Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tightened Security

I am so sad that it took something like this as, even after our community lost one of its angels three years ago to an abduction (Somer Thompson--to know her was to love her), that it took place off of campus didn't seem to make security on campus a tad tighter.

My hope is that the school I'm at now, which from all angles I've seen, seems to resemble the layout of Sandy Hook, will become a closed campus for which parents need to be buzzed in.  For now, doors are closing and classroom doors are being locked.  Mine has always remained locked.  Any thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

EEEEK! My Observation is Coming!

 Okay, it isn't as though I'd normally be nervous so let me begin by putting that out there.  I mean, yes, anyone coming in with a clipboard and making marks in columns is unsettling nerve wracking, but I am NERVOUS with a capital NERVOUS!  It's for a few reasons, really.  It's a TERRIBLE time of year, as most of you know, to try and get a great assessment out of most because the kids are OFF. THE. CHAIN.  There, I said it.  They have  Christmahanakwanzikafeveritis. 
If that's not enough, many of them are missing about every other day because of the schmeg that's going around, so the building onto my lessons is missing a few legs of the framework for those students.  I also have a new AP who will be observing me and she doesn't really know much about me or my teaching style (that I know of, but I'm sure that she does her homework).  She had another teacher in tears last week because the teacher was meeting standards on many of her points and she wasn't used to that.  But that is the thing, it's also a new observation tool.  In Florida, we have gone to a new tool about which our administrators have been drilling into our heads at faculty meetings that its is EXTREMELY difficult to exceed the standards.  Ummmmm, that's not acceptable!  I've been working so much harder and (I'd like to believe) smarter this year to come up with something, ANYTHING that will work with the 'difficult-to-describe-in-just-one-post' groups I have this year.

Higher order thinking?  Not natural for them.  Self control?  Only when they feel like it.  Respect for the tall people (adults) in the school?  Maybe next week, but it's not looking good.  2013 doesn't seem to be in their immediate plans for that either.  Most of this, I've opted to handle with Whole Brain Teaching and Daily Five Instruction using an incorporation of Reader's Workshop and Guided Reading as well.  I'm spinning my wheels here to get it all in.

Now, the reason that all of this is stressing me out (on top of the fact that I have been sick and have low energy anyway) is because this is the first year using this observation tool in this way and this is also my last year in our district.  SO, depending on how this observation goes, it could have a positive or a negative affect on my job hunt for next year in a different district in Florida, five hours away (where my reputation as a dedicated educator does not matter).  My fate lies in the hands of my munchkins.

Oh well, all I can do is my best and hope that it goes well at this point.  I'm pretty sure sleeping is going to be out of the question for the night anyway.

Anyone else have any observation entertaining stories to ease my troubled mind?

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dork and Wimpy Kid Woes

Hey there gang!  I am wondering if I can get some feedback from some many y'all (hey, I live in the south and 'when in Rome', right?).  When you're in the workshop model, do you dictate the type of books that your children read?  I typically have them reading from a chapter book on their level but have run into a lot of Diary (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries) readers.  Do you feel like you're getting well thought out, higher-order-thinking-type responses from your children that actually apply the skill taught in the mini-lesson?  I feel like I'm at a crossroads and am really not wanting them to read those while applying the skill, but then at the same time it means I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth because it is, by definition, a chapter book and they're leveled at or near the child's level (EXCEPT it does NOT follow the five-finger rule).

What are your thoughts?  Do you allow your children to read the comic book style chapter books for mini-lesson application?
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Behavior Overhaul

I am embarrassed that I even have to admit this, but I had to COMPLETELY change my behavioral plan.  I've been teaching about ten years now and can honestly say that I've never felt that my classroom management was a weak area in need of development.  I run a tight ship and my kids and their parents know that.  I also adore my little monsters and do everything with the best of their interests in my heart.  I care about them as miniature humans and that is never questioned by anyone who spends any time around me with my students.

That all being said, I have been spinning my wheels with a majority of my children this year.  My rules and the enforcement of them have been (what feels like) a huge joke to them and them showing respect to myself and other adults on campus is the punchline.  That has to be the case.  Why else would they continually interrupt me or stop me, mid-sentence while giving directions, to ask me about something completely unrelated OR about something that I haven't gotten to yet because I am still going over the assignment/expectations?

Care for an example?  Perhaps that would help to build perspective.  We have a library slot on Fridays at the end of the day.  I get my homeroom back at 2:10, and we have library from 2:10-2:25 with dismissal at 2:42.  This would leave me about 17 minutes to get a quick social studies lesson either started or finished. So last week, I am rushing them all into my room at the end of the day and reminding them that this is our only time all week to get to the school library to exchange books. "Please go into the room, set your things down, and immediately line back up to go to the library.  Remember, if you are renewing your book you need to grab it because we have returned the other books already."

Now, as I'm greeting the children back into the room, I have a child who has stopped me twice to try and ask/tell me something. I have told him both times that now was not the time because I have to get everyone to the library and back.  The children are attempting to get in line to go (by now it is 2:20) and yet another young man walks over to me as I am giving verbal reminders to interrupt me and ask me something.  I don't even remember what it was because I stopped him mid-interrupting-the-teacher-sentence to ask him if this was something that I absolutely HAD to keep 21 other children from going to the library for or could it wait until I get back.  He's attempting to tell me that it could wait when from the other side of the room, the first interrupting child shouts (not exaggerating, it literally startled me), "YES!"

I look at the other child, mouth agape, I'm sure, and ask him what it was.  "I left my lunch box on the playground!"

*DEEP's Friday after all*

I wasn't even sure where to start because so many responses were running through my head as this fifth grader felt it was imperative I keep books out of the hands of 22 children (including him) so that he could go get his lunch box on the playground.  I am not even kidding you when I say that I saw three hands fly up to the mouths of the children muffling their laughs because this was wildly inappropriate in the given setting.  I turned to my line leader and said, calmly and oh so defeated, "Go, please."

Now, as the majority of the children are leaving the room, another sweet face raises her hand..."It can't wait?"  She says, "Can I bring my own book to read at the library since I'm not checking anything out?"  Uhhh, yeah, I think the library is a safe place to bring a book to read, I thought to myself.  "Yes, please do," I actually said.

I mentioned the time for a reason.  We have lunch with our first period groups.  First period ends at 12:10.  It had been out there for over two hours and he needed to go out RIGHT NOW to go get it.  After we got back to the classroom I sent him with two students, my keys, and a walkie talkie because this is at dismissal time and they would not be going where teachers would be standing.  It was gone--probably at the Lost and Found--but here's the kicker.  He was going DIRECTLY PAST THAT PLAYGROUND on his way home.  UGH.

Oh and Ps, the OTHER child with a pressing interruption...he had a club to stay after school for and he wasn't sure which line he'd need to go to.  After library.  After social studies.  At dismissal.  In 30 or so minutes.  I think my liver is starting to hurt just thinking about all of that again.  And THAT, my friends, was a Friday.

I know that doesn't sound like a very big deal, and it really isn't.  If it were isolated.  However it is not.  My entire days have been filled with a series of moments just like that.

Sooooo, I researched what I could be doing wrong. After all, if you continue to do the same thing and expect different results and all...

I put on my big girl pants and decided to change what had been working (very well, I might add) for nine years.  What I've decided on is Whole Brain Teaching.  I am still kind of terrified going into it (I started on Monday) but it seems to be that at least 1/3 of my children are embracing it with open arms and welcoming smiles.  That's a start and it's more than they gave me at the beginning of the school year one short long month ago.  *sigh*

How about you all?  Any words of the wise that you can share or positive experiences with WBT that will be encouraging?  I just can't lose another month of instruction trying to get these munchkins to value what I do and who I am so that I can complete a sentence...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2008-2009 to 2012-2013 Classroom Evolution

Phew!  We are one week into our school year, Orientation is over and went off without a hitch (worth mentioning, anyway), and the students have paid 4 of their 180 days' debt to society as fifth graders in my classroom *giggle*.  I've made quite a few changes this year and they really were more a product of the past four years' experiences.

I initially planned on doing my reveal today, but I have a few things that I finished up this weekend that I was going to take to school and hang first, so that will have to be my next post.

Obviously (based solely on the title of my blog), I have had a beach theme in the past.  That hasn't so much changed as it has evolved into more than just a beach theme.  It's also opening the door for me to transition into potentially changing the theme one day.  You know, if I win the lotto, get a wild hair, AND decide that I have nothing but time to dedicate to the cause.  I don't anticipate that happening ANY. TIME. SOON.

So, the evolution was caused by the team-teaching-turned-six-partner-switch that has occurred over the five years we've been working at OVE.  There have been a lot of changes, some good and others not-so-much, as far as the fifth grade team goes.  From the first year that we opened, out of a team of 8 (9 if you count our ESE Teachers, and I always do), only three of us remain.  *FROWN*  However, we've gotten the opportunity to make a lot more friends that way.

Short story EVEN LONGER, our grade level has been color coded since the first year we opened.  I was chose pink because red was already taken by the teacher who brought the idea from her former school--not being too big a fan of pink at the time, I have adapted MARVELOUSLY *patting myself on the back in an over-the-top-kinda-way*!  The first two years, I worked with Mrs. Teal (one of the originals ;)) and her color was...wait for it...TEAL!  For obvious reasons--though her favorite color was purple and happens to be my LEAST liked color (I detest purple and have no idea why)--and I am glad she went with her last name for the coding.  After that, my principal split us up to put two (what she called) seasoned teachers with two teachers who needed seasoning.  Hehehe, that part I rephrased.  My new partner, Mrs. Devine, was fairly new to teaching and I was excited because I conned convinced asked her to come to OVE when she was surplussed from GPE our first year of opening (she is the only other teacher that remains with us from the first year on our grade level).  Maureen (Devine)'s color choice was LIME GREEN.

NOW, we are split up in the grade level.  One partnership has the inclusion class and one mixed ability class (heterogeneous, if you will).  We remaining six have our homerooms, to whom we teach social studies, and then two homogeneous groups in our departmentalized subject areas.  For those who are new (and honestly, I'm not sure if I've even mentioned it yet), I teach language arts and reading to two blocks a day.

Last year was the first year that we did this and I really think that it went well.  I got the opportunity to work with five other teachers rather than just one, and also got the chance to know even more students rather than just the 44 I would have taught.

The color coding within my group began at that time with the three colors, as I was only using two in the previous years.  I had all of these left over teal and lime green storage  bins and areas, so it was just a natural color selection.  It wasn't all that obvious last year, but this year (and largely due to Pinterest and my constantly expanding blog reading/following) it took on a whole new dimension.  When former students returned to my room during Orientation to say hi--which I get VERY excited about because my babies leave the school after fifth so I don't get to see them in the hallways like other grade levels get to--they were oohing and aahing over the changes.  One student in particular, who I ADORE and taught the first year, said to her mom, "Mrs. Van Kampen has upgraded since I was in her class."   :D We had quite the giggle over that.

Well there you have it--I started using a beach theme, and it grew and grew for a few years and then this year I abruptly added a LOT of lime green and teal to my already pink accents and storage areas.  I am including a link to last year's sneak peek so that you can see the "before" from just a year ago.  My next post will have this year's updated (or upgraded, hehehe) look.

2011 Sneak Peek

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Organizational OCD

I am sure this is a common ailment for many teachers, but I suffer from a bad case of Organizational OCD.  I'm not naturally organized, I have to work very hard at it, so I've become obsessed with baskets and bins to assist me in my endeavor to become organized.

That being said, I'm sure many of you have seen the rolling carts with the primary colors for storage, but if not, they look like this:
I bought them at Sam's Club for the lowest price I'd ever seen them.  Normally they are around $80 but Sam's had them for $25 so I bought two for my classroom.

 Now, unfortunately, they do not really go with the color scheme in my classroom, so I busted out the scrapbook paper and modpodge and VOILA:

Well, I decided that I'd really wished that I'd gotten some for home in my craft room/office so I went back with my fingers crossed they'd still have some and thankfully they did!  YAY! 

I think that warming up my craft muscles on the first two sets was a good idea because my set for home turned out just a tad different. Hehehe

As you can see, this time I gave them a COMPLETE overhaul using spray paint (creme and chalkboard) as well as some stencil and paint on the top.   I wanted to match them to these ADORABLE storage bins I found at Michael's last year.  

FYI: I thought that in the past I had seen these for around $70-80 but got curious and looked at a couple of teacher supply sites to see if I remembered correctly.  I did...kinda: School Aids has them for $99.99.  Now, I mean no disrespect towards School Aids, but WHOOT WHOOT!  I FINALLY got a deal when I thought I was getting a deal!  Now, that being said, I TOTALLY fell for a sales pitch on some carpet cleaner while I was there the second time, but that was only $40 and it DOES clean...just not NEARLY as well as this knucklehead told me it would.  Oh well.  I STILL SAVED MONEY!  

Curious again, after hearing that one of my colleagues went to our local Sam's Club to get some after seeing mine last week and they were sold out, I looked online at their website to see if you could order them and have them delivered to the store.  To what will likely be her dismay, but to my relief that I was not wasting a rare opportunity to get these so cheap,  they are selling them online at Sam's for $66.83.  To their credit (yeah, not-so-much), that does include shipping. ;)

Well, I need to my classroom so have a SPECTACULAR Sunday!

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Word Wall Cursive Alphabet Letters

Good afternoon! I am sure that many of you are doing what I've been doing lately...preparing for another school year.  My summer was crazy busy so by the time I was done taking care of the litter of pups and getting them into their new homes, I had exactly 6 weekdays of summer to be "off."  Sheesh!  Don't get me wrong, they're a blessing to be around even though it was nonstop work, but they are now a blessing to their fur-ever mommies and families now.

As I was taking inventory and beginning the set up of my room this week, I got to my Word Wall letters.  They are super duper cute, but they were in print and it reminded me of last years' students often asking me how to write something in cursive.

So, to avoid that this year, I have created a new set using a cursive font.  I've continued my beach theme (because I simply cannot imagine the amount of money it would cost to change my theme at this point) but also really added a lot more pops of color in my color scheme of bright fuchsia, teal, and lime green.  But to make it quick and easy, I used the Just So Scrappy Lil' Red Brag Book Pages found here.

You can get your own copy here:
Cursive Alphabet

That's all for now!  I'm heading to my room to work on the chaos I left behind two days ago. :)
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Shopping Linky!

You can imagine my sheer delight when I realized that someone was doing a linky that, despite my absence from writing (I was DEFINITELY still reading your blogs) posts, I can STILL participate it!  :D WHOOT!

Okay, beginning with Oriental Trading Company I loaded up on some flip flop/beachy items for gift bags next year.  I had a total of 51 students this year with three groups that I taught and some from my homeroom also being in either my first or second period reading classes.  That got REAL expensive when purchasing items throughout the year.  NOW I have pencils, stampers, key chains, erasers, and bracelets to give to my munchkins for next year:
I downloaded these last year, but never got around to making bracelets so I'm excited to have purchased bracelets from Oriental Trading that will work!  <source>

 I believe I got these at the Dollar Tree, but I can't be sure.  I was SO excited to see them and am not sure just how I will incorporate them into my them/gifts, but I know that they are GREAT FUN (yes, actually, I have always been easily entertained...why do you ask?) to blow up.

I don't remember where I got the salt water taffy, but I've seen it incorporated into other beach themes and somehow escaped me as an option.  NO MORE! ;)

Target purchase on sale

AC MORE--I've spent several weeks picking these adhesive embellishments up to add to my Tuesday Folders.  I've hot glued brads (and in many instances, some of my skin cells from my fingertips) and they will be added to my Nicky Folders which are used for weekly communication.  I add the behavior sheet to the middle so that it doesn't get lost among papers that need to stay home or be returned to school.

Dollar Tree purchases that will likely go in my rewards bin

On sale at AC More and I will either attach them to pencils or Tootsie Roll Pops for small birthday treats

I just ordered these from Pick Your Plum, too.  I'm not sure how I'm going to use them, but at that price, I couldn't wouldn't resist!
I also ordered these from Pick Your Plum and am undecided if I will use them to make Christmas or Mother's Day gifts with my students. Again, a GREAT price...I just LOVE that site!
Probably not last, and CERTAINLY not least, these are shower curtain hooks that I'm hoping will hold clipboards onto my ledge of my white board.  This will be a potential student display area! :D

Well, I believe that's all for now..."for now" kinda worries me there because the summer has only just begun!  Ah well, such is the life of a teacher, eh?  What have YOU bought so far?
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Monday, June 11, 2012

My "Sabbatical" is Over!

Let me begin with my sincerest apologies for not writing in so long.  It's been...extremely hectic and overwhelming with my personal life so in the times when I would have normally written, I was dealing with the sucker punches that life was handing me.  Everything appears to be on the upswing now and for that I am extremely thankful.  Our family had some very scary challenges but God has pulled us through.

Thank you all for not giving up and for keeping me on your "following" lists.  I am hoping to get some posts up to share with you anything that may be of use from the past several months so bear with me and I will try to get my blogging schedule back to normal.  Until then, feel free to check out my class website.

I hope that you are all enjoying your summers.  I am on my second day off but have had my 9 year old niece for a little over a week so it has felt like vacation has been longer than that.  Can't complain about that, right?

Well, I'm off to tend to our 8 puppies (one of my unexpected challenges was that my Golden Retrievers managed--despite my efforts to avoid it--to breed again).  Have a GREAT Monday!
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Monday, February 20, 2012


I just stumbled on the biggest timesaver for classroom library management.  It's a website that works with my iPhone and iPad to scan in the ISBN codes of my books and then, after entering my students names and numbers, the children can check my classroom library books out and then back in with the classroom libraries.  It.  Is. AMAZING!  Check it out here:  Classroom Booksource, sign up for a free account, download the free app, and SCAN ON!  I am in love!  ♥♥♥
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Colleagues (Friends) and Compliments

I, along with 12 other staff members, received this email today and it just made my day.  Isn't it nice when we are paid genuine compliments by people we respect very highly?  Anyway, just thought I'd share. Rose hit the nail on the head as the people she sent this to really do show their support to our children in so many after school events/performances.

"Hello former GPE’ers,
As I was adding up the t-shirt sizes for Jump Rope for Heart, I noticed something. 20 people paid/donated their $40 to get their shirt early, lunch and slime.  Out of those 20 people, 13 of us came from GPE with Ms. Wyant. (she only brought 16 of us with her)  It could be one of two things…..we will do or pay anything to stay at this school and not go back to GPE (J) OR Ms. Wyant did a great job in picking who she brought with her.  I believe option 2 is the correct one.  I still feel like we get looked down upon because we came from GPE, but the truth is, all of us that came from GPE are the backbone of this school.  We are the ones going to the different school functions supporting our kids.  I am extremely proud of you guys and where we came from and you all are the best at what you do.  I don’t give compliments very often but I am honored to work with each and every one of you.  Thanks for all you do and all the support you’ve given me and our school.

I'm going to follow that up with a huge thanks to my blogging friends and colleagues because there have been times when you gave just the lift that I or another blogger needed as well.  YOU ALL ROCK!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Data Driven Panic

Sooo, after the last test my students took to guide instruction and give an idea of performance, we had a team meeting letting us know how to interpret said results and where to go from there.  As much as I look at the numbers and interpret the data, I just want to put this out there...if you have access to your test items/questions, PLEASE make sure that you're looking at what your students are being asked.

I think in the grand scheme of things, sometimes we forget that no matter the level of intelligence/skill, these test are still written by humans.  Humans are still known to err.  It happens and we all catch it on our occasional assignments and/or answer keys.  TRUST YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND INSTINCTS and ALWAYS double check.  It truly can be such a relieve to realize that a question or answer choice was poorly worded.

Hang in there, check, double check, and TRUST that you're doing your best when you are.  For some reason, I felt it necessary to put that out there and I hope it brings comfort to someone who needs to read it.
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Loooong Week

I am sooooo glad it's Friday--this week has been jam packed with report cards, committee meeting, team meeting, flipped schedule (two days), data meeting, district spelling bee, and today we finish off with our grade level awards ceremony.  OH, and yesterday my husband left for Falon, NV for a week "or two" for work.  :(

PHEW!  Thank goodness for the goodness of Martin Luther King, Jr and Monday off (certainly the Monday off is just an added bonus for all of the wonderful changes he inspired and caused in our nation), because I am hoping needing to get caught up!  Anyone else feeling like an anvil was dropped on them this week?

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Deep Breath...I'm Gonna Do It!

I'm going to take the challenge!  I have what I like to refer to as "Organized Chaos" going on in my room and I am finally in the first stage of recovery.  I am admitting that I have a problem.  SO, I'm counting on the Clutter Free Classroom to lead me out of the dark, dismal clutter-filled dungeon.  Lead on, Strong Leader! 
This is my desk--though I rarely sit here, it is  the first unpacking zone of my morning.

This isn't bad as I just had to completely reorganize it before Christmas when one of the shelves gave  under the weight and spilled everything onto the floor.  

Cleaning basket on the floor for quick touch-ups.  I also just added that.  These used to be across the room under the sink.

BONUS!  My inbox was actually cleaned out on Friday before I left school.  :)

This is my actual work area/meeting area.  This is unpacking zone number two.  By the end of the day, this table is usually covered.  I can't explain it.  :(

On the stool I have all of the Scholastic Book Orders that filled my mailbox when I returned from break.  Why are they here?  No idea.  I am not sure what I'm going to do with them yet so it seemed as good a place as any, I suppose. The pink bin is how I file all of the papers that need to be returned to my reading groups.  That is actually organized and ready to disperse tomorrow in our Tuesday Folders. WHOOT!  

Another angle of my work table.

My library is in a state of...well let's just say it's in a state.  I started with the best of intentions, too, but I am still struggling with a way to ensure that the books will be returned to their proper place when a student is finished.  When I find them in the wrong places (desks, cubbies, random places in the room), I place them on a shelf to be reshelved.  Oy--that's a mouthful.

I just did some reorganization here on Friday to put the station activities in those new magazine holders from Target.  I apparently got distracted because you can see the leftovers on the chair.

The leftovers.

The shelves above my sink--not too bad.

I just moved the pillows over here b/c they were on the bottom shelves of my library and I decided that I needed those shelves for...BOOKS!  Whodathunkit?

Not bad...

This needs some attention.  It has cups, plates, mouthwash, standardized testing copies, and treats.  A bit of  a mix that makes no sense.  I should mention that I don't use these cups or plates for anything.

My writing station--not bad.  The only reason the crayons are there is because that is where I keep my stragglers and I have a plan for those using a Pinteresting idea for Valentine's Day.  ;)

Believe it or not, I've actually gone through this basket MANY times.  I have most of those copies in digital files.  Someone please tell me to recycle them?

Intended organization going slightly awry...  The folders are mostly empty, the manilla envelope is for a student who withdrew and I want all of her stuff together for when I receive her withdrawal packet.

Rarely used nonfiction resources.  I have such a hard time getting my students to choose books from over there, but you put them in the school library and they head straight to the informational books.  Bizarre.  I think I need to make it look more appealing.  I am also thinking about getting rid of the magazine rack and all of the contained magazines.  They. Are. Never. Used.

Another failing attempt at being organized.  If only I didn't have the attention span of a PUPPY! :(

And so begins the tour of my closet.  I am SO glad that this door not only shuts, but also locks.  I have made a very honorable attempt at being organized here, but it's those moments when I have to put something away quickly or those days when I can't get to it (for putting it in its appropriate place, anyway) and then INTO the dungeon/closet it goes.  :(

I can't even make excuses for what you're seeing here.

Though I know what is in each of the pink-lidded bins, I think I need to finish labeling them to feel good about them.

Buddy Read books.

Many of those portfolios are empty and the rest are storing things that I.  NEVER.  USE!  Ahem...RECYCLE THEM, KRYSTAL!!!

Hey, it's a way to store charts. ;)

Yeah--no idea, no excuse.

UGH!  Deeper in, and definitely darker!

Please don't judge me for the tops of my filing cabinets.  Again, tucked in the closet and I'm reverted back to the peek-a-boo game of childhood where, if I can't see it, it isn't there.  Hmph!

Now, as bad as this looks, this is where I store all of my empty gift bags, wrapping paper, and totes.   Certainly there's a better way...

This is actually organized!  WHOOT!

SO that's it...and now that I'd like to go bury my head in the sand, I can only hope...that there is still hope for me.

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