The First Day of School

My feet are throbbing in post-long run kind of way. My shoulders ache. I’m hungry, really hungry. My eyes are droopy, and I’m ready for bed. Yes, at 7 pm. But I’m also so, so happy. In a heart full kind of way. In a can’t stop smiling kind of way. In a sigh of relief kind of way.

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Today was the first day of school. I loved it!

I didn’t do anything particularly amazing. We mostly just went over the rules, and not even in a fun way but in a boring way. Somehow that’s all it takes to make me deliriously, ridiculously happy. When the first bell rang, and the students came rushing down the hall, I couldn’t help but beam. My next door neighbor told me afterwards that he was jealous of how excited I was. It was like I was watching the Puppy Bowl or like my winning lotto numbers were being read off. I was just smiling and high fiving and welcoming kids and joking and loving it.

Since I got hired, people have been saying that I’d fall right back into the swing of things even though I took two years off from teaching. But I didn’t believe it. The too-loud voice of doubt in my head did some worried hand wringing and (in Piglet’s voice) thought things like, “What if you can’t do it anymore?” The closer the start of school got, the more advice I got, the more I felt like I just wouldn’t be able to do it, that I was incapable of teaching.

All that was washed away today. I have a long way to go. I’m not as good as I could be, and I’m definitely not where I want to be. But at the same time, I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m where I belong. I’m back in the classroom. I’m doing it.

Now I get to do it all over again tomorrow. Good night!

Friday Five

It’s Friday! I vote that we hit the ground running. Five things that just trickled out of my brain:

1. Teaching:

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I’ve been at professional development all week. It’s been awesome and has gotten me really charged up and ready for school to start, but I’m also up to my eyeballs in to-do lists right now. There is so, so, so much to be done. Thankfully, I haven’t found myself feeling too tired being on the go-go-go all day every day. Although, ask me again after the students arrive, and I might be singing a different tune.

2. Schmutz, to tell or not: Earlier in the week, I came home from work, looked at myself in the mirror, and realize that I’d be walking around for who knows how long with schmutz on my face! Argh! Don’t you hate that? No one told me. I don’t know that I’d tell an acquaintance that they had stuff on their face, but damn, I wish someone had told me. Now I’m Schmutz Face Girl. I’m like I Love Lucky but not as cute or charming.

3. Taco:

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I had my first taste of El Taco Tote recently. Me gusto mucho! This place is on every other corner in EP, but I never felt the pull to go there. (I’m a Taco Cabana girl these days.) Well, I went this week, and I loved it! If you’re familiar with Rosa’s, this is similar. It’s restaurant-style food in fast food clothing with free chips and a ginormous salsa bar. Upon tasting the deliciousness, I said, “This is dangerous.” I stand by that assessment.

4. Pigeon post: My love for yoga is still going strong. I dutifully show up twice a week and let the master yogi lead me through the flows, or whatever. Twice this week, she had us doing pigeon and holy mcmoly. It felt amazing! My hips haven’t felt this good in months. I’m thinking that will majorly help when I’m out running eight miles tomorrow with Wear Blue.

5. Homecoming:

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There are still months left in the deployment, but Stephen got an updated estimated “Adios Afghanistan!” date. I know that it could change, as these things do, but it’s a nice date. It’s a date I really like. It’s the McDreamy of dates. And it’s less than 100 days from now. I don’t want to pin my hopes on it, but too late. I know, I know, but, did I mention that it’s a really good date?

My Classroom

Earlier this month I got access to my new classroom for the first time. My initial feeling was: OMG I love this place! I took a deep breath in and exhaled joy. (I don’t totally know what that means, but I heard a yoga teacher say it. Just go with it.) I really do love the smell of my classroom, and the look, and the feel. I get all mushy standing there thinking about the learning that will take place within those walls.

Then I was struck by the sheer immensity of all that needs to be done before school starts later this month (!!!). “OMG yay!” turn into “OMG oh no!”

I did what any 21st century girl does when she feels overwhelmed: I complained on Facebook. I got lots of support and great suggestions, yet the one thing I really wanted (for someone else to set-up my classroom) didn’t magically happen. So I’ve been working on it myself.

Here’s the before:

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This is the view from the front of the room looking toward the back. It’s big, right? There are currently 34 desks in there with space to spare. I shouldn’t need that many, but it’s crazy spacious! You can kind of see the shelf/cubbies lining the left side of the room. I’m very excited about that area. The right side of the room has windows. Ohhh, ahhh. I’ve got two white boards, one in the front of the room and one in the back.

I made a list of everything I wanted for my classroom and tried to organize the items by importance. With a budget in mind, I worked my way through the list until I hit my spending limit. I ended up shelling out $350 total between Office Depot and Target, and I purchased just about everything on my list! Huzzah!

After:

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Yeah, it looks almost exactly the same. I know. $350 only goes so far in a classroom. Truthfully, I’m not completely disappointed. I mean, yeah, I wish someone else would decorate my classroom and that $350 would buy ten times as much as what it did. But I also know that once school starts, my walls will be decorated with student work and anchor charts. The kids will breathe life into it.

Most of the money I spent went to things that will be used by the students as opposed to decoration. My best score was stumbling on these individual white boards at the dollar spot at Target!

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A buck a piece for these babies, and I know they will get used. Other items purchased include: post-it notes, tape, scissors, desk supplies for me (paper clips, binder clips, etc.), pencil sharpeners, hanging file folders, and baskets for organizing things.

My biggest frustration is that my classroom library is pretty pathetic right now.

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Since I only have one tiny bookshelf, I’m using buckets as my classroom library instead. I just need more books! I donated almost everything from my previous classroom library around Christmas time when I had convinced myself that I’d never teach again. Oh, how wrong I was. I set-up a project on Donors Choose, a fundraising website for teachers, last week for a new classroom library. (I like it because the website works as an intermediary as opposed to personal fundraisers where you don’t really know what will happen with the money you donate.) In just a matter of days I had raised the full amount! That means that the 40+ books I picked out will be sent directly to my classroom! Can’t recommend the website enough. (You can see my project here if you’re curious.) That’s a huge relief. No class is complete without books!

There you have it. It’s a work in progress, but honestly, my classroom is ready for students. Now I just have to get myself ready!

Runners Tell All: Nutrition

Today I’m linking up with Runners Tell All. For the link-up, participants write about a specific running-related topic once a month and share their posts on Amanda’s blog. This month’s topic: nutrition.

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There was a time when I had this nutrition thing all figured out. I knew what worked for me, and I executed it with ninja precision. HIYA! See, like that, but with gu. Somewhere along the way, my body changed its mind, and I’m re-learning what works for me and what doesn’t.

Before I run

This part, thankfully, hasn’t changed too much. The day before a run, I eat the same stuff I’d normally eat. If I’m going to be running a longer distance (more than 6 miles) or racing, then I have pasta with a veggie mixed in for dinner. Too easy, right? My morning fuel is a piece (or two) of toast with peanut butter and jelly.

I’m not much of an afternoon/evening runner these days. It’s too darn hot in El Paso for that and when I was living in Germany, it was too darn dark. Way back, though, in my Allen days, I ran in the afternoon and even had a few night-time races. Randomly, I discovered that pizza lunchables (just go with it) made for the perfect evening fuel.

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During: hydration

A few years ago, I hopped on the Nuun train and haven’t hopped off since. I know that some people (me included!) don’t like the bubbly-ness of Nuun, but my insider tip (that I learned from a more seasoned runner a few years back) is to put the Nuun tablet in your water bottle the night before. When it’s time to run the next morning, the bubbles will be settled. Since I live in the land of no water fountains, I carry water on my person (I love saying that phrase!) in a handheld water bottle.

During: fuel

This is where things get all confuzzled. For years (YEARS!) gu was my go-to. Chocolate was my main jam, but peanut butter was good, too. My SPIbelt has little gu loops, so it was easy to carry and kept me going.

Gu-ed myself.

Gu-ed myself.

Somewhere during El Paso Marathon training, my tummy decided that it didn’t like gu any more. I’d feel bloaty and burpy and all kinds of not good. Upon a reader’s suggestion, I switched to Swedish Fish (yes, the candy) with great success. I’d pop one or two in my mouth every four-ish miles. Now that I’m training for a 10-mile race, I feel like I can experiment a little more. (Experimenting on say a 15 mile run is dangerous! I find it’s better to experiment on a shorter long run.)

After

So smooth! So healthy!

So smooth! So healthy!

After is my favorite part! During training, I usually follow-up a run with a good ol’ fashioned homemade smoothie. Depending on the distance I ran, you can swap out “smoothie” for “grape cream slush from Sonic.” If it’s following a race, however, all I want is Mexican food. Give me chips, give me salsa, give me a place to put my feet up, and I’m golden! Let’s be real though, all I ever want in life is chips, salsa, and a foot rest.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on nutrition/fueling/hydrating! What have you found that really works? What tips or tricks do you have?

Conversations With My Soldier: Vacation

Our post-deployment vacay is squared away!

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Back in April we were agonizing over our options. There were just too many possibilities, and it was making us more frustrated than excited. Turns out, one of my former colleagues is getting her feet wet as a travel agent, and she was willing to help us out! Via e-mail she asked me questions, did all the leg work, and produced multiple vacation packages to different destinations for us to consider. With the field significantly narrowed, Stephen and I zeroed in on the (hopefully) perfect vacation location: The Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

It makes deployment so much more bearable when you have something fun to focus on. We’re already discussing what kind of excursions we want to take and how many drinks we will be drinking. Stephen even bought himself some vacation shoes. I can’t seem to get him to budge on the speedo or full monty action though. He will most likely be sporting a regular ol’ trunks. Can’t blame a girl for trying!

Somewhere Else

I’m sitting at the desk in my home office looking out the window at my street. I’m supposed to be somewhere else. I had plans, oh, grand plans! Gather ’round, and let me spin this sad tale for you:

Way back at the beginning of the year, my aunts and cousins came up with this great idea for a female family vacay. Since I was starring down the barrel of deployment and knew that I’d have plenty of free time on my hands, I jumped at the chance to spend a week at the beach with my aunts and lady cousins. Great way to break things up, right?

Then I went and got this new teaching gig. School is my district starts soon. Like, end of this month soon. Unfortunately, that means no more week at the beach for moi. It also means that I had this non-refundable plane ticket on my hands. I had a stroke of genius to use the flight to fly home to Dallas before school starts. My vision was a quick trip, just long enough to spend a day with BFF Mary Beth and a day with my mom. I’d get some face time with my favorite people, some de-stressing, professional help with back to school wardrobe shopping, and a pick-me-up before school starts.

I called the airline – changing the flight was easy. I called the vet – got Geronimo scheduled for a few nights boarding there. I ran around all day yesterday securing the odds and ends before my crack-of-dawn Tuesday morning flight. I was fixing to start packing my suitcase Monday night when I got the call: the flight was cancelled.

It was less than 12 hours until take-off, and I was frantically calling people (the airline, my mom, MB, messaging Stephen), and scratching my head. There were no more early flights out on Tuesday. That close to flight time meant that switching to another airline was going to make my essentially already paid for trip cost me an arm and a leg. I couldn’t adjust my days because I have to report to work for staff development this Friday. I had no options.

I sighed, and I cried (just a little). The trip was off.

It’s not the worst thing ever. It’s not even the worst time a flight of mine has been cancelled. Still, it sucks. The practical side of me is disappointed (and kinda stressed) because, y’all, my clothing situation is sorry. I may be a grown woman, but I cannot dress myself. I need legit help in that department. The sensitive side of me is sad that I don’t get to see my mom or my best friend. I especially hate it when I don’t know when I’ll be seeing them again. It’s always easier to take when I can say, “okay, see you in xxx month!” Not to mention, deployment makes me feel fragile. Little things and medium things feel like big dark cloudy things.

So yesterday, when I would have been on a shopping spree with Mary Beth, I was instead sitting on the couch in my PJs watching Grey’s Anatomy from noon until 7 pm with steady stream of snacks close within arm’s reach at all times. It was a little wallow-y, but it made me feel better.

I’m so lucky, though. I’ve got good people. My mom and I are already talking about when she can come visit me next month. (Fingers crossed!) Mary Beth facetim-ed me. I got to see her little girls and their new dog. I’ve enlisted battle buddy Julie to brave the mall with me tomorrow. See? My people are the best!

I’ll get over being bummed, I’ll get some new clothes, school will start and life will go on. But today I’m a little blue because I’m sitting at home, and I’m supposed to be somewhere else.

My Non-Plan Training Plan

I’m five weeks away from my next big race: The 10 Miler in the Heat.

Last year's race flyer. You get the idea.

Last year’s race flyer. You get the idea.

For the last few months, my focus has been on 5ks. Running ‘em and running ‘em fast. This race kinda snuck up on me! I didn’t realize how close it was getting and that I needed to start upping my mileage. Whoops! I’ve been running consistently, but each run is usually only 3 miles, a mile more if I’m feeling fancy. That’s not going to cut it! Time to switch gears from short and fast to long and steady.

But what training plan shall I use?

I’m a girl who loves a plan. Tell me when to run, how far, how fast, I’m there! Most recently, I used (and loved) Run Less, Run Faster. I’ve had past success with Hal Higdon. Lately, I’ve been seeing the Hanson Method popping up left and right. My girl Julie is a fan of Runner’s World: SmartCoach.

I’m going with none of the above. In fact, I’m going with practically nothing for a training plan. The non-plan plan, if you will.

I know, it’s so un-me! And maybe not the smartest approach. I’m usually one to crave structure and a plan and an outline. This time around, though, I just wasn’t feeling the need for a plan. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a goal race for me in terms of time. Maybe it’s because I feel confident in my fitness base right now. Maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to develop a plan. (<– We’ve got a strong contender with that hypothesis!) I just know that this time around, I’m feeling laid back (it’s a very strange, unfamiliar feeling), and I’m gonna go with the flow.

Jennifer, one of my friends from the weekly running group I’ve joined (Wear Blue: Run to Remember) and home girl Julie are both also running the 10 miler.

Fort Bliss Wear Blue circled up before Saturday's 6 mile run.

Fort Bliss Wear Blue circled up before Saturday’s 6 mile run.

I’m running long runs with them on Saturdays, whatever distance they do at an easy-ish pace. During the week I will run two or three times at a distance that totals my long run. For example, Jennifer told me she plans to run 7 miles on Saturday, so this week I will run 3.5 miles twice leading up to it. That’s about as simple as it gets! I have no idea how well this will prepare me. Well, that’s not true. I get the feeling that this will prepare me well enough that when it comes time to run 10 miles, I’ll be able to do it. That’s my only goal.

Matt over at No Meat Athlete recently wrote a post recently about not settling for boring runs. His thought is that running should excite you and when it becomes stale, you should change things up. I totally agree, but I see the flip side, too. I commented that lately I need boring in my life. I need routine and familiar and average. I love that no matter how crazy life is, running stays largely the same. It’s comforting. I’m running the same boring paces and places, and I like it. Having a non-plan for this race seems to fit in nicely with that.

If all goes well, I want to step things up after the 10 miler. I’ve got my sights set on a half marathon at the end of October, and golly, a PR would be awesome. That will take a lot more work and an actual training plan. For now, boring, non-plan it is!