Christmas 2015

This Christmas Team Whitaker did something totally off the reservation. We went on a cruise rather than the usual Christmas adventures. Love the extended family and all the Christmas fa-la-la-la, but I am sure we’re going to make this an every other year event for sure.

The skinny:

  • 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean
  • Booked way back in July so the trip was paid for and ready back in October
  • Drove to Florida rather than fly so we could enjoy the ship a little more

 

My thoughts over all. I am going to start with the bad, cause I had to think the hardest to find something that wasn’t great.

Bad:

  • No wi-fi (Later on this is going to be a good thing)
  • I left our chargers in the car. Thankfully a lady loaned me one and that kept the party rolling.
  • The beverage package, I enjoy my Starbucks daily, were out of line!
  • I had to make a concerted effort to drink enough water and I didn’t do a good job at that.
  • The Wind Jammer cafe wasn’t jamming.

So-so:

  • There were some super windy days.
  • I didn’t schedule a regular dinner reservations ahead of time. I won’t make that mistake again.
  • The RC cruise cup is a real bonfide hustle! $22 dollars a day for adults and $15 for kids PER DAY! That was going to break down to something like $200+ for these cups to get unlimited drinks.  I did break down and get a cup for myself and shared it with the family. If I had brought my own travel cup I would’ve been A-OK. (It did get my free Starbucks, but we’ll talk about that later, too)
  • The 1st night the ship was rocky! I think it had something to do with how windy it was. Both just seemed really odd.
  • It was my choice to travel during Christmas, but if you’re someone who likes the snowy, wintery feel of Christmas time-this isn’t your trip. The ship was decorated perfectly. However, it still didn’t feel Christmasy. This might be what it’s like for other parts of the world who don’t have the winters we have in the States.
  • Though it’s “off season”, the ship was still full. Lots of fun people watching.

The Good/Great/Awesome:

  • I hope this blog gets seen my RC higher ups. I want to give big props to the staff of the Freedom of the Seas. They were outstanding.
    • Stateroom attendant-AMAZING!
    • Main Dinning room Staff-Spectacular. They remembered my girls names and their drinks. They were kind and listened to Taylor ramble on about being Bat Girl.
    • The Espresso on the Promenade-may have stole the entire cruise for me. The Starbucks team was amazing. And I can be super picky about my SB, but Janet, John and that team were outstanding. I only regret that I didn’t stop by Sunday on my way off ship to say good bye.
    • The entire staff were very kind and always looked the part. I know you can’t always be on your A-game, but every time I met someone they were smiling and had a cheery voice. Good on your Royal C!
    • Assata, a member of the entertainment staff, appointed Trina the BINGO Mascot.  Trina was able to assist with raffles and even was included in game.
  • No wifi! I spent the 1st two days getting used to my phone not getting notifications and me feelings as if I “had” to check in. We did find a few wifi cafes at port, but if I hadn’t found them it would’ve been ok. It was a forced detox from technology.
  • Reading books isn’t a lost art. Sitting on the deck people watching, I noticed a lot of people with thick novels reading. Not a lot of e-readers or tablets. Lots of reading going on. Now when we all got to port and had access to cell networks it was life as normal.
  • Cabin size was perfect for Team Whitaker. Next time though, the girls are getting their own room. Or next time I am going to spring for a suite. Those things are HUGE!
  • The food was amazing! I wasn’t impressed with the open buffet, The Wind Jammer. However, the restaurants on ship made up for it in spades. Great service and excellent food. Each night my girls got to try out a new food. From escargot to lobster tail. They tried it all.
  • I am not the guy who has to swim every time I see a pool. My girls do want to swim all the time. So relaxing by the pool wasn’t happening all the time.
  • The on-board TV programming is fun. My kids discovered old 1960-70’s cartoons on ToonCast. Couldn’t get them to turn it off.
  • Our cabin was located close to the forward and it was PERFECT. The spray from the ocean didn’t reach us and it was high enough to see for miles and miles.
  • I know everyone wants to go on a Disney Cruise. I am not a big Disney fan. Royal Caribbean has partnered with  DreamWorks. I’d suggest that if you’re saving your money to pay a premium for a Disney cruise that you look into a Royal Caribbean as well.
    • Top tier kids activities
    • Very kid/family friendly activities for all
    • Movies, games and shows directly for the kids
    • Everyday the kids could meet DW characters
    • All this was free, no up charge or premium
  • The Ship’s compass (on board news paper) is the best. There’s so much to do on the ship. You would have to try to be bored on this cruise.
  • The ports of call Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel were amazing. Lots to see, do and experience. You can tell that a lot of time went into making each one of these memorable.
  • 7 days were perfect. Actually, I would be open to a longer cruise. If a shorter one is what’s in the budget, do it! If you can spare the change go for a 7 day cruise. The “at sea” days are a precious gift. You don’t feel compelled to go ashore and you know that from Aft to Forward there’s stuff for the family to do. So if you decided to sit o the balcony for 4 hours and think it’s ok.
  • I did a great job packing for the trip. Two formal nights almost got me, but I was ready.  Be sure to check your dress code registry for the main dining room.

A few more ideas:

  • Bring a water bottle or canister. You’re going to want water far more than the beverages on the ship.  Though the readied availability of soda, tea and coffee is amazing, I needed water.
  • If you have kids or a lot of family, get some walkie talkies! You won’t regret it.
  • The earlier the better the later the greater. If you don’t have a scheduled dinning time go to breakfast early and dinner late. The dinning rooms aren’t nearly as full early and late. Most people are on vacation and want to sleep in.
  • You can make your own dinner reservations and it’s just like having a scheduled time. We even had the same table 5 out of the 7 nights.
  • Get a room with a balcony! Nuf said.
  • The ship will give you Dramamine patch if you suffer from motion sickness.
  • If you’re going to the ports of call with the intention of chilling and relaxing, soaking up some rays, I suggest that you get off the ship as soon as you can find a spot on the beach and start soaking. By the time I got to the beach, I was ready to nap and head back. Should’ve stayed longer.
  • Pack early so you have time to change out or add stuff as needed.
  • RC encourages you to not pack your medications, but put them in a carry-on.  I thought no need for that, but my wife thought differently.  I am glad she did.  A little bag of trusty go-to’s such as Aleve, Mucinex, Pepto, and Ricola were all appreciated by someone in our stateroom at least once.
  • Get your passports early. The stress of traveling would only be increased by not having all your passport info in place.

This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been heading into New Year’s. My mind is clear and I’m looking forward with great expectations. Now, if I can find a set of walkie talkies, I can book our next trip!

 

 

 

And so it begins

This school year started off with very little fan fair. That’s a good thing, trust me. I’m OK with easing into gear and a slow take off to cruising altitude. Let’s look at the current state of affairs.

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The Exciting

  • I have 15 students. Most are of Hispanic descent.

  • I have more boys than girls in my class. I like my class theme. Whitaker’s Bookstore. The kids seem to like it as well.

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    Day 1 room configuration

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Another shot of Day 1 room set up

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Now that we know how to do let’s change the room around to allow you to move better.

  • Reading and getting everyone to read on level is HUGE and at this very moment almost the only thing that matters.

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

  • I have some spirited students, but everyone else knows why they come to school and are ready to work.

  • My new school is SUPER supportive. Lots of support staff ready to help in any way.

  • I’ve met almost all my parents. Some don’t speak English, but I have me them.

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    Thanks for all the great supplies to stock our class for learning!

  • That being said EVERY parent has brought me a huge bag of classroom supplies. Yahtzee!

  • My team is six deep. Never had that many co-workers on a grade level. Lots of good ideas and mind share.

  • The ethnic mix of teachers/students and staff is cool. Not all one ethnic group or even gender. Lots of males in my school.

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Aren’t we adorable?

  • 1st grade is GREAT! They’re so small and funny. Kinda remind me of my own DD2 in size.

The Kinda Big Deal

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My lunch box and water bottle take up my entire rolling cart. Sup wit dat?

  •  I don’t feel l have a full grasp on my daily schedule. Praying every second no one does a “walk through” on me.

  • It’s a LONG school day. 6:25 – 3:45 is a thing for sure. Add in Coaching or Training at CFSC and I’m wore out by days end.

  • I am not eating enough and sometimes I find myself going  long stretches of time sans food. Not a good idea at all.

  • Though my school is considerably closer to my house. I still have a lot of turns to make so it ends up being 15-20 minutes.

  • I get paid once a month. That’s odd. But let’s just praise God that I GET PAID!

  •  I can’t use most of the charts I made in my previous school. Can I sell ’em?

OMG! It’s time to freak out!

I can’t have a fridge in my class! I’ve spent 30000 man hours trying to find a reasonable cooler I can bring with my everyday. (It’s really that big a deal, trust me.)

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Yeah, my lunch box is big. What’s it to ya!?

This year is off to a great start. I know there will be some hiccups along the way, but I’m very pleased with the start. Now, if I could find a Yeti cooler for sale.

 How’s your year starting off?

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No more 2nd grade for me. 1st grade has stolen my heart.

Am I on the wrong side of the War?

 

This video sincerely voices my concerns for the boys in my class. I’ve always said that “school wasn’t made by a boy”. The very structure of MY class doesn’t encourage boys and really restricts them. That’s right I include myself. I’m just as guilty of trying to get my students to do exactly what I couldn’t do when I was 7-8 years old.

The part that struck home more than anything in this video was helping boys become readers. Every week we go to the media center and grab a new book to read. And just like following a script my girls get fiction feeling books while my boys get non-fiction books about snakes, cars or records. I didn’t think about how much they’re telling me with their book selections. Even when they’re allowed to go online with little direction most of them find material that’s about animals, cars, and the such. I have to do a better job of letting my male students be, boys.

The way school is organized it almost requires that I (a big boy) have to require these 10 boys do what they’re not even wired to do. However, the 6 girls in my room are almost perfect according to my classroom set up. I’m an accomplice!

My one area of concern is a missing cog in this machine. Parenting. The video didn’t seem to address any of the parenting methods that add, subtract or create some of the battlegrounds that boys must compete. We certainly need to discuss all our roles in helping boys be boys along with being functional parts of society.

I have to research and read more on how to organize my class to be more Boy Friendly. What do you think about this? Do you notice any differences in our society in regards to boys? Let’s talk about it.

 

This has ZERO to do with teaching

You know that recently I finished my CrossFit level 1 cert. That was so much fun and it took a huge thing off my “to do” list. Now I’m focusing on a much healthier Jason. I really, truly do my best to be an easy going guy. I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, but I’m getting there. One thing that keeps me sane is prepaing my food. I know it’s a small thing for most of us. I can’t eat school lunch under any circumstances. I’ve gone an entire day sans food, because I just can’t bring myself to get food from the cafe. I have been known to eat cole slaw from there in years past, but we’ll talk about that later.

For the last month I’ve been doing a major “meal prep” on Saturday or Sunday night. (This week I’m going to do it while cooking out for Labor Day.) This is a serious undertaking. I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for myself for 5 days and my wife lunch for 5 days. It’s much easier than it sounds. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned.

  • Follow Meal prep blogs. You can get a ton of neat ideas from Instagram.
  • Buy a good set of plastic wear or glassware for carrying your lunch in. Plastic isn’t the choice, but if you’re on a budget it’s what you may have. Glass is better of course. But it’s more expensive.
  • Incorporate your MP in with your normal cooking. I adore my Big Green Egg and it obliges me to cook all my meal prep every weekend. Cooking outside has also kept my house cool.
  • When you’re grocery shopping, look for deals. I’ve been known to hit up the market multiple times a week to get all my fixings for my meal prep.
  • Also don’t be afraid to store things in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Chicken is on sale? Buy it ALL. Put some in the freezer and you’ll be happy you did.
  • Variety, variety, variety. My wife hates my bacon wrapped chicken thighs. I just keep finding bacon and chicken on sale. (I need to stop making bacon wrapped chicken thighs for a while)

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Not sure if everyone does it, but I’m all in for meal prepping. Now if I were all in for prepping my lesson plans.

2nd Whitaker Park Crawl

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Let’s get this party started

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Our neighborhood Park. It’s not much. I believe my HOA is in the process of replacing the playground in stages so the 1st stage is the swings. We gave it 2 bowties.

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We enjoy this park deeply. Not just because of the name. It’s neat and has a huge shade covering the playground. Lots for all ages of kids.  4.5 bowties.

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I’m not all about this park. It’s not anything special. It’s spread out so I’m sure a lot of kids can play. We give it 2.5 bowties.

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Shade and space make this a great church playground. Never been here on Sunday, but I’m sure the kids enjoy it. 4.5 bowties.

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This is a neat Park. It’s. Not very special, but it’s shaded and gets 3 bowties.

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This is huge park. If you saw my video on this park last year, you know that I like this park. Add to it the comedy of Trina being chased by a bee and you know why I give it 5 bowties.

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Never been here before, but this is a fantastic playground.  It has a sectioned off little kids playground and a bigger kid area. Everything is neat and well maintained. 4.5 bowties

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A great spacious Park. Well maintained play equipment and a huge field for a game of kickball. 4 bowties

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A nice, quiet Park near our gym. Nothing special, but I’m sure very few people know it’s here. No geo tagging. 3 bowties.

There was a new Park we found. It’s in a community. We saw it and jumped out of the car. Very small and. Entirely to close to houses.  2 bowties

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The day was all worth it.

We gave bowties based on a very scientific measure of (Fun x pleading to stay x sweat beads x the number of times I had to look for you/good laughs cause a bee chased Trina. )

 

Just a few more days left to this wonderful summer break. Matter of fact I may stop by my school tomorrow just to breathe in some germs so I’ll be immune some Day 1.

24 hours of “what ifs”

Creativity is an area I feel I can build, grow and expand in. I don’t think that I’m horrible, but I don’t think I create stuff like I should. So I’m reading a book on nurturing the creative mind. An activity in the book is asking “what if”. The more ridiculous the better. I sat down for 24 hours and came up with 200 What if scenarios. I have more, but I stopped myself at 24 hours. I then sorted out the absolute insane time travel, flying and invisible ones. Leaving only the ones that could, maybe possibly happen. Then I threw out the ones that were only about me. I was left with those that dealt with a large group of people, my neighborhood, my family. Then I excluded all the ones that I needed A LOT of help to do. Then I said “Stop”. I went back and put them all back in the list. Here’s my little list of my favorite what if questions. I may go back and ask some follow up questions since each of them requires probably 4-5 follow ups.

  • What if we moved out of state?
  • What if we moved out of the country?
  • What if I could meet with a mentor for 1 hour a week?
  • What if we had four kids?
  • What if every house in my neighborhood had a garden?
  • What if we all had solar panels on our houses?
  • What if I get all the really low students this year?
  • What if I get all the really well behaved students this year?
  • What if we read a book in order to be able to watch TV?
  • What if we worked 4 10 hours days?
  • What if we all took off for the Sabbath?
  • What if we could record our dreams?
  • What if the Church was persecuted globally, right now?
  • What if no one tithed?
  • What if everyone did 3 missions trips by the time they were out of college or turned 25?
  • What if every HS student had work experience in 3-4 different areas?
  • What if my entire community composted and recycled?
  • What if we were paid $50 for every lbs of fat lost and $10 for every year we maintained?
  • What if Christians were 100% confident Christ was with them, right now?
  • What if Christians were as passionate against sin as they were politics?
  • What if everyone saved 10% of their income for 5 years?
  • What if I get 100% parent involvement this year?
  • What if I have a class of all girls this year?
  • What if I have a class of all boys this year?
  • What if every time you needed, you could call up a duplicate of yourself to do 60 minutes of work?
  • What if it were harder to get into college?
  • What if college was cheaper?
  • What if it were possible to communicate with other creatures?
  • What if we all rode bikes?
  • What if we were paid for the books we read?
  • What if we jettisoned our trash to the Sun?
  • What if we buried our trash deep in the earth?
  • What if I don’t get any supplies this year?
  • What if I have ZERO parent participation this year?
  • What if we created a ship to filter trash from the sea?
  • What if I did 12 30 day challenges?
  • What if my family/Small Group didn’t have any debt?
  • What if my family(s) moved closer/further?
  • What if I taught in an all white school?
  • What if you had to get a license to have kids?
  • What teachers were able to take off for a year, do another job/career and come back and explain how that year made them better teachers?
  • What if I have NO support this school year?
  • What if we did job swaps?
  • What if food trucks over took brick and mortar establishments?
  • What if food trucks did neighborhood deliveries?
  • What if all abandoned/empty properties were torn down after 2 years of being unoccupied?
  • What if everyone brought their lunch/homecooked for 30 days?
  • What if every family in my community created and lived on a zero based budget?
  • What if I could carpool whenever I wanted to?
  • What if I rode a cab to work everyday?
  • What if healthy, good food was cheaper than processed food?
  • What if certain companies got a tax break to help a city stay neat, clean and orderly?
  • What if Marietta City set a goal to save $ rather than spend?
  • What if woke up 1 hour earlier everyday and worked out?
  • What if we looked for leaders who served rather than those who wanted to be served?
  • What if I went and met all my social media “friends”?
  • What if no one wanted credit for the good done in the world?
  • What if the next 5 years were all we had left?
  • What if we saw ourselves as God does?
  • What if we were all able to live to our 200s?
  • What if churches collected membership dues rather than offerings?
  • What if my neighborhood saw a 25% increave/decrease in income?
  • What if we could really multitask?
  • What if teachers were paid by the hour?
  • What if we all spoke 3 languages from birth?
  • What if we could travel back in time only once?
  • What if we could write our futures?
  • What if Christians became passionate about sharing the Gospel?
  • What if half the human raced lived in space or on the moon?
  • What if we could create hydro electric power AND not disturb the environment?
  • What if we could create an engine to propel a space craft at light speed?
  • What if were possible to transform a desert?
  • What if we could make ourselves faster, thinner, prettier with a pill?
  • What if we stopped trying to do the last one?
  • What if…SELF DRIVING CARS!?
  • What if politicians got paid nothing?
  • What if we knew when we would die?
  • What if we got paid for our mistakes?
  • What if we NEVER forgot?
  • What if all schools went online?
  • What if we had a set % of success and it increased the amount of times we tried?
  • What if we could communicate with our younger and older selves?
  • What if we had a regular Bible study for a month?
  • What if we had to solve a problem before we could complain about one?
  • What if we didn’t have any regrets?
  • What if I found 6 non-crossfitters to agree to CF for 6 months with me?
  • What if all the businesses in Cobb county adopted one homeless person and gave them a job for 1 year?
  • What if my blog started getting 10k reads a day?
  • What if I didn’t send home any homework this year?
  • What if my students did 7 major projects in class and out that were worth their entire grade?
  • What if my small group became a house church?
  • What if we had to be quiet and think for at least 30 minutes but no more than 1 hour a day?

I got some great ideas from this exercise. I know some are whack-a-doodle, but some aren’t that bad. What are your thoughts? Do you have any crazy what if questions to add? Mind you I didn’t include all 200, but I’d like to see/read yours if you have any good ones. Even those not so good ones will be appreciated.

School starts back in 15 days and I have to say that I’m mentally ready. Now I just have to find where my dry cleaning ticket is.

 

Happy Father’s day

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Bet you can’t guess what my girls got me for Father’s day.  1 guess.
Wow, you’re pretty good. Got any good stock tips you want to share?

I enjoy this time of year.  Mother’s day last month now a celebration of dads. My girls have so much fun. When we factor in that this how God wants to bring about change/legacy in the earth, it’s refreshing to be on this venture with this little family I have.
This year I have a glut of pics from my social media friends of them and their dads. I need to make a trip up north to get some pics of my dad and I. One common thread I saw with a lot of these pictures and even my own was a sense of hope. Some know they don’t have a good relationship with their fathers. Some do, but in each old picture you catch this sense that there’s a belief that things will be better. Faith for the future.
I also noticed how many young dad’s took pictures with their kids. They then put them side by side with a old pictures of their dad holding them that same way. Besides the fact that we do start to look like our dads, this was an awesome testament to what I said before. We believe that something was good, something long-lasting, there was noteworthy and we need to preserve it.
Well, I’m going to go look for some pictures of me and my dad. Maybe I’ll just book a flight.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Summer Academy has been awesome. I have the best group of students and student teachers in the history of 2014 summer academy.  We’re all learning so much. I’ll be a better teacher next year because of these youngsters.