The Landscaping Gods

Yesterday, the God above and His landscaping crew smiled down on us.


Last year, when we bought our house, the builder and his crew lay sod down TWICE that was already dying, way too late in the year, and much too short to survive the June-August weather of the Carolinas; so, of course, the sod dried up and died and our front yard has looked like a desert for the last year.

Because we’re dedicated folks, we tried everything the Internet told us to do.  We thatched up the dead sod, we fertilized the ground, we bought expensive “heat tolerant” grass seed and regardless, we had only a few sad little patches of grass pop up.

We had resolved to simply keep fertilizing and adding seed and watering until we had some semblance of a lawn. But then…

Our beautiful neighbors (the same ones who brought us a POT ROAST when we first moved in!) informed us that they had just bought way too much sod to fix a few spots in their backyard and that they would sell us what they had for mere change. Not only that, but they arranged for their landscaper to come and install it and trim back our azalea bushes!


As much as we love our house, we never knew that our front yard could even look this nice!

You know you’re getting old when you get tremendously excited about grass and other landscaping nonsense.

And having really awesome neighbors.


I never thought there would be as much of a difference between living in a neighborhood as a homeowner and living in one as a renter.  I mean, a house is a house, right? Wrong! There is something about that permanence and the care of a home that brings people together.  We’ve got some great people on this street, and some I can’t wait to get to know better through the years.  A few young couples, like us; some eccentric old folks (the BEST!), and older couples who love their gardens and the history of the city. The couple across the street even got a chicken coop last week and are planning on having three egg-laying hens! (Would it be rude to assume I should go ahead and start saving my egg cartons??)


The gentleman that lives diagonally across has bundles of beautiful plants, including these BRIGHT BLUE hydrangeas! There’s something about the South and its hydrangeas everywhere that stirs up a special bit of Gone With the Wind nostalgia.

I guess I’m growing into my old lady pants if I’m becoming this sentimental about neighbors and plants, eh? I think I’m ok with that.


To Wax or Not to Wax

Let’s face it… a huge part of being a lady is the constant desire to have fabulous eyebrows.

Being a Hispanic woman with entirely too much Lebanese blood gives me a WHOLE LOT of eyebrows to work with.

Granted, that’s a much better problem to have than too few eyebrows.  Sorry to all you ladies who wish for the universe to grant you extra eyebrows so that you wouldn’t have to draw them on.


The opposite problem is having my furry caterpillars that I have not yet learned how to tame on my own.  In fact, there have only been three individuals on planet Earth who have developed this masterful skill: one in Georgia where I grew up, one in Dominican Republic where the queens of cosmetology abide, and one (thankfully) here in South Carolina.  Alas, my dear Anne is twenty-five minutes from my house and I won’t lie… teacher salaries + MY student loans don’t really equal constant eyebrow maintenance. Therefore…


I picked this up at Publix while grocery shopping today in hopes of learning the art of eyebrow waxing.

Verdict: This stuff blows.  I could probably get more hair off my face/legs/elsewheres with used chunks of Elmer’s glue.  While I appreciate that it is a sugar wax that is easy to remove and comes with the useful strips and precision stick, this poor excuse for wax might be better used as lip shine or even as glue for your construction paper arts and crafts. Sigh.

Do any of you tame your own eyebrows? If so, how? Tweezing takes me FOREVZ, but it has been the only way for me to keep them “cleaned up” in order to extend my time between visits to my beloved Anne.

Dog Days of Saturday


Hi everyone! I don’t know if it’s like this in your neck of the woods, but the weather in our little corner of South Carolina has been the best of the best.  Most of my life I’ve lived either dangerously close to the equator (DR) or in the muggy South, but for some reason, Spring in the Carolinas has been just that — Spring! Crisp, 64-degree mornings and breezy 84-degree afternoons.  And it’s the end of May, almost! I’m definitely down with that.

Although, I won’t lie. I am one of the weirdos that loves 98-degree afternoons in August where even the straightest head of hair will curl with the humidity and the faux-leather on your car seats stings your buns. Is that weird? Probably.

Speaking of buns…


I won’t apologize for the excessive Scout photos, but I am inadvertently trying to make her feel beautiful despite the bad, homemade mom haircut I gave her this week.  She has a crazy little habit (as most bichons do!) of wallowing in the dirt like a little piggy (how appropriate, thusly, is her name!?) and getting mud and grass caked into her fur.  When she did that on Monday, it was so bad that I had to start cutting little bits and pieces, and, well… let’s just say that the phrase “got into a fight with a lawnmower” wasn’t too far from the truth.  I’ve been trying to trim it a little bit every day to even it out because her groomer can’t see her until Wednesday (diva, I know) and she is not feeling her prettiest thanks to mom.

We also found that sweet little summer dress on sale at Pet Smart and what with the frilly pink skirt and the sequins, she let us know she just had to have it.

Robert and I are also trying to get this deck-staining project finished.


No one tells you that even a tiny deck like ours takes FOREVER TO STAIN.

We’ve been staining in shifts.  Robert will plug in his nerdcasts and stain for a few hours and then we’ll trade so that I can plug in my latest audiobook to stain for a few hours (currently listening to The Girl on the Train… great so far, full review to come!) Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks(just for being my reader!)


But, it is getting there and we really don’t have much left to do.  We’re using the Olympic Semitransparent Light Mocha Stain + Sealant because we really like the natural wood grains to come through, but we might do a more solid stain for the front porch.  Our wood is new since the house was just built last year and we’ve been waiting the recommended year before staining, but, phew, we’re so glad to finally get it going because it has looked pretty pitiful, especially with the clay stains all over it.

By the way, we did use the Olympic Deck Cleaner 2-1/2GAL Deck Cleaner beforehand to get all the funk off from the last year, and it was some potent stuff.  Totally worked, but POTENT! (Honestly, we think bleach may have worked just as well, but we’re no experts)


Sweet ginger beard.

What are your Saturday plans? I hope you’ve got your Flonase by your side (or that you don’t suffer from allergies at all!) if you’re outside today!

Confessions: Non-Usher Style

Last week, I went on a diet hiatus.  I basically ate like I only had that week to live and my body seriously hated me for it.  Not to mention, now my body is too ashamed to go back to the gym.  I haven’t been since last Monday! Just the thought of making the effort to go tonight made me cringe.  I couldn’t even say the words out loud.  THAT, people, is what happens when you go on a health and fitness hiatus.

So today, I took the first step towards recovery.  I knew that if I started eating well again (although, let’s be honest, how many of us go a week off the wagon? At least it was only a week this time…), my body would start communicating with my head again and things would go uphill.  Today, I started out with my standard breakfast:

1/4 cup of egg whites (and you know it was an off morning because I forgot to spray the pan and totally scorched the heck out of the “crust”)
2 Bob Evans brand turkey sausage patties (I have vowed to try every single brand to see which is the tastiest yet least salty)
1 small Publix deli sandwich bun (normally I do a whole wheat English muffin or some Ezekiel bread, but in my hanger yesterday at the grocery store, I grabbed a bag of these and they whispered all sultry-like to me in my sleep deprivation)

All with a massive cup of coffee sprinkled with soy milk.

Around my third batch of students, 10:45ish, my tummy reminded me that it had been a few hours, so I re-energized with a piece of string cheese — yum yum! I know I’m technically avoiding dairy due to Ultra fit and because I’m hella lactose intolerant/allergic/all kinds of poorly matched with dairy, but I’ve found string cheese to just be the smidgeon of dairy, salt, and protein I need around that time of the day.

For lunch, I did a poor job of packing deliciousness.  I brought what I thought was a roasted piece of chicken breast, but it turned out to be a fatty fatty piece of chicken thigh.  I muddled my way through some of the meat, but ultimately paid more attention to my tiny 2 ounces (no joke) of mashed potatoes and a decent amount of green beans.  Truly and honestly, these were take-out leftovers, so neither tasty nor clean eats. I paid dearly because I was le starving soon thereafter.

Fortunately, I brought some TJ’s turkey meatballs (3 to be exact) that I microwaved and chomped on while I waited for my after-school girls to come in. (With another cup of black coffee because, let’s be honest, this daylight savings crap is for the birds.)

Even with the meatball snack, though, my lunch was so unsatisfactory that by the time I got home around 5:30, I was ravished and inhaled a plate of leftover spaghetti with meat sauce.  Not my most shining moment.

This did, however, help my hanger calm down enough to do a little food preppin’.  I made The Fitnessista’s kale caesar salad dressing and massaged it into Trader Joe’s “cruciferous crunch” mix and holy canoodle, it was delicious.  I packed up two lunches worth with three meatballs a piece and a separate little bit of roasted sweet potatoes for each.  I also put some chicken tenderloins to marinade with some garlic, lime juice, and various spices, and I made up a huge batch of beef vegetable soup.  For the beef veggie soup, I just find the leanest ground beef I can (or ground london broil) and I toss it with a bag of frozen stew vegetables (okra, tomatoes, zucchini, lima beans, and tiny white potatoes.. maybe a few others but I can’t discern them) and some salt-free chicken broth and a few spices.  I packed two days’ worth of that up, too.  It feels good to have a little meal prep done because it leaves a lot less room for effin’ up.

I didn’t really eat a legit dinner, but I heated up two more meatballs and ate a hefty dose of the kale caesar salad.

Oops, I also forgot to mention the half ice cream sandwich I sucked down shortly after the spaghetti.  I must have still been suffering PTSD from the hanger.  I was actually pissed because it was from the gas station (I know, I’m completely trashy) and it had clearly been there for a decade or two, so I threw away half of it because it tasted entirely of frostbitten grossness.  Probably for the better.  It was divine intervention for my ice cream sandwich addiction.

In non-food news, I finally called a tow truck to come get my sister’s sad little car that’s been sitting in our driveway since Christmas because it’s a 91 Honda Civic and it’s been gradually dying since its hot clubbin’ days in Miami.  We’ve been letting my sister borrow my hub’s car, but it’s getting to be a real pain in the bum bum so we finally got took a sec to send it off to the car hospital. It felt gooood to pull all the way into my driveway.

Also, remember how I’m under formal evaluation by the state department of education cause that’s the silly little thing South Carolina does to second-year teachers? Well, I’ve been observed the max six times now and I’ve received 5 of the 6 evaluations, all positive.  I hope the last comes in as positive and shiny as the others and that when it comes to the consensus meeting (the end-all meeting), there are no surprises.

Now, I am curled up on the couch with a puppy around my shoulders (she likes to do this, like she’s some kind of mink) and Criminal Minds on the tv.  I can’t believe it’s already 9PM.  Where did my day go!?!

Let’s have a word, friends

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write or to blog or to get my thoughts out in any other avenue, so, I’ve decided I’m going to make a better effort to do so.  I don’t know how therapeutic it will be, but, at least it will help me organize my brain.

It’s 9:08 and I promised myself that I would stop working 8 minutes ago.  Actually, I promised myself that I would stop working one hour and 38 minutes ago, but there’s a tiny sumo wrestler in my chest that pushes down every time I think about stepping away; one who reminds me that I have way too much to do to stop and that things will only be worse if I don’t finish my endless list.  Who knew that teaching would end up to be such a demeaning and abusive profession?

I say that, and I know it’s a harsh statement to make, but that’s what I feel.  I feel it all the way down in my gut.  In the pit of my gut.  I feel mistreated.  I feel like everyday my work load gets heavier and no one takes a moment to praise or to thank.  No, life is not about either of those things, but for the amount of negative, some amount of positive has to come heal the wounds, right?

I’ve literally spent the last two days obsessing over my teaching portfolio because I don’t know when my evaluations are going to begin again for this semester.  I have actually spent more time working on that damn portfolio than I have caring about my students and preparing lessons for them, which has thusly propagated the toilet bowl of death; I become grumpy because I am unprepared.  My students hate being in my class because I am grumpy.  I hate being around my students because they complain about me.  Yet, my priority is to survive evaluation year and to please the thousands who are asking of me.


When Robert and I were engaged and were participating in a pre-marital counseling retreat, the toilet bowl of death is what one of the counselors referred to a bad cycle as.  Back then, I was prone to nagging and creating conflict by having unrealistic expectations of Robert, and in response, he would shut down… which, of course, would cause more conflict.  We did this to the point of exhaustion and misery.

That metaphor has been reincarnated lately in our house, but not in regards to our marriage.  Robert understands the depression that has washed over me and the helplessness I feel.

I’m not too proud to admit that teaching at a high-poverty school with all the hoops and obstacles of the Title 1 program funded by the government is not for everyone.  And that includes me.

So, while you go about your days, please consider me in your thoughts and prayers.  I am desperate to pass my evaluation year without completely burning out on the profession.  I still love literature.  I still love teaching… but I don’t know at this point if the abuse is worth it.

I know I’m a few days behind on my reflective teaching quest, but I have postponed it for the sake of reflective LIVING! After an exhilarating therapy session this week, I’ve realized that I am neglecting everything else in my life because I am so set on being the best teacher in the universe.  So, for tonight, I am Nikki.  Not Mrs. Rader.

Robert and I are about twenty years late to the Forks and Knives phenom; a few nights ago, we watched the documentary and, though we don’t ever intend to fully remove meat from our diets, we are committing to adding much more plant-based foods and meals.  By that, I mean, not every meal will have to be meat-centered and we don’t even have to attempt to eat meat every single day.  I do, however, have a b-12 deficiency to keep in mind so I will be extra careful to listen to my body.

Reflective Teaching Challenge: 30 Days of Blogging

Day 2: Technology!

Our school has some Chromebooks on back order for the students and teachers, said to be coming in November.  I’ve always been a Mac girl and spent much of last year learning new apps for educational purposes; however, this year, I’m excited to learn how to use Chromebooks and all of the Google tools associated, especially the collaborative pieces like Google classroom and Google docs.  Having enough self-confidence as far as management goes really helps me to give the students more freedom to collaborate on the laptops and Chromebooks; to peer edit or discuss ideas and elements, all of which can be formatively assessed because they are being documented.

I can’t wait to have these babies in our classroom!

Reflective Teaching Challenge – 30 Days of Blogging

I really want to attempt this 30 days of reflective blogging about teaching, however, I fear that my responses may not be the best because we are already four weeks into the school year! Regardless, I shall try my best and see what this will do for my writing and teaching.

Day 1 

Goals for the year:

As much as I hate to include standardized tests and EOCTs in a set of goals, I really would like to see a significant increase in these scores this year.  No, not all students that are naturally bright or have accomplished academic goals throughout the year will demonstrate their knowledge through a test score, however, part of my job is to prepare them to be better test-takers and that is evident in those scores.  A huge part of test-taking is being able to closely read a test question, and also having a large enough vocabulary index to understand these questions and answer options.

Along those lines, I want to see my students really use new terminology this year.  I want to see them get excited about expanding their vocabularies and using sophisticated terms in discussion and in their writing.

On a personal level, I want to be more thorough in my formative assessment, data collection, and re-teaching cycle.  I feel as though last year, I was too caught in my in exhaustion to analyze my students and to make the effort to re-teach when I saw poor grades or test scores, but this year, I really want to take the time to help even the lowest child master something.  Who knows, mastering even one thing might help him or her feel confident enough to make better connections and educated guesses.

There are many more, but they don’t need much elaboration:

-Affirm and award my students individually more this year
-Update my grades more regularly
-Conference more often with individual students
-Avoid attempts to “re-invent the wheel”… I’m not the first teacher, ever, nor should I work like I am
-Be more vigilant about discipline and follow through more consistently with behavior problems
-Keep work life and home life separate.  No need for the kids to be neglected because something’s going on at home and no need for my hubby to deal with classroom drama!

Here’s to a great year!

Three and a Half Weeks

I’ve been out of school/work for three and a half weeks now and, although I still have tons of packing to do, I am finally starting to get a little bored.  Have I done any planning, you ask? Have I accomplished much or even left the house, for that matter? Negative, ghost rider. 

As a first-year teacher experiencing her first summer of freedom since undergrad years, I am still basking in the loveliness that is a work-free and student-free summer.  Not even the education section of Pinterest has appealed to me yet…. yet. 

Oh, and packing, you ask? Well, I’ve tried to keep it a secret, but we’re trying to buy a house.  Trying, in that, we are currently in escrow and have had to delay closing due to construction.  Construction – yes! Lucky us, we Raders found an under-construction home in a sweet little established neighborhood downtown, a four-minute walk to the zoo.  Many a year ago, the former owners of the house next door had originally planned on building over the two lots, but when the city said nay, the lot proceeded to sit empty for the next umpteen years. The builder has been lazy as hell, to put it kindly, and thus, we are still waiting to close and move.  I’ve slowly been packing up our rental bungalow, but being in limbo makes that quite difficult.  Not to mention, the constant trips to stalk the progress of the house and our tiny menagerie of puppy and kitties.  

Our first house though… right!? I have been nervous and ecstatic for a few months and those emotions are starting to get exhausting.  Can I just relax and DIY my pretty little house already? 

It’s yellow, by the way.  With TWO toilets.  TWO.  We won’t even discuss the anticipation my oft-blocked bladder feels at the thought of never having to wait on a single bathroom again. 

And granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances… all of those things that House Hunters and the Property Brothers mention, that, to be quite honest, have very little meaning to me.  I just want it to be mine.  And for it to be pretty.  

Well, I’ve gone on long enough and I have big plans to take a long shower, exfoliate, and give myself a pedicure.  Will someone please remind me of this luxury come November when I want to tranquilize myself and my students with an elephant-sized dose of something? Or perhaps also in August when I realize that, oh crud, I haven’t done any planning and this month shall be a perpetual Sunday night?