family · life

14 years

Wow two days in a row you get two posts from me!

14 years ago today I was in the Florida Mall. How do I know this? 14 years ago today Richard and I got married in the lobby of the hotel in the Florida Mall. We have been through a LOT in our 14, well actually 15 years together. I can not imagine anyone else by my side during the good and bad, the happy and the sad, the calm and the chaos.

Richard and I are only only husband and wife, we are best friends. I love the fact that we balance each other out. We don’t complete each other since we are both complete people, but instead bring out the best in each other. We recognize each other’s strengths and aren’t looking to change each other.

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family · life

Hershey Park- part 2 water park

Yesterday I began telling you about our trip to Hershey Park. Hershey is about 4 hours east of us, so it was a perfect summer vacation spot for our family. I went to Hershey as a kid, and loved it. Richard had never been there before.

Tuesday we spent the whole day in the water park inside Hershey. With your ticket to Hershey park you get admittance to the rides, water park and Zoo America. Let me tell you that we did everything in the 2.5 days we spent there.

As I mentioned yesterday, we stayed at the park until closing on Monday. Tuesday we got up, had breakfast at the hotel and then were back on the road around 10am to go back into the park. We stayed in the water park until it closed at 8 and then went back on the rides.

At the water park we rode the flume ride, which was ok but, we certainly got wet! We then headed over to the two new water rides. One is a race down tube slides riding on foam mats and the other is a water coaster. The water coaster is the only water ride we waited in line for more than 20 min. It was better than I thought it would be so I guess that made it worth the wait. While we were in line waiting a teenage girl in line behind me passed out. I saw this coming as she looked really woozy and had already almost fallen head first over the chain. I prepared to catch her while alerting the people she was with and Richard yelled for the closest life guard we could see. It wasn’t that hot, but it was a good reminder about staying hydrated.

After lunch we went to the water playground. This playground was slides, between all kinds of climbing items. Between each slide there were places for the kids to spray water, fill and dump water buckets and so much more. There were also two huge buckets that filled up at the top of the biggest slides. When you hear a horn, watch out the biggest of the buckets is ready to dump!

We then went over to the tube slide tower. One side had 4 slides that you could use with either a two person tube or a single rider tube. We rode all 4 of these sides. We rode on the two person tubes and would alternate which child rode with which parent.  The other tower had a different type of tube where you sat facing each other on top of the tube. We only rode one of the two rides with that tube. The line was longer, the tube was heavier and I didn’t like the fact that I was backwards almost the whole time.

We also went on the lazy river and floated around that for 2 laps. It was a decent length lazy river and wasn’t too crazy busy when we left.

Right before the water park closed we decided to go back to the racer slides and rode those 2 more times.

We ate both lunch and dinner inside the park. We had Subway for lunch. You could only get 6″ subs, but that was fine, Richard just had extra meat on his. We had ice creams for a snack. They had Turkey Hill ice cream. We each got a small cup Blake- chocolate, Colby – vanilla, Richard- mint chip and I had strawberry. They were all really good ice creams. For dinner we ate at one of the Hershey stands. We Richard and the boys each got chicken tenders and fries. I had the same tenders on top of salad. They were reasonably priced and had decent flavor.

We rode a few more rides and left the park right at 10pm. It was a full and fun day. I don’t have any pictures from Tuesday, just lots of memories of fun times with the boys and Richard.

Tune in tomorrow for more info and LOTS of pictures of the rest of the park and Zoo America.

family · life · through my camera lens

I’m BACKKK– Hershey Park day 1

As you may have guessed from my post on Monday, we were on vacation this week. I had pre-posted the two book related posts so that my blog didn’t go to sleep for a week. I tried to pop back into a few of the blogs that I follow all the time to catch up on your lives too.

On Monday we dropped Dixie off and then headed East to Harrisburg. We stayed in Harrisburg for our trip to Hershey Park. I purchased 2 day tickets at AAA. This got us a discounted ticket price, plus we got a free preview day. This meant we could go into the park 2.5 hour before closing on Monday. Plus they have it set up where if you pay for parking on the preview day, it counts for your 1st days parking too.

Image may contain: foodMonday we went to Chocolate World. This is a Hershey Store right outside Hershey Park and had milk shakes, and cookies. Colby had a peanut butter cup blossom cookie. Blake had a smaller chocolate chip cookie. We walked around Chocolate World and went through this “Factory Tour” which is a free ride that takes you through an animatronic model of the kiss factory. At the end you get a free miniature Hershey bar.

We then headed into Hershey Park for our free 2.5 hours. We Image may contain: sky, night and outdoorheaded over to take a look at the Water Park. We planned on spending all of Tuesday at the water park area. We decided to stay over the Mid-Way area and do those rides. This was 2 wooden roller coasters, a mouse trap style coaster, a Ferris wheel, a matterhorn style ride, and the whip. I love the fact that this section was mostly filled with old school rides. It felt like a carnival more than an amusement park.

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We stayed until the park closed. They boys were so excited to head back the next day. Tune in tomorrow for more info about our trip!

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit- part 1 — seeing grit in yourself and children

Grit BookI have been reading the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I haven’t finished reading it just yet, but I wanted to share some of my insights to this point.

Grit is a term that was starting to be tossed around in education before I left teaching. Grit is the stick-to-it-ness of people. This book dives into how grit comes about and how it effects each person in their lives.

I have always felt that I am rather gritty in life. I know that I am in my career path. I am a make a goal, stick to the goal type of person. I know that life isn’t perfect. I know that I am not perfect. I also know that I need to stick to the things that I want to accomplish and that both the successes and failures will assist me in growing in my career. I look at each academic year, each new class of children, as an opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher.

I have over the years seen the difference between a child who has grit and those who do not. So much of education and assumed to be based on ability. While having a high ability often makes school easier, it is not the only factor in a child’s success in school. Over the years the children who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who work hard and overcome the deficits they come to me with. The kindergartners who did not go to preK and hardly know how to write their name and leave writing sentences. The children who come into the classroom not speaking English and leave as fluent readers and writers. The children who do not recognize their numbers and leave understanding addition and subtraction.

But it isn’t only the students who go from below grade level to on grade level who have grit. Some of the children who I worked with that had the most grit were my special needs children. The ones who fight through the pain, both physical and educational pains. The children who struggle to speak in complete sentences who want nothing more than for you to listen to their story.

What I have seen, in my own sons, as well as many gifted children, is that the gifted children often develop grit later than others. Children who learning come easy to do not have to push themselves to gain academic knowledge. They do not have to work to learn, it just happens. So what do we do for these students? How do we help them gain the passion and perseverance to grow in life? How do we help them learn to overcome adversity and move on with life? This in itself is a form of learned helplessness. They feel that they can do anything so when things do not go smoothly they do not know what to do next.

For Blake, he hit this struggle this year. In math this year he actually had to work. He needed to practice the skills worked on in class. He struggled to complete homework assignments and needed to learn to ask for help. He needed to see that even if he got things wrong the first time he could go back and try again. He is learning that life isn’t simple. That all learning isn’t just a matter of showing up and then knowing how to do everything. One of the big things that Richard and I did was let him struggle. He needed to fail. He needed to see that even after he failed he could do it.

As parents we want our children to be successful. We want our children to feel pride. But, are we giving them true pride by using empty praise? When we do things for our children what are we telling them? What happens when you praise a child for their ability and not their practice? What happens when everything easy? How do we push children without hurting them? Is it bad for them to feel hurt from time to time, or will that actually encourage them to step up and try again harder next time?

How do you find that fine line between helping and hurting. If you do too much you are inviting a feeling of learned helplessness. If you do not help enough at certain times are you also bringing on those same feelings? Where is that fine line? Do gritty parents raise gritty kids? Can you increase your level of grittiness in yourself? In your child? The answer is yes, but is isn’t easy and there are many things that must fall into place. Finding something that you are passionate about and finding the perseverance to stick to the thing you are passionate about no matter what is thrown in your way… that is grit.

 

 

family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday- Kid Packing

TTM_MHM

As I often mention on my blog, I’m big into teaching my sons to be independent in life. They are learning to cook, clean and do many other things on their own. Here is another life skill that they have been working on since they were young…. packing!

I always hear about mothers complaining about packing to go on trips. When the boys were little I used to dread this task. I knew I’d have to pack for 3 people, and the dog(s), and get the house ready to be left alone for as long as we were traveling. So as the boys got older I began teaching them to pack.

They are given a packing list! On the list they are given the number of each article of clothing they need to pack. They put the items on their bed in outfits and let me know when they are ready. Richard or I then go and check to see that they have the right items and if they need to switch things out because they don’t go, or are more play clothes then we want them to travel with at that time. Then the boys pack everything into their suitcase.

They are also allowed to bring their backpack with things to do on the drive/while we are there. They have to bring books, their tablets, some kind of learning something and headphones.

This means I only have to pack for myself and any times that we need as a family. The packing lists are catered to what we are doing and where we are going, but I’ll tell you that taking the 2 minutes to write out a packing list for them (and often times myself as well) will solve a lot of headaches and a ton of time for me now and on the trip!

family · life · through my camera lens

Fireworks and more

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, As I mentioned in my post yesterday, they don’t have town fireworks on the 4th here. We had a quiet day. Richard went for a bike ride. We went to Five Guys for lunch. (We love Five Guys Burgers and Fries!, ok well Blake eats a hot dog and fries, but the rest of us love the burgers).

I then went out for a bit of time shopping on my own. This was two fold, I was bathing suit shopping (read my whine about that here) and I was getting a bit of time away. Richard worked in the garage putting one of our older receivers and speakers out in the garage. As I’ve mentioned in many past posts we always have music going in our house.

Colby decided that we needed to have cookies or something for desert. I tossed out a few suggestions and we decided to make maple and brown sugar oatmeal cookies. Colby helped make the cookies and pretty much made them on his own this time. If you follow my instagram, you saw a picture of this yesterday.

We had steak, sweet potatoes fries and grilled “oven” fries for dinner. I put the sliced sweet potatoes (with EVOO, S&P, sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg) into one foil packet. I sliced up two baking potatoes and put them into foil packets too. These get cooked on the grill at the same time as the steak. The potatoes I did one with just EVOO, S&P and the other had a seasoning blend with EVOO. Richard and I devoured the sweet potato packet. Every time we do this we say we need to make this more often, but never do. I really like the slices that get a bit of burnt edge because this adds another layer of flavor and the sugars are typically more caramelized.

While we were waiting for dark, mother nature decided to put on her own fireworks show. We had over an hour of lightning in the distance. There was no rain, there was little to no thunder, but there were some impressive bolts and often the sky lit up like day.

It let up enough right at dark, so cranked up the tunes and lit off some of the fountains that we purchased. The boys also played with snap bangs and sparklers. I brought my new camera out and played with the settings.

family · life

Happy Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July is that time of year where you realize that summer is really summer. When I was a child the town I grew up in had a week long 4th celebration. There was a carnival, dinners and concerts on the town common every night. They also had fireworks. Some years they had two nights of fireworks. People would put their chairs and blankets on the common early in the day to mark their space. And you needed to do this if you wanted any decent space.

As I moved about in life, my family moved out of that town my freshman year in college, the various locations had 4th of July events, but it wasn’t always the big hoop-dee-do that I knew when I was a child. But, we’d always find a place to watch fireworks.

When the boys were younger, they actually did not like fireworks. When they were really young we didn’t even bother to keep them up to see the fireworks. As they got older, we began going to see fireworks. Each year we got closer and closer to the fireworks displays. At first we were far enough away for them to watch, but there was little noise. Each year they got closer. At one point, we had to give them headphones and this helped. We finally got them close enough AND without headphones on.

Then we moved here to PA. The area we are in doesn’t do fireworks on the 4th of July. Many of the towns around have community days on other weekends in July and they do their fireworks on that day. So we will celebrate by relaxing. We are going to have steak and oven fries for dinner. We will light off fountains and just enjoy time together.

The 4th of July is a day to celebrate the freedoms we have as Americans. It is the day to appreciate those who fought and do fight to protect those freedoms. A day to enjoy time with family and friends. To enjoy good food, laughter and conversation.

If you are from the US, I hope you enjoy your 4th!

family · life · through my camera lens

Sprinkler fun

I feel like I often write about things that my kids are getting to do here that they didn’t do in Orlando. Don’t get me wrong, they had a great childhood there but this is a different childhood. We have created a less structured childhood here. The boys have more freedom and more opportunities to just be outside doing kid things. There are times I think they miss the structure and activities they were engaged in when they were in Orlando, but most of the time they love the quiet, free, open time they have here.

When they were younger they played sports all school year as well as were involved in a variety of other out of school activities. When we moved here we stopped that. The main reason is the fact that they were not passionate about any of the sports they were playing. Neither wanted to do anything to improve beyond the practices and games. I’m not saying they needed to ask for private lessons, but they didn’t want to go kick the soccer ball, toss the football, or shoot baskets when they didn’t have to. So, why pay for something they aren’t passionate about. When you get to their age the teams get more competitive and there is more involved, multiple practices and traveling.

They have both asked to continue acting, and they have another week of theater camp coming up soon. We will see where this goes.

But, this weekend they had another free child first. Playing in the sprinklers. In Orlando we had a sprinkler system installed in our yard. The water that was feed to this was reclaimed water, so the boys were not encourged to play in it. We actually usually ran it at about 5am so they weren’t even awake when it was running.

Here we do not have a sprinkler system, so the sprinklers run on hose water. On Saturday we were watering the front lawn since it had been a while since there was rain. Both the boys just began running in and out of the sprinkler in their clothes. At first they hesitated and were just going up and drinking the water or helping to move the sprinkler. When they realized they were not getting in trouble they went for it.

Sunday and Monday they went out and put the sprinkler in the backyard. These times they actually wore bathing suits. They brought out their water squirters and a bucket. They had a blast playing in the water.

They were just running around and laughing. They had fun… being kids!

family · food · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– menu planning edition

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Every week the night before I go to the grocery store I spend some time menu planning. I have done this for years. I want to go to the store once in a week. I don’t want to have to go back and get something. I also don’t want to limit my meal plans based on what I got on a whim, or what I have in my pantry.

Now don’t get me wrong there are times when I still make pantry meals. There are times when I have to go back to the store because I forgot something or I ran out of something I didn’t expect to run out of before shopping again.

So here is my must have Monday items for menu planning. First thing I grab is a pad of paper. I like the small/junior legal pads. They tend to be the perfect size for my list and then I can fold it up and put it in my pocket. Yes, I know that I could make the list on my phone, but doing it this way is the way I do it. Plus I can have others add to the list without them touching my phone.

I divide the paper down the middle on the left hand side I write all the items I am getting at the store. I even write the staples that I get each week. My list typically starts: milk, fruit, veggies, deli.

On the right hand list I write the days of the week and start picking out meals for dinner. i do not plan lunches or breakfasts. These meals are all fend for yourself at my house. If you want something for one of these meals that we don’t already have you need to put the item on the left side of the list or let me know so I can write it down.

I tend to make simpler meals for the week nights. There are many nights that Richard doesn’t get home from work until around 7pm. The boys and I do not wait until then to eat so the foods either need to be either easy to reheat or remake. The weekends (F, S, S) are the days I’ll put more energy into eating. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t cook during the week, they are just easier to put together.

The summer months mean more grilling and more simple meals. Who wants to put the oven on or slave over a stove when its in the 90s outside??

We purchase a good chunk of meats at Costco so I will go down and see what meats we have in the freezer before planning. That doesn’t mean I  am limited to those meats, but then I don’t have to buy new meats if we have them.

I always ask for meal suggestions. Blake typically says: quesadillas, pressed sandwiches, pizza or tacos. Colby typically asks for: burgers, steak, pancakes or pasta. Richard’s thoughts are a bit more random.

I typically make things we have had before, but I have an extensive Pinterest board with foods to try. Every now and then I will say… time for something new.

This week we are having:

  • grilled ham and pineapple
  • tacos
  • steak, grilled fries, and salad
  • chicken something (I pulled out chicken, but don’t know what we are having with it yet)

That’s as far as I got. I’m slacking this week! Oh well we will get there.

Do you menu plan? How do you go about menu planning each week?

family · food · through my camera lens · Uncategorized

Meatballs and weekday sauce

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When I was growing up, it seemed like a majority of the friends my brother and I had were Italian. We on the other hand do not have a drop of Italian blood in us. But that never stopped us from enjoying Italian foods! I love anything in red sauce, who doesn’t? I would be very happy if you gave me a bowl of red sauce and a loaf of Italian bread… yum!

Well last night we decided to have meatballs. We had purchased a french baguette at the store on Monday and we didn’t want it to go stale before it was consumed. Blake told me over the weekend he wanted to help with the cooking this week, so I had shown him Alton Brown’s Chicken Parmesan Balls recipe. We decided this would be the meatballs we make this time around. I typically make the meatballs from this recipe anytime I make meatballs. P1080320

The boys decided they would both help make dinner. Blake helped make the meatballs. He measured and mixed and then formed the meatballs while I cooked them in the cast iron skillet. Colby made the sauce almost completely on his own.

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Chicken Turkey Parm Balls

  • 3 oz panko bread crumbs
  • 4 oz parm cheese (I used a combination of parm and asiago since I didn’t have enough parm)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix (dried herbs not salad dressing)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 oz of fresh mozzarella
  • weekday spaghetti sauce (see below)
  • Heat oven to 400
  1. mix 1/2 oz of panko and 1 oz parm cheese in a small bowl and set aside
  2. combine chicken, egg, 1 Tbsp oil, bread crumbs, parm cheese, basil, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and salt in a large bowl. (use your hands it’s your best kitchen tool!)
  3. use cookie scoop to create equal size balls
  4. heat 1 Tbps oil in pan.
  5. brown balls in the pan, work in batches and do not over crowd the pan. remove to paper towel lined pan/plate as you go.
  6. put balls into baking dish and cover with weekday sauce. sprinkle on reserved panko and cheese. top with fresh motzarella
  7. bake for 10 min or until the cheese is melted.
  8. serve however you want (in a roll, on pasta, just on a plate, eat it right out the pan…?)

Weeknight sauce

  • EVOO
  • 6 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (herbs not salad dressing mix)
  • 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  1. heat oil in the pan (enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  2. add crushed garlic
  3. add remaining herbs
  4. heat until the garlic is starting to brown around the edges, making sure to continue to break up garlic if you didn’t chop it up
  5. add in the whole can of tomatoes
  6. let cook 5 min or so then begin breaking up the tomatoes (Colby used the wooden spoon then I used a potato masher) to the consistency you like your sauce

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This was really good. The boys did find the sauce a bit spicy. I think next time I’ll use 1/2 or 1/4 tsp of the red pepper flakes. I enjoyed the texture, taste and mouthfeel of these meatballs. I would make them bigger next time if I was making them for the subs. I tend to choose to make my meatballs smaller so I know they cook through and they also do not need as much binder then. I will certainly be making both the meatballs and sauce again since everyone enjoyed them.