Creative Formative Assessments

Hello there! It has been a minute – and a teacher post is coming your way! This post is being brought to you courtesy of my Instructional Effectiveness course that I am taking right now, as part of my M.Ed. at Clemson University.

So, what is formative assessment?

Formative assessment is an ongoing measurement of how your students are progressing toward your learning goals and objectives. Unlike summative assessment, which happens after instruction, formative assessment happens during – ideally, throughout – instruction, and is used to form your future instructional decisions (hence, formative!). My district’s goal this year is focusing on incorporating Checks for Understanding, or CFUs, every 1-3 minutes during instruction. Why so often? Think of the ever-popular exit ticket. These can give you some great information about your students… as they leave your classroom. You then need to wait until the next day to address misconceptions. By checking for understanding as instruction is occurring, teachers can make on-the-spot adjustments to instruction. The point of misunderstanding is easier to target, and students are less likely to slip through with learning gaps.

If not an exit ticket, then what?

As a teacher of the little ones, it often feels like many formative assessment ideas discussed during professional development are too advanced or complicated for younger children. However, most can be easily modified to suit any age or ability level, especially when it’s a general medium that can be easily tailored across content areas. Here, I’ll outline three that I use most often in my own classroom, and one that I plan on utilizing later on this school year.

Wikki Stix

What’s waxy, pliable, and colorful? Wikki Stix! I first heard about Wikki Stix when I started digging deeper into learning about guided reading tools. Last year, I had written a Donors Choose project that didn’t quite reach the minimum monetary amount, so I threw in a package of Wikki Stix to reach it. Since then, I have used these wonderful little gizmos at least every week, mostly during guided reading groups and math groups. Students love the colors that they come in and it provides them with a truly hands-on experience.

Here are some of my favorite uses of Wikki Stix:

  • Say a number or shape and have students build it.
  • Give a problem and have students solve and show their answer.
  • Use picture clues and have students write the initial, medial, or final sound. This can be easily differentiated depending on your level of readers.
  • Make sight words or spelling words.

Dry-Erase Boards

Another Donors Choose prize, dry-erase boards are one of my students’ favorite ways to show off their learning. Like Wikki Stix, they can truly be used across content areas. We like to call it 1,2,3…FLIP! when we use ours. Students know to hold their boards close to their chests so that they keep their answer a secret. This helps me gather a more valid picture of their understanding, and it feels like a game to them. In addition, I can quickly glance to get a quick snapshot of how we stand in our learning at that moment.

I incorporate dry-erase boards almost daily, usually in one of the following ways:

  • Say a number or shape and have students write/draw it on their boards.
  • Read a story problem and have students solve.
  • Allow all students to participate in whole-group review games by allowing them to write on their boards before answering aloud.
  • Practice letter formation, spelling words, and sight words.
  • Stop and jot periodically to check for understanding throughout lessons.


This one always makes my heart happy. I introduced our procedure for this at the beginning of the year, and it is one of the most low-prep yet engaging and open-ended formative assessments you can do. Having expectations on accountable talk, taking turns, and bringing it back to the whole group from the outset is key to being successful in think-pair-share, but once the groundwork is laid, it is so simple. We use hand gestures to monitor our process and stay on track. If you’re unfamiliar with think-pair-share, it has three steps.

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1. Think – The teacher poses a question and allows for think time in which student independently reflect on the question in relation to their learning. At this time, my students put a thinking finger to their temple so I know they are considering the prompt.


Photo on 11-15-17 at 9.59 PM #22. Pair – Students pair with a neighbor and take turns sharing ideas. Doing so gives them valuable time to re-assess their thinking and modify it if necessary. When my students have composed a thought and are ready to pair, they hold up crossed fingers. When I see everyone is ready, they then turn to a partner near them. Some teachers have assigned partners, but I prefer to keep mine fluid and let my students pick their person. This is where that positive environment is key – without it, you run the risk of students not being able to self-regulate in choosing a partner and someone getting hurt. During this time, I visit with groups and listen in to what they are saying, providing some guiding questions if needed.

3. Share – The teacher has students share what they discussed. Some modifications to this can include using popsicle sticks to call on non-volunteers and having students tell what their partner said. I do both of these often to help keep students engaged and remember that what their partner says is as important as what they are saying. I bring them back to share time from pairing by quietly counting down from five on my fingers. I do this so as to give the pairs time to wrap up their thoughts.

Not only does this method require little preparation aside from planning and timing effective questions, it allows your more shy students to practice and rehearse. All students get a chance to speak in one way or another, and it can often cause that necessary cognitive dissonance to push them further in their thinking. Connections between ideas can easily be made in these conversations, and all learners can be challenged when the questions posed are open-ended and allow for more than one right answer.

The Road Ahead: Plickers

I have heard about Plickers from a colleague and plan to research and implement it later this year in my classroom. Essentially, Plickers are “paper clickers”: each student has a unique Plicker with four answer choice sides. After reading a multiple-choice question, students hold their Plicker with the correct answer choice on top. The teacher can then scan the room with a phone or tablet and get immediate feedback using the students’ unique identities. I am intrigued by this method because we are not a 1:1 technology school and also because I can quickly see which students require more support before moving on to independent practice, or which students require remediation after learning a topic. To help little learners get the hang of putting the correct side of the card on top, you can have them first put a clothespin on their answer, then turn the clothespin to the ceiling. This will be a method that I will revisit after our winter break once I have more time to set it up – each student will need his/her own unique Plicker card, and questions will need to be entered into the program before proceeding.

Collaboration: The Cornerstone to Creativity

So, how can coaches facilitate these experiences in their school? It starts with collaboration among teachers. I do not take credit for thinking of any of these ideas on my own; instead, I learned about them through collaboration with other teachers, whether at my school or teacher-bloggers across the country! Allowing teachers time to collaborate with each other is important, but an important consideration is to give teachers time to collaborate with teachers of similar age groups. What works for fifth-grade students is very different from what works for kindergarteners. Sharing how we can modify these creative assessments for different learner groups is a valuable and important conversation to have during these times.  The role of the coach here isn’t to simply schedule these meetings, but to come as a well-researched player with a host of tricks that teachers can discuss in terms of their own objectives and individual students.

2017-2018 Classroom Tour

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Back to school always makes me feel like a little girl again – a fresh start with shiny new school supplies and a laundry list of goals and resolutions. Of course, one of the best things about being a teacher is getting my classroom set up! 

This year, I have eliminated chairs from my classroom with the exception of my computer station. Each student table has a different seating option: standing desk, stools, cubes, balance balls, or seat cushions at a low table. I’m going to integrate my behavior management and flexible seating to make it more manageable. Students will be in teams each week and will work together to earn points. On Friday, the team with the most points will get to pick their option for the next week first. 

Our school theme this year is “Learning is Our Ticket to the World.” I have decided to use an adventure spin on my door display. I’ll probably change out the pennant banners in October and do something for Halloween. 

This is the view from the door as you walk in my room. To the left are storage cubbies for backpacks and lunch boxes. 

I post any important flyers on our news board as well as our monthly newsletter and calendar, which I purchased from Learning in Wonderland. I also have my classroom information flipbook displayed for now, which I also purchased from Learning in Wonderland. 

This is our reading nook. I use Fountas and Pinnell to level my books. The bulletin board will become home for anchor charts and old morning messages. The smaller bookshelf is new this year. I will be keeping my read-aloud books in there for easy access during units. 

Something I’m really excited about is my new lightbox! I purchased a bundle of inserts for it from Learning in Wonderland (are you seeing a trend?). So far, I’ve just printed transparencies for fall, birthdays, and student of the month. I’m so excited to use it to make my kids feel special for their birthdays and behavior! 

This is my favorite place in my room and where the magic happens! Our stools are new. Right now I have things set out for Meet the Teacher. Behind the table, I keep math centers, my guided reading toolkit, Fountas and Pinnell kit, and some other literacy resources. You can also see our objectives to the left and our Waterford clip chart to the right. Students in our district spend two 20 minute sessions on the computer, and the clip chart helps me track who has and has not gotten their time in. 

Here is our writing station! I change the cards monthly. Right now, I have different writing activities in the paper trays. As students become more independent writers, I will put in different types of writing paper and move away from generated activities. 

And these are just some views from the back of our room. Only two more workdays until go time! 

#mudlife: Spartan Super Race Recap


Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right? I definitely pushed that this weekend at the Asheville Spartan Super. This was my first obstacle race ever, and I’m still not completely sure how Jeff managed to talk me into it. BUT I will say I am so glad that he did. I think this race just about compared to running a full – and it took almost as long.

We headed up to Asheville on Friday morning. First up: Sierra Nevada! Jeff has been wanting to go here the past three times we’ve been to Asheville. We spent some time exploring the brewery and grounds. Even though it was raining, the atmosphere was so lively.

After we finished checking out the grounds, we headed up to our cabin in Burnsville. This was my first time using AirBnB. We stayed in the sweetest cabin with an amazing view. Our friends got up around dinner time. We loaded up on carbs and watched Get Out <– highly recommend!

The next morning, it was RACE DAY! Our heat was at 10:15, which gave us plenty of time to make the hour drive to Black Mountain.

We got to the quarry about an hour and a half early and checked in. There was a super reassuring message in our race packets:

I was already pretty nervous, and this did not help at all. Thankfully the energy in the village was contagious and the wait for our heat passed quickly. We studied the course map and checked out some of the obstacles while we waited. Something that was really different for me for this race was not knowing anything about the course ahead of time. I think this might have been a good thing – I can’t stress if I don’t know what to stress over. Right?!

The course ended up being about 8 miles. I wore my old Garmin Forerunner 10, but it died about two miles in. We had a “river crossing” first thing that was more like a fording. It rained the night before, so the water was pretty deep – over my head. Swimming is not my strong suit so I was kind of freaked out, but there was no way but through!


First up on dry land was the overwalls and hurdles – I like that these were first because they gave me some confidence. After that was the cliff climb. The elevation changes throughout the course was insane – about 1,500 feet overall. The cliff climb had us going up ropes about 20 feet. I was pretty freaked out and slid around a bit, but I made it. After that was the six foot wall. I needed a little boost from Jeff to get over it, but it wasn’t bad. Then we had the sandbag carry. I was worried about this obstacle while I was training. It really wasn’t terrible. We had a short out-and-back that was less than a quarter mile and fairly flat.


Next was the Z-wall. I had a good rhythm going until I crossed over and fell. First set of burpees! We “ran” for a good bit after that, and by run I mean hiked and crawled. There were several places along the course where there was no way to get up other than on hands and knees or to slide down on your booty. We made it back to the festival area and had the Herculean Hoist. Not terrible so long as you lay down and then lift. Then we had the dreaded spear throw… and 30 burpees. This was a popular burpee zone!

Since this was all in the festival area, we had three more obstacles in quick succession. First was the barbed wire crawl. I alternated between rolling and crawling. My hip got cut up pretty badly on this one. From there, it was time for rolling mud and the dunk wall. I was nervous going into this obstacle and it wasn’t my favorite. Can’t you tell?

Next was the slip wall, which was sort of like the cliff climb. The platform was of course covered in mud. I was insistent that Jeff go behind me in case I fell. Focusing on one step at a time and trying my hardest not to pitch forward, I made it to the top! … Then fell as soon as I touched the top to get over. I slid from the very top to the bottom and took Jeff out on my way. My ego and shoulder were SORE after that.

We had more hiking/running/crawling before making it to the A-frame cargo and atlas carry – another one I was worried about not being strong enough for. Spartan Race had posted a tutorial for the atlas carry on their Instagram, so thankfully that helped a lot. I knelt on the ground and sort of rolled the ball up until I could stand. We had to carry about 10-15 feet, do five burpees, then come back. After that, we used a cargo net to climb a short cliff and then tackled the seven- and eight-foot walls. This took me a couple tries. I had to use the women’s step for the seven-foot wall and Jeff gave me a boost for the eight-foot wall. Almost immediately after that was the bucket carry. This was tougher than the other carries. We went uphill, then downhill, then turned around and came back. It was tough. I’m thinking it was about a quarter mile start to finish. The next obstacle, Bender, I was just not comfortable with, so I got started on burpees while the boys tackled it. Following this was the log carry and another cargo climb. The inverted wall was next. It looked really intimidating, but this super nice girl stopped to show me how to do it. No burpees for me here!


We made our way back to the festival area for the last few obstacles – which of course were a ton of burpee-makers: rope climb, twister, and multi-rig all did me in. Ninety more burpees. Between these, though, I was able to do Olympus (with assistance – that thing was nuts), the tire flip, and bridge. The women’s tires were 200 pounds, but the hardest part was getting a grip under it to get going. I pretty much felt like WonderWoman after this obstacle, but quickly came back to Earth at the bridge. I HATE heights and this was pretty much my worst nightmare, but I had to do it to get to the finish line.

And finally… we were there!

That medal felt so good to put on. While I didn’t train for this race as long as I have others, it was such a challenge, both mentally and physically. I think I’ll be back once this training cycle is over!

So, are you thinking about running a Spartan race? Some tips if you are a first-timer that I wish I knew beforehand:

  1. Be prepared to wait at some obstacles, especially at the beginning.
  2. Wear tight clothing!
  3. Bring fuel. You will be out there for a while and will need more than what you can get at the aid stations.
  4. Do it with a friend – you will need support, whether mental or physical, at some point!
  5. Do not expect a nice shower at the end. 🙂


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”

– Hunter S. Thompson

Catching Up: Journey to 26.2

Planning a wedding took a lot of my time during my little hiatus from blogging. You know what else did?

Training for a marathon.

Taking the Plunge

After our wedding, I found myself with a ton of free time that I wasn’t used to having and a lack of motivation to work out for the sake of working out. I didn’t run much for the last couple of months before our big day and instead did a lot of strength training to get ready for it. I knew I needed to sign up for a race to motivate myself to start running again, especially with the holidays coming up. That’s when I found the best race ever, the Asheville Marathon and Half!

I picked this race for a few reasons. First, Asheville is where we had our “mini-moon!” At around three and a half hours away, it’s the perfect distance from home to be a destination race without breaking the bank. Asheville has become one of my favorite places. Surrounded by mountains, laid-back folks, totally weird in its own perfect way, lots of craft beer and good wine… you can’t go wrong here. Another thing sold me on this race: the ENTIRE thing is run on the grounds of The Biltmore Estate. Running the full would give me the chance to explore parts of the estate that are normally not open to the public. I was sold. I registered for the race a few weeks after our wedding, and then it was time to start training!

Marathon Training

For a training plan, I picked Hal Higdon’s Novice II Plan. I average about 30 miles a week on the plan with one 20-mile run. I was worried about the one sorta-long run during the week that maxed out at 8 miles, but it really wasn’t an issue. I just planned to leave work right at 2:45 (my contract time) on those days to get my run in. Training through the winter in South Carolina was glorious! It was great to run at about 4:00 in 50-60 degree weather. I did my weekday runs solo, but usually met up with some running friends for my weekend long runs when I was in town. Since I trained through the holidays, some of my runs let me explore places besides Aiken, which was a fun way to learn my way around!


Out of all my training runs, this 14 miler was my toughest one. I’m pretty sure it was all mental because it was my first time running longer than a half marathon. I also did this run in Newnan, GA, where I’m not as familiar with runner-friendly roads. I did a lot of car-dodging the first half, then did 7 miles on my husband’s old high school’s cross-country track. Not the most exciting, but I got it in!


My 19-miler was the best. I had my running girls with me for most of it, and our local ice cream shop had a special ice-cream-for-breakfast event! I had never had a hot waffle topped with ice cream, but you MUST TRY IT! It’s even better after running long on a cold morning!



Before I knew it, it was time to taper and get ready to race! I personally love the taper. It’s the perfect time to catch up on everything you don’t have time for during training, like cleaning your car, sitting on your butt watching Netflix, and snuggling with dogs.




Race Weekend

We traveled up to Asheville after work on Friday with both of the doggies. All week, the forecast was for freezing rain the day of the race… until Thursday, when they started predicting 3-6 inches of snow. Don’t I have the best luck with weather?! I packed way too many options for the race, because I was sort of in denial that it would actually snow. I was also nervous about getting to the race if there was accumulation, because we opted to get a cabin about 30 minutes away in the mountains. We got to our place at Cabins of Asheville, right up the road from where we stayed on our mini-moon, and got the dogs settled. It was so cozy! I definitely recommend these cabins if you are planning to visit this area.

On Saturday, we spent the day exploring downtown Asheville with my running girls Missy and Sheri. We met up for lunch with our friend Nancy, who ran the Saturday half. She filled us in on the course and as we ate, it started flurrying outside!

We headed back to our cabin for an early dinner. I made spaghetti and bison meatballs from Run Fast Eat Slow. Then, it was time to get my gear ready before an early bedtime! We planned on being out the door by 5 AM to give us plenty of time to get there in the bad weather. I had the sweetest helper while I got all my stuff ready.

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Pack – Nathan Firestorm 2L; Shirt – Stiletto Running; Leggings – BCG; Shoes – Brooks Adenaline GTS 16; Watch – Garmin Forerunner 235; wrap – Momentum Jewelry; buff – race swag; jacket – Target; gloves, hat, ear wrap – Academy Sports; pickle juice shot, two Gu, hot hands packs – Academy Sports

Race Day 

We woke up at 4 AM on race day to…. SNOW! There was about 4-5 inches on top of my car, and it was still gently falling when we left the cabin. Thankfully, the city was prepared and salted the roads, so we had no issues getting to the Biltmore. The employees and volunteers seemed genuinely excited to be there and were so helpful, which helped calm my nerves a bit. I was super bundled up, but not enough to hang out around the starting line. We waited in the barn to stay warm until the race started, after a 30-minute delay due to the weather. Before long, it was time to line up!

Missy and Sheri were using the Galloway method, but Jeff and I planned to break at each mile, so we split off pretty soon into the race. I was feeling good and set out on my own at around mile 3. I got way too hot and had to take off my jacket right around that point, then caught up with my girls right before we got to the Biltmore house!


I hung with them for a bit before picking up my pace a bit. Jeff and I found each other right around mile 8 and hung together until the course split between the half and full at around mile 10.

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These pictures can’t come close to doing the course justice. I’m sure it’s beautiful without the snow, but on this day, it was a winter wonderland. I felt like I was on the set of a Disney movie the entire time.

The course took us over hills, bridges, trail, gravel, and through vineyards. It was so gorgeous!



Miles 15-20 were a bit of a blur. I perked right up around mile 20, because the course took us right past the finish line!

Seeing Jeff and Missy waiting there and cheering gave me a burst of motivation that I really needed at that point. I was starting to get tired, and had officially entered into the realm of running farther than I ever had before. The mental game was on. The last six miles of the course were out-and-back, which definitely played on my mental strength. I took my pickle juice at about mile 22. I was skeptical about it before the race, because everyone I asked told me I would know when to take it. They were right! I knocked it back when my legs started really feeling like lead. It helped me for a bit, but I hit the wall HARD at mile 23. So many people were walking at this point and I was so ready to be done. Doubt started creeping in as I texted my mom telling her how hard it was. She ended up sending my inspirational texts about every 5 minutes until the finish. Did I mention she’s the sweetest? 🙂

That last 5k was the toughest one I have ever run. I finally understood why everyone says you aren’t halfway through a marathon until mile 20. I drew on every mantra, memory, and power song that I could to get me to the finish line. With a quarter mile to go and the finish line in sight, I stepped up the pace as much as I could.


After 4:54:36, I finished. The tears flowed as I realized just what my body and mind had accomplished. From the first day of training to the moment I crossed the finish line, I learned so much about my own strength and will. The marathon can and will change you.


See that profile?! I definitely earned the rest of the day that I spent eating tacos, drinking wine in the hot tub back at our cabin, and snuggling with the pups and my #1 cheerleader throughout this whole process.

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So, did I convince you to run Asheville? If you’re even just toying with the idea of running your first half, full, or challenge weekend, DO THIS ONE! From the course to the staff and volunteers, this is an amazing race. If you decide to join me on March 17-18 next spring, you can sign up here. Use these codes for a 15% discount off ALL EVENTS between now and July 31!

Enter invitation code JULIABIPS2018AMAROCKS and discount code  2018AMAJULIAROCKS for your discount. I’ll see you at the starting line!

Making Time for Nosh: Meal Planning Tips and Tricks

If there is nothing else that I learned about myself from training from a marathon, it’s that I can eat a lot of food. Next week starts my next training cycle (more on that soon), and so I wanted to set aside some time today to get ready for how busy life is about to become again.

But first–some highlights from this week’s menu!

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We grill just about every Sunday. I like to get some kind of salad ready in the morning before Church so I can hang out in the yard with Jeff while he grills. Those are my favorite kind of nights. This week, I marinated steaks using the Mighty Marinade in Run Fast, Eat Slow. If you haven’t heard of this cookbook, you need to check it out. It has completely changed the way that we eat.  We also had corn on the cob and this Pineapple Cucumber Salad.

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Chocolate tart with cocoa whipped cream: I don’t usually make desserts if we aren’t having company, but I saw this recipe in the latest issue of Food Network Magazine and knew we had to try it. It was AMAZING. I cheated a little bit and bought a pre-made crust, and instead of using chocolate sprinkles, I opted for macadamia nuts. It’s definitely a keeper!

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Doesn’t it seem like the best salads come together when you just kind of throw together everything in the fridge? I’ve been helping develop curriculum for the school district this week, and the school I’m working at is only five minutes from home. I have been LOVING being able to run home and make lunch each day! This salad had romaine lettuce, carrots, slivered almonds, bleu cheese, red onion, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and salmon that I pan-seared in coconut oil. I topped it all with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Easy peasy and super satiating!

It’s become a weekly ritual for me to sit down and plan out each day’s lunches and dinners. I use a magnetic dry-erase board with a chart on it. I keep a magnetic grocery list right next to it on our refrigerator so that I can write down anything that we run out of over the course of the week. I’ve found that the fewer decisions I need to make each night, the less stressful preparing healthy meals and lunches becomes.

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This week, I’m not really packing lunches for Jeff and I, so I clearly didn’t put a whole lot of effort into our lunch plans. Usually we have leftovers, salad or soup with some combination of homemade trail mix, fruit, and baby carrots.

When I start planning each week, I look first to see if we have anything going on at work or any day that will be particularly busy. I usually plan a slow-cooker meal or breakfast on those nights. We also generally go out to eat on Friday nights, so I don’t plan anything for then. Then I go back and fill in the gaps! I do a good bit of prep on Sundays. We keep an ongoing batch of homemade trail mix in the pantry, and I usually prepare one or two quick breakfasts for the week. My go-tos are Superhero Muffins and Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos, both from Run Fast Eat Slow.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to plan a variety of meals. That’s where this tool comes in!

Meal Planning

You can use this as a starting point when planning to get a variety of foods into your week and avoid repeating the same 3 or 4 dishes week after week. Meal planning whole, clean foods can seem daunting, but once you make it part of your routine, it gets easier!

So, what’s on your menu next week?




Catching Up: Tying the Knot

I did a thing recently.

I changed my name.


I know I’ve been gone for….ever. But y’all, weddings are HARD! Everyone had told me this, but I had just no idea what we were in for. I planned this wedding on my own with the help of an overstuffed binder and the Knot app, and now I see why wedding planner is actually a career option. It felt like a second job planning this one day!

We also had a slight disturbance on our wedding day that made everything about 37 times more stressful. It was Matthew, our uninvited crasher.


The Saturday before our wedding, it was an absolutely gorgeous day- cool, crisp, sunshine; the first day that really felt like Autumn had arrived. I went out for an awesome 10 miler with some running friends, and as I walked back to my car, I called my mom about some minute wedding detail.

“Have you looked at the weather for next weekend?” she asked me.

“Yeah! I looked a couple days ago. It’s going to be in the 70s and sunny!” I replied absent-mindedly.

“Oh, baby… There’s a hurricane coming.” If you can imagine hearing a frown in someone’s voice, then you can understand how my mom sounded on the other end of the phone. My thoughts immediately jumped to my perfectly-planned, Pinterest-inspired, craft beer and BBQ themed wedding…. that was to take place in a tent.

I of course spent the next four days doing what any normal bride would do. I panicked and refreshed the Google Weather/Accuweather/Weatherbug/The Weather Channel/National Hurricane Center websites and apps on my phone about every five minutes.

It didn’t look good. The storm kept strengthening, moving slow as molasses in January, while I sat in denial, horror, and panic that my wedding day would not, in fact, be the picture-perfect day I had planned.

By Tuesday, things started changing. This went from a pretty superficial concern to something a lot more serious. Things were not looking good for Haiti, and our bartender called me Tuesday afternoon.

“Is the wedding still on? I just saw that Aiken County cancelled school for the rest of the week.”

I about started hyperventilating, somewhere between bewildered and livid. I had just left work without hearing a peep about this. I stayed late readying my sub plans and materials for the next week in keeping with my usual OCD self, which ended up being a blessing in disguise!

After assuring the bartender that yes, we would be getting married, I refreshed my weather apps and continued about my day. Our families started arriving–earlier than planned, because my mom had to evacuate her house in Hilton Head–where Matthew was predicted to hit directly at category 5 force.

By Thursday, we started talking options., but I still refused to believe that our tent couldn’t hold up to the winds. You see, our venue was my dream venue. We booked The Rye Patch knowing that we couldn’t fit everyone inside. I envisioned having a huge tent on the lawn, kids dodging in and out between playing in the grass and exploring Hopelands Gardens adjacent.

On Friday morning, the tent company told us they couldn’t set up the tent, but they could still deliver our tables and lighting. First, we thought about squeezing everyone into the mansion at The Rye Patch, but I knew it would make our guests uncomfortable and the party would be over within 30 minutes. We called our Church, which has a huge hall that would more than accommodate our 150 guests.

It was expensive. Really expensive.

I hung up the phone in tears. I remember sitting at our kitchen counter, my mom on one side, almost-husband on the other, and seeing everything I planned for the past year crumble, unsure if the wedding was even going to happen.

The phone rang not five minutes later. It was our Priest. He said we could have our reception there – no strings attached.

After that, I was running on pure adrenaline. It started getting really nasty Friday afternoon. The Rye Patch called and said they couldn’t have the wedding there due to the city shutting down for the storm–again we counted our blessings that our Church took us in at the last minute. It poured all through the rehearsal dinner. It poured all night Friday night, and as I lay in bed with my best friend, my last night as an unmarried lady, I listened to the wind howl outside for hours. I think I slept maybe two hours.

Our hairdresser texted me Saturday morning. “Are we still on? It’s pretty bad outside. I think downtown lost power.”

At this point I had to laugh. If I had to show up to this thing with my hair in a homemade updo, then so be it. This wedding was going. to. happen.

By the grace of God (again!) we had power at the salon. And around 12:00, something amazing happened. It stopped raining.

Our original plan was to get ready upstairs at the mansion. We got ready upstairs at the Church.

The boys got ready at the hotel, and our Best Man played messenger.






Those last 30 minutes before the ceremony were agonizing. I can’t put into words how it felt sneaking across the way to the Church and hiding back in the spiral stairwell to the choir loft with our sweet ringbearer, listening to Canon in D. It was like all of the stress of the past year, and especially the past week, melted away. My mom took my arm and it was go time. I thought I would want to see all the faces of our family and friends who traveled for this day, but as soon as the doors opened, I had tunnel vision.

The ceremony passed by so fast. We picked our readings and music months before, and I hadn’t thought much about them since.

First Reading – 

“On their wedding night Sarah got up, and she and Tobiah started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.” Tobit 8:5-7

Second Reading – 

“Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:8a

Gospel – 

“Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:21, 24-25

Can you believe that Gospel?! I still find it hilarious that we picked that out, VOLUNTARILY, in May. It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whoops!

After the ceremony, it was time to PARTY! After 769 pictures, that is.


bips-1273bips-1279bips-1290bips-1305bips-1315bips-1322bips-1355bips-1502bips-1509bips-1512bips-1530bips-1565bips-1574bips-1588bips-1611bips-1675bips-1699bips-1830bips-1840bips-1857bips-1863bips-1950It was the most fun night of my life. And we still ended up having a fairy tale ending.

We popped some champagne took off in a horse-drawn carriage for a ride through downtown. There were so many people out due to all the evacuees from out of town. We wound up at the Willcox, our home for the night, exhausted, relieved, and best of all… married.

It wasn’t the picture-perfect day I had planned. We didn’t have gold chiavari chairs. In fact, our chairs didn’t even all match due to miscommunication from the rental company. We had to borrow linens from the Church because the order got messed up. The weather was clearly less than ideal. A few of our guests couldn’t make it, and some had to stay longer than they planned.

It wasn’t a perfect day. But it was the best day.

And for that, I will forever hold it in my heart. Flaws and all.


More info about our wedding:


  • Dress: Allure Bridals, purchased at Elegant Bridals in Augusta, GA
  • Bridesmaid Dresses: Dessy, purchased through Weddington Way
  • Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse
  • Photography: Dailey Alexandra Photography
  • Florals: Dyson Designs
  • Catering: Dukes Barbecue, An Eventful Year (cake) and Ed’s Bartending
  • DJ and Photobooth: M&S Mobile Designs
  • Favors: activity books for the kids and handmade beer soaps from Etsy
  • Rehearsal Dinner: The Stables at Rose Hill


  • Bridal Party Entrance: Canon in D
  • Bridal Processional: Prince of Denmark’s March (Trumpet Voluntary)
  • Communion Hymn: Ave Maria
  • Recessional: Ode to Joy
  • First Dance: Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Last Dance: At Last – Etta James
  • Mother-Daughter Dance: Forever Young – Rod Stewart
  • Mother-Son Dance: My Wish – Rascal Flatts
  • Father/Daughter in Law Dance: Only Time – Enya
  • Bouquet Toss: Goldigger – Kanye West
  • Garter Toss: American Woman – The Guess Who
  • Cake Cutting: The Sweetest Thing – U2
  • Send-off: Signed, Sealed, Delivered – Stevie Wonder

Hello. It’s me.

I’m alive. For the record. Life has been rather busy since I last posted! What have I been up to?

Getting Married

bips-1387The wedding will get its own post soon, but here it is in a nutshell: Hurricane Matthew + the ultimate pre-wedding meltdown + the best day ever.


IMG_6211Because ya gotta pay bills somehow, right? (Just kidding – it was a fantastic year and I’m already emotional because my babies leave me in just 8 days 😦 )

Running, Running, and More Running

18274947_10208314011519678_4194667512918776320_nSince my last post, I have run 4 more halfs and….. I AM A MARATHONER! This epic weekend will receive its own post ASAP!


18404046_10208329051575670_8793015558423701217_oI’m headed back to school, y’all! In a few weeks, I will start my M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning with a focus in Instructional Coaching at Clemson University. I am beyond excited and also kinda freaking out about juggling everything, but we will make it work!

Stay tuned for more details about wife life/bridezilla mode/tears at mile 23!



Slacking, Streaking, and Other Summery Notions

Hello, friends! I’m linking up this week over at  Mississippi Piddlin and HoHo Runs to recap my week of slightly guilt-inducing, quite blissful slacking. 🙂 Click the photo to join in the fun!


Sunday | May 22

I woke up the morning after my ten-miler race feeling pretty great, considering I had run my booty off the morning before. We spent the rest of the day after the race running some wedding-related errands and walking around the neighborhood with the dogs, so I think that helped keep me loosened up. Either that, or the fact that I went to the gym and used their super-amazing massage chairs and hydro massage bed for roughly an hour while Jeff actually worked out… I deserved it, don’t judge. 🙂 Anyway, on Sunday, I went back to the gym with Jeff planning on hogging the massage chair again, but I ended up on the bike and got in about 20 miles at LOW intensity. I think the resistance was probably at a 1. So this might not even count as 20 miles, but I’m putting it here because my workout ego needs a boost today.

20 mile bike ride; 58:30 

Monday | May 23

I might be OCD. I’ve accepted this. I’m using a Nike+ coaching program to get ready for the Peachtree (not exactly doing a good job of following it–whatevs), and my week actually ends on there on Mondays, since the race will be on a Monday. So, typically these are my rest days, but I was two miles short on running for that week, so I forced myself to squeeze in a run.

This happened after my pathetic attempts to force Jeff to take a selfie with me in a parking lot.

He likes me. I just know it.

Anyway, we are joining a bowling league this summer! So while we were waiting for the organizational meeting to start, we naturally had to kill some time by taking the those beautiful photos. We’ll start bowling next Tuesday in a handicap league (apparently that’s good for horrible bowlers like me)! After the meeting, we went to the gym and I got in a couple slow, easy miles on the ‘mill before calling it quits.

2.10 miles; 21:16; 10:08 pace

Tuesday | May 24

After work on Tuesday, I went straight to the gym from work for about an hour of abs, back, chest, and arms work. Holy moly! I reaaaaallllyy need to get in some more strength while I’m on break this summer. That night was Aiken Running Club’s monthly meeting. We met up in the parking lot of a local Mexican restaurant and headed out for a few miles before eating dinner and talking club business.

3.23 miles; 31:46; 9:50 pace

Wednesday | May 25

Isn’t it wonderful when your new shoes come in? I came home to these beautiful Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16s on my doorstep. I’d say it was time for an update.

Wednesdays are my speedy days. On the schedule this week was a five mile progression run. I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to fulfill that “progressive” part since I was running in the neighborhood, which is hilly, in the late afternoon, which is HOT right now. But I set out for my first mile at an easy pace, then put in three miles at a negative split, and finished with an easy cooldown. My paces were pretty decent and it was great to get back on the hills! I ran almost exclusively on them throughout the winter and early spring, but I’ve been changing my route up the past few weeks on mostly flat terrain. I’d call this one a success!

5.00 miles; 49.29; 9:51/9:48/9:39/9:17/10:53

Thursday | May 26

I skipped Thursday. I was supposed to do just three easy miles, but it was just one of those days where life interfered. I was scheduled for an oil change at 3:15, immediately after work, but 4:00 rolled around and they still hadn’t taken my car back. Sorry, I’m about to go off on a rant here, but what is the point of an appointment if I’m going to have to wait TWO HOURS anyway?!? Yes, I was there for two hours. I had planned on running a bunch of other errands, cooking dinner, and getting a run in, but instead settled on just getting one errand finished (a car wash) and eating my feelings with Jeff at one of our favorite local spots, Aiken Brewing Company. I felt slightly guilty but was still so frustrated at not getting my stuff done earlier that I didn’t feel too bad.

Friday | May 27

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Friday was our LAST FULL DAY of school! This week, we’re off Monday for Memorial Day and Tuesday-Thursday we’ll dismiss at 10:30. One of those days is field day, one is cleaning day, and one is PARTY day! Let the fun commence!

After work, I went straight to the gym for legs and a bike ride. I used a hilly setting on the bike at a medium intensity for about 10 miles, then worked on lower body strength, which was tough, but it felt awesome to put those legs to work on something besides forward motion!

10 miles; 37:29; legs 

Saturday | May 28

I skipped my run….again. I had three miles on the agenda, but Jeff was heading out of town that afternoon and I wanted to hang out with him before he left. I had a project to work on after he hit the road.


Painting! Our house was is in no way a fixer-upper, but it does need some cosmetic updating. First up: paint! I think the walls have the original, builder-grade paint on them still from 2008 when the house was built. The walls absolutely soaked up the first coat and the second coat dried quickly, too. I planned on holding off on any painting until summer break, but I got a burst of inspiration this week when Lowes had a sale on paints for buy one, get one 50% off.

First I tackled our back hallway.

The left is before… It’s hard to tell, but the walls were white and extremely scuffed up. I’ve ordered this shelf to hang leashes, purses, etc., but I can already tell a huge difference. It’s much more welcoming!

Next up was the eat-in kitchen. I haven’t yet decided on a color for the actual kitchen, but I loved this shade in the hallway and decided to extend it.


I also added these woven baskets for some extra spice. As you can see in the kitchen photos, the sunroom is LIME green and will be the next room painted in a few weeks. I can’t wait to see the transformation in that room, but for now I’m happy enjoying this update. The paint is helping this place feel more like “ours”.

So, a day of running skipped, but I was definitely active climbing all over the place for the 8 hours it took me to do this project.


I also skipped my run on Sunday (yesterday), but with the Runner’s World Summer Streak starting today, I’m feeling okay with the run guilt because I know I’ll be making up those miles. I’m in a challenge that Megan invited me to with runner women from all over the country, so that should definitely help with my accountability! I needed these few days off from running to get excited and rested before the streak.

  • Are you streaking this summer?
  • Do you ever experience runner guilt? How do you deal with it?


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When a Training Run Becomes a Race

Howdy! I’m linking up this week over at  Mississippi Piddlin and HoHo Runs as well as at Run Megan Run to catch up on this past week.

With only one “real” week of school left, the end-of-year mania is stirring up: benchmarks, awards, field day, OH MY. I finally nailed down some wedding-related details this week, including the last big task of booking our tent and rentals. Now it’s on to smaller details like welcome bags, table numbers, and favors (which Mr. Groom and I are “crafting” together). The tent was unnecessarily stressing me out because a.) I didn’t really want one and b.) I didn’t realize how RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE they are. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of the tent, because our venue has some really beautiful, very old oak trees and I didn’t want to hide them. However, the estate’s house isn’t large enough to hold all of our guests, and my mom was adamant that we get a tent in case we have record-setting rain like we did this past October. Yay! Obviously she won that debate and here I am with a slightly messed-up budget. It’s only money, right? 🙂

Anyway, on to the running part of this week. It was actually a race week for me, but I didn’t have a goal in mind for this one. The forecast all week predicted rain, and having just run my big half three weeks ago, I was just looking to finish this one.

Monday | Rest

Thank goodness there was no workout on the schedule for today. Lady somehow ran into the retaining wall outside last Sunday while she and Molly were wrestling and scraped up her side pretty badly. We cleaned her up the best we could, but when I got home from work on Monday afternoon, she had had a blowout in her crate. It was EVERYWHERE. So after the lovely experience of cleaning up doggy doo from her bed, blankets, and Kong, and scrubbing her crate, and cleaning the surrounding carpet, I took her to the vet to see what was going on. I’m happy to say that her parasite tests were negative and she is healing up nicely now! Thankfully, she didn’t need stitches, but by the time I got home, I was exhausted. Thank goodness for rest days!

Tuesday | 3 Mile Progressive Run

It rained on Tuesday, so I took my workout to the treadmill. I definitely got bored, even with some higher inclines thrown in, but it wasn’t too bad. Pretty uneventful, though. After I finished, I did strength training on my legs/lower body for about 30 minutes or so, which I didn’t keep track of. Maybe I should start doing that…

3.00 miles; 10:36/10:08/9:18 

Wednesday | Speedwork

I won’t lie. I bribed myself with pizza to get through this workout. Judge me if you want. I hit the track around 6 on Wednesday to tackle some fartleks. After warming up for one mile, I alternated 2 minutes of faster running with 2 minutes of easier running for 3.5 miles, then had a .5 mile cooldown. I peaked in mile 3, but managed to keep all of my surges between about a 7:30-8:30 pace. I followed this victory by bringing my sweaty, probably smelly self to pizza and trivia with Jeff (I am a font of useless knowledge. It’s my forte). Life is all about balance, y’all. 🙂

5.01 miles; 46:45; 9:20 pace

Thursday | 3 miles easy

I skipped this run. Teeheehee. My school celebrated its 80th Anniversary with a snazzy gala, so I ended up sticking around until it ended at 7:00. By the time I got home, I was pooped, and combined with the tough workout from Wednesday, I was not feeling a run.

Friday | Cross

I had planned to skip cross-training today because I knew I had a race coming the next day, and while I wasn’t planning on actually racing, I still wanted to have fresh legs so I could at least finish comfortably. Looks like this logic worked!

Saturday | Aiken Triple Crown 10-Miler

And here we are… The race I didn’t plan on racing. When I first registered for this one, it was mostly driven by the fact that it was part of Aiken’s newly created Triple Crown Race Series (which included a 5k and Half Marathon). The actual Triple Crown race was once held annually, but this year was its first running in several years. The forecast did not look optimistic for the morning of the race, but when I woke up, the skies looked fairly clear. I hate running without music and was less than excited at the prospect of running 10 miles listening to myself breathe. 🙂 I took a chance and bought my phone, and there was no rain! It poured all night on Friday, though, which was perfect because about two miles of this bad boy were on the dirt horse roads that are common in Aiken. We kicked off at 7:30 AM with me in the middle of the pack. I started out at a decently comfortable pace, but couldn’t keep from pushing myself. I felt strong throughout this whole race, despite not doing much of a taper (if at all) or having a strategy. Maybe that’s what helped me–just getting out there and running, and not worrying about when I’d take my GU, or whether to walk the water stops. I just ran it. Looking at my splits definitely makes me smile, because I was able to keep up a great pace throughout and had a really strong finish.

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I crossed the finish line and waited for other runners to finish and got some pictures with my Sole Sisters. 🙂

Then the awards started, and I was very surprised when…

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This happened! I’m lucky to be able to run in a small town, because I know I could never place in a larger race. But I’ll take it!

My official chip time was 1:31:40, but I also clocked my fastest 10K yet, according to my Garmin, with a time of 55:59. Hopefully I can beat that at the Peachtree this summer!

10 miles; 1:31:40; 9:07 pace

Total Weekly Miles: 18

All in all, not a big week in the mileage category, but a great week for speedwork and racing. Here’s to the last week of school — next week is all about field day and our farewell to first grade celebrations!

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Weekly Wrap No.5


Hello, friends! I’m linking up over at Mississippi Piddlin and HoHo Runs to recap week one of PEACHTREE training! It’s crazy to think that the 4th is only 8 weeks out, but here we are already!

I am LOOSELY following Nike+ Running’s Intermediate 10K coach program. I say loosely because I’m awkwardly in between the intermediate and advanced plans, mileage-wise. I didn’t want to jump into the advanced one and burn out, so I decided to try the intermediate one and really focus on speed work this summer.

May 9-14

Monday | No plan?!

Monday was the day before my plan officially started, and conveniently Aiken’s monthly Sole Sisters meeting! I was so happy to finally be able to meet up after joining the Facebook group a couple months ago. We got in almost 4 easy miles alternating running and walking. It was the perfect way to jump back into running after Run United. After we finished, we headed to Maria’s, a local Mexican restaurant. Cheers!

3.66 miles; 45:52; 12:32 pace 

Tuesday | Rest

You guessed it! Tuesday was consumed with yard jobs and more wedding planning. I lead an exciting life, my friends.

Wednesday | Speed Work


On the agenda for today was my first speedy day (and, coincidentally, the first day of training). I headed to one of Aiken’s running tracks and did a one-mile warm-up followed by 2.5 miles of fartleks and a .5 of easy running. Despite the INSANE HEAT (although this is nothing compared to how it will be in a few weeks), I was really pleased with my pace. I alternated two minutes harder with two minutes easier. My harder paces hovered between about 7:50-8:30, with my final one averaging around 7:20. Score! It was tough but gratifying to see some good pick-ups, especially towards the end.

4.00 miles; 38:02; 9:30 pace

Thursday | 3 miles easy

After a minor wedding-planning-fueled meltdown, I headed to the track for some easy miles. I was truly running off the crazy. There is nothing that some sweat and take-out sushi can’t fix.

3.12 miles; 30:31; 9:52 pace

Friday | Cross

After work Friday, Jeff and I hustled over to the gym and I hopped on the indoor bike. That was victory number one. Historically I have skipped my cross days, then felt guilty, and then continued to skip. Resolution #1 this training cycle: speedwork. Resolution #2: cross train (including STRENGTH). I meant to snap a picture of my stats when I finished my bike ride, but we were trying to hurry to head down to an Augusta Green Jackets game, so I immediately grabbed some water and fit in about 10 minutes of core work.



Still a win! It was great to get in something besides running for the first time in a long time.

10.00 mile bike ride; core work

Saturday | 3 miles

I was wanting to do something a little different than road running, so I took my run to Hitchcock Woods around 10:00 on Saturday morning.


I’m sure I’ve mentioned the woods on here before, but I’ll say it again. They are AWESOME. With 70 miles of trails spread amongst 2,100 acres, it’s paradise for hikers, equestrians, and the occasionally nutty trail runner. I probably saw around a dozen people out riding in the FABULOUS weather. While the trails are nicely shaded, they are mostly soft sand, so running in there is tough. Luckily the views and friendly faces make the going easier. My favorite thing about the woods is that I have never felt unsafe in there and they are extremely clean. I love that they’re smack in the middle of downtown Aiken, but you feel like you’re miles from everything. I still have a ton of trails left to explore in there!


I ended up stretching my run to 5 easy miles to make my time on the trails worth it, which was smart, since later that night we went to The Big Mo, a delightfully retro and quaint drive-in about 30 minutes away. And, of course, you can’t go to the drive-in without….


FUNNEL CAKE! That bad boy only cost me $2.50 and I don’t want to know how many calories. Seriously, though, for $8.00, you get to see a double-feature of current movies (we saw Captain America: Civil War and Jungle Book) and you can bring blankets and not get weird looks from strangers! It’s a win-win.

5.00 miles; 1:00:11; 12:02 pace <— forgot to pause watch when yielding to horsies. Oops!

All around, it was a pretty great week running-wise. This week I’m sticking-ish to my plan but will be participating in Aiken’s Triple Crown Road Race (a 10-miler). I say participating and not racing because I do not plan on killing myself trying to be fast (fast for me, at least) on what I’m assuming will be a hot and humid morning. Instead, this will just be an extra-fun training run that happens to include bling at the end. Yay!

On another note… today marks ONE MORE MONDAY in the school year and only 12 days left with my munchkins. I will miss those sweet faces, but SAYONARA, FIVE AM WAKE-UPS! Or, more accurately, five-AM work wake-ups… But I’m not thinking about that right now. 🙂

Total mileage for the week – 20 miles


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