable; they do make us stronger, better runners in the long run (har har). A good runner can and will learn from a tough run!

What running-related words make you cringe?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day & Sacrifice

Today you're going to see a lot of blog posts dedicated to the "best mom in the world"...And why shouldn't you? Those of us who are lucky enough to have supportive, loving, funny, strong moms should be singing their praises! 
I was seriously a lucky girl to have not only the best mom, but also the best grandma!
My mom is the best mom in the world for roughly a billion reasons. As I look back on this past year, I recall her unwavering support as I trained for and ran my first marathon. It would be a lot to ask of someone to drive across the state and follow me along a full marathon course with a sign, smiling all the while...and I didn't ask. But she did it anyway! And after that race, as if cheering me on wasn't enough, she bought me the skirt that I'll probably wear to run my next marathon. After seeing yesterday's post about training plans, she offered to purchase an upgraded plan for me, if that's the direction I choose to go in.
Mom (and Matt) at the Space Coast Marathon, waiting for the next chance to cheer me on.
As a kid, I looked up to my mom because she was smart, funny, and not afraid to be herself. She was the role model every young girl should be lucky enough to have!
Mom doing our favorite bit ("Do I have something in my teeth?") while Stephie and I mug for the camera.
Now, as I stare down 30, she is still my biggest cheerleader, but also an invaluable friend. I couldn't ask for better.
Cheering me on at the Rays game where I threw out the first pitch.
I want to say something, too, to those women who are mothers but aren't my mother. (You can't all be that lucky.)  Moms are expected to sacrifice a lot for their kids. Their bodies, their time, their money...many women face the difficult choice of leaving the workforce to stay home with their kids. (The US doesn't make that choice particularly easy, either.) I don't want to be a mom myself, but I'm not blind to the work and dedication that goes into it.

Maybe due to this narrative of sacrifice - that mothers should sacrifice and be happy about it - most moms I know feel guilty when they take time for themselves. And that carries over into guilt about running. I have had the privilege to run with so many awesome, strong moms, and nearly every one has expressed some sort of guilt about the time running takes away from their families.

"Thank you, Mommy, for taking ownership of your life. You inspire me. I want to be like you." They are watching you, Mom. More than you know. <3#Moms #YourMom #FitMom #HappyMom #FitMoms #MomTime #FitFam #FitKids #MomLife #FitTribe #MyTribe #Love #Family #FamilyLife #YourFamily
Posted by Fit Mom, Happy Mom on Friday, May 8, 2015

Listen up, running moms. You are doing your kids a service by running. Not only is it keeping you sane, but it keeps you healthy, ensuring you'll be around for your kids for years to come. Perhaps most importantly, seeing healthy habits and determination teaches your kids to be healthy and determined. Kids learn by example; they will follow what you do.

So keep running. For yourself, absolutely, but also for your kids.

What is your favorite childhood memory of your mom/mother-figure?
What do you appreciate most about the mom(s) in your life?


Friday, May 8, 2015

Training Plans

Even as a seasoned racer (in all distances save the marathon), I still get overwhelmed when looking at training plans. With a single marathon under my belt, I feel like I should have an idea of what I want to do again and what I want to change for training this time around.

But there are so many options! Each one has its own pros and cons so I'm going to break them down. This is really more for myself than anyone else, but many bloggers have pointed out there are quite a few of us who are training for marathons starting in the summer, so maybe this will be useful to others as well.

Hal Higdon: Hal's plans are good for various reasons. There are many levels to choose from, from novice to expert. I like that the plans allow for some flexibility and that his website gives you information on how to use the plans...That's actually one of the cons, though. He goes into a TON of detail explaining everything before you even see the plan, which can be helpful to some runners but feels overwhelming to me.
Hanson: The Hanson method for marathon plans is really intense! A huge part of me wants to be able to do this plan, but realistically I know it's probably not for me yet. Hanson plans consist of more than one long run in a week. This is great for learning how to run on tired legs, but if you're a newer marathoner they might not be for you. That said, I know many marathoners who absolutely swear by this method...I just don't think I'm there yet.
Galloway: I'll admit that I'm reluctant to look into using the Galloway method because I would rather not walk on my long runs. I know that I did end up walking for my last marathon but it was due to extenuating circumstances. I would like to be able to run the entire marathon. I think that realistically, I will be able to run it as long as I treat my body right during taper. Still, there are perks to Galloway's plan.
Nike: I had no idea that Nike had free marathon training plans until I was recently on their website and they were advertising them. While I do think that they look interesting and like a viable possibility, I don't like their setup. The plan is a set of "cards" labeled by number 1-7 (for days of the week) and general information on the workout; this plan is definitely missing the specificity I'm looking for in a marathon plan, but for a general running schedule it's pretty nice.
Smart Coach: This is the plan that I used last time and I really like it. I would possibly consider paying for the upgrade this time around so that I could make a more detailed plan, but even the free Smart Coach training plan is really good. I like that it's flexible and that I can make it a longer plan than the usual 18 weeks. The only thing I didn't like about the Smart Coach plan last time was that it was only three days of running and I would really like to work up to four days of running during training. (I think I can adjust this somehow by changing the intensity level.)
I'm glad I have time to decide what my plan will look like and to get some insights from other marathoners! There's a lot to think about this time around because I'd like to see an improvement in my performance!

What factors do you keep in mind when choosing a race plan?
Do you rely on a personal trainer for bigger races?


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Runner's Mouth

Let's talk about weird things that pop into my head while I run. 

During one particular run, as I chomped on the last bits of a Lifesaver and powered up to conquer the bridge, I randomly started thinking about that saying You've got quite the mouth on you.

And then I thought, what makes a runner's mouth different from other mouths? Quite a lot, actually.

Runners' mouths are full of...

...stringy, sticky spit.
Am I the only runner out there who's terrible at spitting?! Ah, to master the art of the clean spit-hock...
(Why this lady followed an accidental fly with various other bugs and livestock, I'll never understand.)
The worst is finishing a run and picking gnats out of your teeth! Blegh!

...swear words.
Fun fact: these symbols used in place of swear words are called a "grawlix".
Running increases my use of swear words by about 10%. I think the freedom and uninhibited nature of running just draws it out of me!

...gum and candy.
You all know by now that I love Lifesavers and gum during my runs. Do we really need a picture of it?! (Yep.)
I'm sick of mint gum so I've been giving fruit a chance. Verdict: I like the change in flavor, but this particular brand gets a little tough/flavorless too quickly for longer runs. Good for speed work! lyrics.
Sometimes when I really want to just zone out and enjoy my run, I gotta pull out the big guns.
When it comes to singing on the run, nothing beats 90s power ballads, although Taylor Swift is a close second.
...motivational junk.

I'm willing to bet there's not a runner among us who doesn't use mantras or self-talk at least once during a tough run! I'll admit, I talk to myself all the time (and not only when I run); having a mantra to repeat helps me look a little less crazy.

What did I miss?
Can your mouth identify with this list?