Thursday, May 20, 2010

Out with the old...

Here's what our house looked like last Friday morning...
About $8,000 later, we had a new roof, flashing over our gutters, and a new flat roof over our entrance.
This was just the beginning of the madness.

Ray's been out of town the past few days as he is having meetings in Colorado. I've been subbing every single day in middle school. While I enjoy the age of the students (grades 5-8), I haven't enjoyed the lesson plans all that much. I haven't taught a single thing! I give tests, police as students work on presentations, show movies, and play silly games. I just crave the chance to actually teach a lesson; a real one. While I don't blame the teachers (lesson plans are way easier when tests/projects are involved and they don't know who they are getting to sub), I struggle to stay awake half the time. It's also nice having 2 free planning periods and lunch. However, I have nothing to do during this time of solitude. Perhaps I can bring a book-- but I feel as though I should be working while I'm being paid. I've never known a school to have no additional preparations, copies, or grading that needed to be done... except this one! Today I spent my FIVE free periods in the library sorting books and helping students with homework. I nearly grabbed a mop-- I was that bored. 

I also struggle with this issue of over qualification. I am continually humbled. I am a credentialed teacher in two states and I can teach K-9. I just passed both tests that Illinois required (with flying colors, yay!) to officially transfer my credential to permanent status, and I have experience. I have graduate school under my belt and I'm even teaching a graduate course in education! Needless to say, substitute teaching has been a bit of a struggle. The great part of this experience, however, is getting to meet all of these educators and create connections. I am a sub in 3 districts (though I have only actually worked for 2 despite having been called by all 3) and I have met lots of great people-- and some notsogreat. I have created a great relationship with the sub caller in one of the districts and she has kept me busy! The primary elementary school I sub at are incredibly welcoming and other teachers have even referred to me as "awesome" when finding out I'll be covering for them. So, that does feel good. But I tell you... nothing would feel better than to actually teach a whole, brand new lesson from start to finish. I sure miss that.

On another note... I went for a run this afternoon in the rain and saw a ton of animals! It appears that they come out when all the humans go inside from rain. I saw 7 bunnies, 2 Cardinals, and about 10 baby geese with their mom. It was really serene and beautiful. 

My final Pièce de résistance today was this:
Yes... it's from Taco Bell. I stopped in because I saw a sign. I was a sucker for their advertisement! Anyhow, it tastes like a refreshing virgin margarita. For about $1.50, I am a fan! While I was there, the man next to me proceeded to order about 10 menu items and followed his order with, "for here" as he paid the nearly $20 for his personal feast! Where could all that food possibly go? I have more inappropriate things to say... but I'll refrain. Perhaps I've been hanging around with too many "mature" middle schoolers lately. I'm jaded.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Random Suburbia

Here are our beautiful new flower hangings, complete with flowers. I have my husband to thank for 100% of the effort.
This tree has been out of control with flowers. It's gorgeous and "snows" onto our deck often.
I haven't seen a lawn decorated like this since we were flocked back in Redondo Beach. Isn't he a lucky 18-year old? Would any of you consider doing this to someone? It's a bit odd, no?
Check out this spectacle. This would be Ray's first official time ever mowing a lawn. And, we own the mower. We're big time. Haha.
Driving here is no different than in LA. People are impatient and crazy. This guy was quite fine being in the intersection repeatedly. I had about 3 photos from different lights. What a crazy.
Hm. Strange.

Here's a sneak peak at the big dining room reveal. I'll post photos after we get the table (Sunday) and the chairs (unknown). We still haven't chosen those. It's pretty exciting! This was at the 1st coat of oil-based primer stage.
On another note, I turned in 3 packets of substitute materials for 3 districts in the area. They aren't the closest ones to our house (7-10 miles away), but they're the only ones accepting new applicants at this time. I turned the packets in on Monday, had an interview for eligibility on Wednesday for one of the districts, and subbed for the first time on Thursday! I subbed in 4th grade for a school in Darien. It was a great day. Here are some observations:

- Indoor schools are awesome! Once the jacket comes off, it's off for the duration of the school day.
- Having 22 students in a regular 4th grade classroom is incredible. I went from 32-36 in California, depending on the time of day. Having 22 4th graders is a walk in the park.
- Reading levels are tested in 4th grade here in IL. I observed another teacher giving reading assessments in the hallway all day.
- They had an entire hour of art and 30 minutes of PE of which I had no responsibility other than dropping them off. During this time, I graded all the papers. I hope she was okay that I did. I simply had nothing else to do.
- None of the teachers in the teacher's lounge spoke to me. I talked with a one-on-one aide and another sub.
- I used my first walkie talkie on duty at lunch recess---the only recess they had! I guess when you have PE everyday, you don't need a lot of recesses. A snack time was designated between a class transition for 5 minutes.
- I loved being back in a classroom... even if it was just subbing and giving tests nearly the entire day. I gave 3 tests and was able to grade them all (multi pages) because there were so few kids and so much down time!
- The teacher had a mounted SmartBoard, tablet PC, and a laptop in her room. I didn't see any computers for student use, though (only in their computer lab).
- The Darien school district I subbed for only has 2 schools; one elementary and one middle. Weird, huh?
- The 3 districts I applied to for subbing have fewer schools than Torrance Unified, of which I worked for in California (total).

I'd be subbing today as well, but I assumed that the call I received was from a roofer and not a district. Bummer. I didn't listen to the message until it was too late. They also asked if I was interested in subbing 4th grade for the same school, though different teacher (I met her) next Friday. I sure hope it isn't too late since I'm sure she's called others since last night. Even if I only sub a few more times before summer, I still enjoy spending time in the classroom. It doesn't hurt actually getting paid a little as well!

After subbing yesterday, I got home and immediately started cooking for our dinner guests. I was making enchilada casserole (belated Cinco de Mayo?), sweet corn cakes, Spanish rice, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. I also whipped up some homemade guacamole for an appetizer. We were treating a woman from Ray's work who has been incredibly welcoming to us. She and her husband are just wonderful and we wanted to have them over for a nice dinner to thank them for their hospitality. Plus, they're a lot of fun to chat with. The casseroles turned out great, the Spanish rice was normal, and the sweet corn cakes were amazing! We love the El Torito packets you can buy in California (at Ralph's only), but since we moved to the Midwest, there are no Ralph's. The packet is basically cornmeal and sugar anyhow... so I thought to search for a comparable recipe. I've never been to Chi Chi's... and actually... the only time I've ever seen one of these restaurants, we were in Belgium! Apparently they make a corn cake that's similar to El Torito's. I found this recipe online and it worked perfectly! It could've used more butter for moisture... but at that point, it's just way too fatty. I'll definitely be making that again. The strawberry shortcake was per usual: angel food cake (baked, cooled, tore apart), sliced strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream all mixed in a bowl and chilled for another 20 minutes. We enjoyed having them over. They even brought us a flower arrangement basket from Phillip's! They are a Chicagoland florist that are all over the place. We've never been to one, but now we have some experience. 

Tonight Ray is supposed to play Ultimate Frisbee with some of our new friends from church. We also have dinner plans with a couple, The Allens,  next Wednesday. Tapas! It's nice to finally be meeting people and being social... even if my husband has to drag me half the time. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is a post still a post without a picture?

I've been getting a little pressure from friends (ehm, you know who you are) to keep blogging since I've apparently been lazy in the past week. It's not that our lives aren't exciting... but it's just that we've actually been living our lives and haven't been so concerned with this side of things. But... I'm not quitting. Have no fear.

Within the last few weeks, we've been up to our knees in housework. Between the abundance of yardwork (have I mentioned my intense hatred for dandelions?) and the wallpaper massacre that has been taking place in our dining room, we've been busy. After about 3 weeks of wallpaper stripping, glue scraping, sanding and patching, 2 coats of oil-based primer, and 2 coats of paint, we're happy to say that we're nearly complete with that project. Ray has been touching up the last of the paint scraping from our beloved molding and it's nearly ready for a table...

Which means we're making a big purchase! We are hoping to buy our table this week and order some chairs to go with it! The elk antler chandelier is going to wait a bit longer since we haven't found the perfect one (or the funds) to go intense on purchases at this moment. Alas, the gold chandelier will have to stay a smidge longer.

On the personal side of things, we're meeting friends. We started attending a church about a month ago in our area and were immediately connected to a few people in our stage of life. We started volunteering at the various opportunities and community enriching Saturdays they engage in and that has helped even more. We met 3 married couples about our age that we've connected well with. We even had lunch with one of them and have started attending a weekly Bible study with some of the couples to get further connected. We're hosting a dinner for a couple from Ray's work this week who has been incredibly welcoming and gracious to us since we've stepped foot in the Midwest and we've already had dinner with Mike & Toni.

We've been keeping busy and the spring has been great so far! It's not quite California weather, but we love where we live and the people have been nothing but welcoming to us.

As for some Chicago favorites... we just tried Garrett's popcorn. Words cannot express the mix of deliciousness that goes into every bag!