Thursday, February 6, 2014

Virginia Snow Days

Teaching in Utah and Virginia have been two totally different experiences in so many ways. 
Besides teaching two totally different grades, 
1st and Kindergarten, 
there are so many other differences....

Utah                                                                                    Virginia
-Utah uses the common core.                                           -Virginia uses the VA state standards.
-Food is allowed in the classroom.                                   -Due to allergies, there is a no food policy.
-Allowed to celebrate holidays- Christmas talking           -Due to the diversity of cultures, we did a 
about Santa and having a "Halloween" party.                   "Holidays are the World," unit and had a 
-Majority of white students with a small handful of         "Fall Harvest" party to be politically correct.
diversity.                                                                             -The white students are the minority, with            
-2-3 teachers per grade level.                                             Indian, Asian, Hispanic students being the   
-1 principal                                                                         majority.
                                                                                            -7-8 teachers per grade level.
                                                                                            -3 principals                                                 

But the biggest difference of all that I still can't wrap my mind around is......

the snow days.

Out west, the snow is normal and people are used to it. I grew up in Idaho and we had maybe one snow day a year. Last year when I taught in Utah, we had zero snow days. Even on the worst of days, where you thought you might die on your way to school.....we didn't have a snow day. I remember in high school one time, it was so cold, that we could see our breath in the school. The temperature was in the negatives and the school was being remodeled so it was letting unwanted air in from all the gaps in the installation. Everyone was bundled up, even in class, with scarfs and hats. It was completely ridiculous. But did they cancel school? No! They didn't even think about it for a second. Life goes on like normal and people are expected to push on through their normal daily routines.

Last year when I was teaching in Sandy, UT, we didn't have a garage, so parking our can out on the road was inevitable. There would be some mornings where it would take Nate and I literally 30 minutes to shovel our car out and get it ready to drive. The snow would be 2 feet deep or more. Then when I finally started backing out of my driveway, I would get stuck in the snow and have to have the neighbor and Nate push me out. As I drove down the road, only a 5 minute drive to school, I had to go down lots of hills. There would be days where I would be sliding and completely out of control, praying and hoping that I wouldn't crash into anything. Some days I would purposefully drive so slow that I wouldn't even touch the gas pedal, but just let my car coast at 10 mph down the road. Insane. January and February were the death of me last year!

So you can imagine how amazed, shocked and blown away I was coming to VA. They take their snow days seriously and they really care about their teachers, students, and parents, driving to school and making sure that they are safe. 

Today is another snow day. It is snow day #9 to be exact. No, that wasn't a typo, we have had 9 snow days so far this year! It is incredible! The best feeling in the world is waking up for school, checking my phone, and hearing the voicemail about the cancellation. The man's voice is like an angel speaking when he says, "Loudoun County Schools are closed today because of the weather." Or  it was even better when he said on a Wednesday, "Loudoun County Schools will be closed for the rest of the week because of the weather." We had a snow week. It was music to my ears....and so relaxing to be able to go back to sleep knowing that you don't have the stress of the school day ahead of you.

Now what is still shocking to me is "the weather" that they are talking about. Ya, I know I am a west coast girl and so I see things in a different light. I know in the west they have the appropriate snow plows and procedures to keep the roads safe and here they don't. So I get it. But here are some pictures of "the weather" that they cancel for.

Here was today. No snow. But lots of rain and icy roads. 
 Another snow day. Just a small amount of snow.
 Here was the worst case snow day that we had. It looks pretty snowy in the picture, but still, there was only 2-4 inches out there. 
 Here is when they cancelled for 1 inch of snow.

Now, I am not complaining. I absolutely love the snow days! I feel like as a teacher, I need them sometimes to keep my sanity and have a break to relax and get some things done around the house that I have been my laundry this morning that was piled up so high and falling over onto the floor. But you can see how it is crazy and almost laughable to me. This type of weather wouldn't even cause an ounce of hesitation in the west. The Utah and Idaho people would think this was completely insane to cancel school over such a small amount of snow and ice. But I love it and am grateful for the days that I have off.

When I tell people from out of state about the snow days, they usually comment something like, "Ya, you have school off now, but just wait until the summer when you are making the days up! That's gonna suck!," like they obviously know how my county all the way over in VA is run or something. Well, the truth is, we don't have to make any days up in the summer. Each school day is 30 minutes longer than a normal school day, so the snow days are built in. We have 15 snow days built into the school calendar. So, what does suck about it is if we don't use them, we lose them. We would end up going to school extra. I think it is a pretty good system that they have set up. I would rather go to school with safe weather and roads.

So, there is my story about the snow days here in VA. I absolutely love them and see it as a major perk to teaching here. I used to hate the snow with a passion, and dreaded every time I saw snow in the forecast. Now, having snow in the forecast is a major bonus and I love it! I will tell Nate, "Guess what!? It is supposed to snow this week!!!" I've never felt that way before.

Here's to more snow and ice this winter and using our 15 allotted snow days! :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Murder Mystery Party

So I have this friend that has a knack for throwing parties.
She is like the party queen. 
She seriously should write a book or be a party planner or something along those lines!
Her name is Kate, but we should really call her, Kate and Great,
because she is great at what she does!
Amazing actually.

She threw this amazing Murder Mystery party at her house and let me tell you, it was somethin. 
She transformed her whole house into a 20's Juice Joint. The decorations, the food, the 20's pictures projected onto the living room wall, the costumes, the handouts, the table decorations, the juice bar, the different labels around labeling all the different rooms in the house. She went all out. She even took mug shots of everyone and gave out prizes at the end for the best actor, best costume and the person who guessed the murderer. 

Nate was reluctant to dress up as his character, Hal Hollywood, the movie film director, but he ended up doing it for me because he knew it would make me happy. I knew that he must really love me because I knew that he was completely out of his comfort zone. Now, that's a good husband!

My character was Dina Diva, the Juice Joint singer, and I was trying to get Hal (Nate) to cast me in his next movie. I went with a turquoise theme, lots of fancy makeup, and fish net tights.

It was a super fun night but a little awkward staying in character the whole time. Sometimes I didn't want to break character so I wouldn't talk to people about normal stuff but then I didn't know what to talk about in character, so I would just not talk. :) There were a few awkward moments of silence at times but oh well! It was super fun figuring out who the murderer was and trying to piece together different clues. 

The food was amazing too. The menu was: caprese kabobs, bruschetta, garlic knot rolls, Italian salad, penne pasta with veggies, meatballs with red sauce, chocolate covered strawberries, cream puffs, macaroons, and cheesecake. Plus, they were serving glass bottled cokes and Shirley Temples at the "bar," that were super yummy. She even had chocolates around the room in candy bowls. I'm telling you, she thought of everything.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mall of America and Crazy Flying Experiences

Have you ever been stuck in an airport and all you can think about is, am I ever going to get out of here?

This was Nate and my experience when we were flying home from Idaho after New Year's. We left the Spokane, WA airport at 7:00 AM and we were scheduled to arrive in DC at 7:30 PM. It was going to be a long day and we knew it. We also knew that there was a lot of flight delays and overbooked planes this time of year and we might have a chance to redeem ourselves.....

Back track a bit. When we flew into Utah for Christmas to visit Nate's family we were really kicking ourselves. Our flight was overbooked and the Delta airlines employee was desperately looking for 2 passengers to get booted to a later flight. They were offering us both $400 and food vouchers to use in the airport. Nate and I went back and forth, back and forth, debating whether we should do it. We were supposed to fly out the night before, on Friday, but our flight was cancelled. (That's what they told us. Later we came to find out that it was actually a big mistake and it never was actually cancelled. Another story....) They were nice enough to find room for us on the morning flight the next day. So we were in limbo knowing what to do.....take $800, camp out in the airport for another 8 hours and leave that night seeing our family less time, or not taking the risk, finally getting there and having more time with family over the holidays that we only get to see on special occasions since we now live on the other side of the US. It was a hard decision. We were on the edge of our seats debating, debating.....and we decided at the last second to not take the money. Later when we arrived in Utah, we were full of regret because $800 is a lot of money and that would have paid for us to go home and see our family another time. We were kicking ourselves and felt sick over missing out on a lost opportunity....

So, like I was saying, we were going to redeem ourselves on the way home. We told ourselves that if the opportunity arose again that we would take the money, no questions asked. So this is what we did. A long day turned into an even longer day but we got some added funds out of it. We were going to be stuck in the Minnesota airport for a very very very long time. So we made the best of it and decided to go to the mall!!! Now not just any mall.....but a famous mall.

The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the US. It has been on my bucket list to go there for forever so I was thrilled that we were taking the trip. It is only a few miles from the airport. So, we paid for a locker, put our stuff in, bought bus tickets, and went off to the mall! (It was -17 degrees, but with wind chill -41, in Minnesota, so the bus trip to and from the airport was FREEZING!)

It was the most grand mall that I have ever been to in my life! It had 4 floors and each floor was huge. We were there for almost 4 hours and we only got to two floors! Every restaurant, every store that there ever was, they have it. If you can think of it, they have it. Each store was huge too. The biggest version there ever was. There is also an amusement park with tons of rides and an aquarium. They even have a Pinkberry!

I definitely want to go back someday and see the other two floors as well as just spend more time there. We had a blast! It was a great way to spend the day, rather than being stuck in an airport. :)

(Later that night, our flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 PM. Well, the pilots didn't show up so it was pushed back two more hours. Then the 9:30 flight was overbooked and they had to kick some people off the plane after they were already seated. Lots of drama there....After we were finally all drama free and ready to go, they get on the intercom and announce that the plane was broken and that we needed to exit and board a new plane. About 1.5 hours later, the new plane was finally warmed up enough and deiced so that we could safely ride on it. We didn't end up leaving the airport until 11 PM, getting us in at 3 AM.....well let me clarify, I didn't get in until 3 AM. Nate ended up volunteering one last time for $400 more dollars to stay in Minnesota over night and not leave until the next day. He left abruptly right after we boarded and went back into the airport. I left without him because I had to teach the next I thought. I got home at 3:30 AM and slept from 4-5:30, getting up for school and ready to leave by 6:30. I was planning on teaching on an hour and a half sleep the next day! I can't tell you how thrilled I was when they called a snow day that day and the next. Monday and Tuesday. It was a huge blessing from above! My only regret was not staying with Nate in Minnesota and earning myself an extra $400 in flight money. Oh well! If only I would have known. But Nate walked out with $600 in flight money and I walked out with $200. Better than nothing! Oh, the crazy things that we do for free money!)