Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Slump

For almost a year now I've heard the same phrase on a daily basis.

"I am kind.  I am smart.  And I am important."

Last January I had the privilege of doing my student teaching with one of the most wonderful mentors I could have ever hoped for.  She taught me so many valuable things.  Things that have become apart of me not only as a teacher but as a person.

Every day at the end of her lesson her students recite, "I am kind.  I am smart.  And I am important." After they recite the daily mantra they go around in a circle and tell her who they were important to. They can list as many or as few people as they want but it always has to end with them saying that they are important to her.

As I took over her classroom for several months I got added to the list of people they were important to.  And so everyday I would hear, "I am kind.  I am smart.  I am important.  And I am important to Miss Beth."

Now fast-foward.  Past graduation.  Past me getting my first real-life-real-adult job offer.  Past the most incredible summer filled with absolutely zero work and all travel.  Past the first month on the job.  Past new kids, new school, AMAZING new co-workers, and learning to go no longer by Miss Beth but by Mrs. Menlove.  Fast-forward to sometime end of October/early November, where all first year teachers hit that first year teacher slump.

They warn you well before that you will hit a slump.  Where you feel like nothing is working out and everything is falling apart.  I thought I would be immune to that slump.  But it hit me hard like a ton of fat heavy bricks.  And it was in that slump that I started to wonder what the heck I was doing. I started to wonder why I do what I do and if maybe I should have chosen something else as my career choice.

Because sometimes it would be really nice to sit in a fun little cubicle where everything is white, organized, and pretty.  Where no one coughs all over your water bottle.  Or tips over your Coke onto your expensive Paper Source desk calendar that you knew all along would probably get ruined.  Or gets smudgy little fingerprints all over your picture frames and asks to use your favorite felt tip pens continually.

And other times it would be even nicer to be able to wear something classy to work without getting boogers wiped on it.  Because what 1st grader carries around a tissue with them at all times?  I'll answer that for you.  None of them do.  That's why the side of my brand new dress is definitely the best option.

And then there are the times where I wish I could just leave work at work.  The times were I come home only to worry and think about how unfair life was for some of my students.  The Sunday nights were I felt so anxious wondering if my students would have a not-so-much-of-a-struggle-Monday than the week before.  The times when I wonder why can't I just do more for these kids?

I started to wonder if I should have done something where I could travel.  Or maybe something that was just more instagram worthy.  Maybe I should have done something more creative.  Something that brought on less stress.  Or maybe something that paid more.

This slump also came with the horrifying few weeks where it felt like literally nothing was working and everything that had been working had reversed itself.  No one was making progress.  Behavior problems were a daily occurrence.  And everything I had been trained to do seemed to fly out the window.  It was then that I truly wondered why I had ever convinced my sister-in-law to major in Special Education.

I started to feel honestly a little stupid.  I started to wonder if I had been fooled all along.  I had always thought I had picked a career I was completely and totally passionate about.  I had promised myself I wouldn't be like everyone else regretting what I had majored in.  I also started to wonder why I suddenly cared so much about the pay.  I had never cared about money before.  But suddenly I did.  Suddenly I felt like I was putting up with too much to get paid so little. To sum it up I just started to feel like a real big idiot.  A real big idiot who was super annoyed with everything.  

Fortunately, some time during those couple of weeks of annoyance and far too much self reflecting, my mentor teacher texted me.  She is one of those people who brought me a present my first week of work.  She is one of those people who continually makes sure everything is going alright.  She is the kind of mentor I hope to be one day.

We were chatting.  Swapping stories.  She was updating me on some of her kids I missed so much. I was telling her how I had survived my first IEP meeting and better yet my first reevaluation meeting.  And then she said something that would make me look at my job differently from that moment on.

"The kids miss you.  They have been asking when you are coming back.  They still always say, 'I am important to Miss Beth.'"

I will not lie.  I teared up just a little.  Actually to be honest I flat out cried.  Because they are absolutely right.  They are and will always be important to Miss Beth.

And that's when I realized why I do it.  That's when I realized why I am a Special Education Teacher. And that is when I realized why I will continue to be a special education teacher.  Not because it is glamorous.  Not because it pays amazing.  Not because it is easy.  And not because I work with the most amazing humans in the world (Even though I do.  I am spoiled rotten in that aspect).

I do it because I want my kids to know that they are kind.  That they are smart.  And that they are important.  And most importantly, that they are important to me.  Because every child needs to know they are important and if that is the only thing they learn in my class, I am perfectly fine with that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Best of the Phillippines

I expected the Philippines to be my least favorite country and it turned out to actually be my absolute favorite.  I would go back in a heartbeat.  What made the Philippines so fun was the variety of incredible activities.  Hiking one day, beach the very next, canyoneering another.  There are just so many islands jam packed so close together that you can truly experience a million different activities all within just a few weeks and a couple of twenty dollar flights. 

We began our adventure in the little town of Batad.  Batad is a tiny village nestled in the most stunning rice terraces.  There are no direct roads into Batad and therefore very few tourists make it to this amazing little laid-back town.  It was the perfect place to really get to know the locals and see their everyday lives.  

To get to Batad we took a nine hour night bus from Manila to Banaue.  This bus ride was probably one of the worser experiences of our two months in Asia.  Luckily Batad turned out to be one of my very favorite places so the sleepless, bumpy night was completely worth it.  

After those long nine hours we bargained with a local to take us in his "tuk tuk" to the top of a summit.  Our hour long tuk tuk ride about made my whole life.  Little did I know tuk tuks are about the most common form of transportation in South East Asia so we had plenty more tuk tuk rides to come.      

From the summit it was about another hour of hiking through the jungle down into the village of Batad. 

Tired and exhausted after days of flying and hours more of journeying we immediately found a little "hotel" up on the mountainside and took much needed nap.  When we woke up, we were absolutely pleased to find the view from our balcony was breathtaking.  Right then and there I decided I wanted to be a rice farmer.  

We spent the next few days hiking through and exploring every inch of the terraces.  Andrew was such a trooper.  Breaking his femur, hip, and pelvis only months before our trip, he spent the week hiking up those gigantic terrace steps with his cane.  I was thoroughly impressed seeing as I could barely make it up the hill to our hotel at night with two perfectly good legs.   

We loved Batad.  I mean how could you not with views like this.  And it didn't hurt that the people and the food were equally just as amazing.  Philippino pizza is top notch if you were wondering.  

Next up was the island of Palawan where we explored the beaches and smaller islands of El Nido. We decided to book a 3-day 2-night boat camping tour to see some of the best sites El Nido had to offer. 

El Nido was incredible.  Sandy white beaches and the clearest bluest water I have ever seen.  We spent all three of our days doing Andrew's very favorite activity... snorkeling.  It was quite literally his paradise.  

Originally I was a little worried about our boat camping tour.  It was far from luxury and extremely affordable.  Almost too affordable.  I began imaging us on a slightly sinking ship, eating nothing but rice every night for dinner, and roasting away in the hot hot sun.  But luckily our crew of three 17 year old boys named Mark, Cheeto, and Jonathan proved me completely wrong.   

From finding the best uninhabited beaches to camp on, to cooking gourmet meals every night, it was easy to love almost every minute of our little camping trip.  Except for the mosquitos.  Jungle mosquitos are probably the nastiest thing ever.  Oh and the man-eating rats.  Those were fun too.  Heard them scurrying around all night long.  So paradise with a side of mosquitos and rats but still absolutely amazing. 

Sorry not sorry it was too hot for pants.  A real life Sarah-and-Beth-never-took-off-our-fanny-packs moment.

Now here is the one downside of the Philippines.  Every adventure in paradise was sandwiched with an awful horrible day of traveling.  Sleeping in the gutter at three in the morning waiting for the airport to open was one of those less instagram worthy moments.  But it was all worth it right?  

Luckily, even after this wonderful restful night of sidewalk sleeping, the Philippines again proved itself to be even more amazing.  Just when we thought the snorkeling couldn't get any better we went to Moalboal.  A little diving town where we did some of the most incredible canyoneering, swam with the whale sharks, drank 20 cent mango shakes daily, and snorkeled our hearts out.

These creatures were magnificent.  Completely gentle but extremely terrifying because with one swipe of a fin you are toast.  Let's just say I got a little too close for comfort.  And by too close I mean a near head on collision.  Yikes. 

We ended our stay in the Philippines by visiting the Cebu ward which was truly one of my favorite experiences.  It was my first time attending church out of the country and it made me so dang excited to serve a mission when we are older.  The people were darling, so welcoming, and all told us to say hi to their missionary from Utah that converted them 15 years ago and live somewhere in West Valley, Draper, or Sandy.  Little do they know how large Utah is.  So if you converted someone in the Philippines a few years back big shout out to you!  They are still going strong in Cebu.  

Up next... Malaysia.  And if you haven't checked it out yet don't forget to take a look at Andrew's video capturing some of favorite moments from this crazy journey.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How We Traveled 2 Months in Asia for $40

Andrew and I both graduated from the University of Utah in May.  Woot woot!  To celebrate, we decided to take two months off before we got real people jobs, and travel through South East Asia with our favorite traveling buddies, Sarah and Pat.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I will forever love the memories we made during those two months.  

Ever since we got home, people have asked two questions.  First, how was it?  Second, how the heck did you afford to travel for two months?  Now before you continue reading this you must know Asia was far from glamorous.  We chose Asia specifically because we could get by so cheap for two months. And by cheap, I mean somewhere around $30-40 a day per person. Asia is as cheap as it gets and we could have lived like kings -- but the more money you save, the more places you can go, so we are all about that budget life.  So for all of you that have asked, here are the top six ways we saved money while traveling around Asia as a couple.

  1.  Points for Flights:  This isn't a novel concept but was by far the biggest money saver.  Saved us over $2,000 dollars.  We used points to book our flight to Asia making our flight basically free.  HECK YA!  Now if you are into points you know that a flight to Asia requires a lot of points.  Fortunately Andrew spends a lot of money for his company and then gets it all back when a job is done.  Basically free points.  We also have started to churn credit cards (Pat is the expert on this), meaning we open multiple new cards, reach the minimum spend, and get all those extra free points.  Just takes a little bit of management to make sure we don’t ruin our credit score but so worth it. A good card to look into for this is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

  2.  Setting Budgets within the Budget:  We not only set our $5,000 trip budget per couple ($2,500 per person), but we set budgets within that budget.  We had daily budgets.  We had a nightly housing budget.  Dinner budgets, breakfast budgets, and unfortunately Andrew even set me a treat budget.  But the more budgets you have the less likely you are to splurge.

  3.  Keeping a Running Money Total:  Big shout out to Sarah for her running money total throughout our trip.  This allowed us to monitor how much we were spending on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  This also helped us to decide which activities to splurge on and when it was time to save.

The tigers were SO WORTH THE SPLURGE.

And so were the elephants.  I could write a whole blog post about how much I LOVED the elephants.

  4.  Traveling in a Group of Four:  This was probably one of our bigger money savers.  If possible I highly recommend it.  Four is ideal because you fit in a taxi meaning the taxi price gets spilt four ways.  Four is also perfect for family rooms, which are so much cheaper than a private room and a little bit nicer than staying in the dorms.

  5.  Family Style Meals:  Three dishes spilt between the four of us lessened the cost of meals.  It also was a fabulous way to try all kinds of new dishes without worrying about ordering an inedible dish.  With three choices we were bound to get something decent.

  6.  Filtering Water:  When Sarah and Pat suggested it I was a little skeptical, but we use it for camping so why not for Asia?  Quick plug for my water filter… I love it.  It is efficient and works like a charm.  We’ve had it for over a year and haven’t gotten sick yet and we have filtered some pretty yucky water.  Anywho we saved tons of money because it eliminated the need to continually purchase bottled water.  Sure, some of the water tasted a little muddy and of course I absolutely loathed filtering at the end of the two months, but it was worth it. As a couple, this probably saved us around $300 over the two months we were traveling.

      And if you are wondering what that $2,500 got us, here is an awesome little video Andrew made documenting some of our favorite moments throughout the past two month.  

      Stay tuned for more highlights of each of the four countries we traveled too.  And if you also want to purchase a camping tool that will change your life click here and check out the best water filter eva.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Wedding Party

May 16th was one of the most perfect days in all of history.  Even though I am positive every bride says that about their own wedding day.  But it was truly a day I never wanted to end.    

When Andrew and I began planning our wedding reception we had a few requests.  Our first decision was that we were not having a reception... we were having a party.  And a party to us meant absolutely no line.  There was nothing that sounded worse to me than standing in a line for hours.  We wanted to celebrate.  Celebrate by spending time with the people we loved most and eating lots of really good food.  

We also requested that our party was an outdoor party.  Luckily, the Menlove's have the most stunning backyard.  And luckily, thanks to my mother's continual prayers, the weather was nothing but perfect.  Overcast.  Not too hot, not too cold.  And our final request was fire.  Our wedding had to involve fire because not only did our relationship begin with fire dancing but it was the way Andrew had proposed to me.  

Andrew and I have been blessed with the most amazing group of friends.  We are so grateful each and everyone of these great people spent the whole day partying with us.

And we are even more blessed with the most amazing families.

Missing our Katie.  Luckily her cardboard twin could attend and was the most popular guest there.

Andrew had one request.  Okay I lied... he had a few.  He wanted a medieval themed wedding complete with chickens, pigs, knights, horses, and a bounce house.  And as you can see that request didn't quite make the cut.  However, his other request was rootbeer floats.  Rootbeer was Andrew's first love and it began when he was a very small child so rootbeer floats was a must.  And what goes better with rootbeer floats than burgers?  Luckily my dad is best friends with the owner of Hire's Big H and so we ended up with the most amazing food I think there ever was at a wedding. 

All our darling grandparents

Probably the most darling and my very favorite guest to attend our wedding.

Andrew and I both share a hatred for too much frosting and so a naked cake was the most perfect solution.  Not only did it turn out stunning, it was delicious, and it matched that whole stripe thing we had going on.

So grateful that Tracy captured these moments.  The true Beth and Andrew captured below.

The battle for the bouquet.  The struggle is real.

My very favorite picture.  He is the most handsome groom I have ever seen.

I don't think I've ever cried harder.  And luckily there are zero pictures of me not sobbing during the daddy-daughter dance.  So grateful for my darling dad who gave me the party of my dreams.

Andrew has a knack for surprising me which is generally pretty hard to do considering I am the nosiest person on the planet.  But I about died of surprise watching these fireworks go off after our last dance.  Thanks to our groomsmen-fire-technicians for helping make that happen. 

And an even greater thanks to my very best friend who planned, prayed, crafted, baked, and made sure every little detail was absolutely perfect.

We ended the night with one last surprise for our guests.  After a few failed attempts the night before we came up with the perfect mixture of gasoline and oils to create the most grand exit there ever was.  Because lets be real an exit isn't grand if there isn't fire lining your path.  

One final thanks to my Uncle Mark for letting us drive his baby.
Our photographer Tracy Hill.
Our florist Christianne Cox.
Our band Stone Mountain.
Penelope for creating my dress.
And Chase Busath for the film that we cannot wait to see!