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.

 

 

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book · life · reviews · Uncategorized

Star Girl and Mockingbird book reviews

This summer the boys and I got library cards. We have been going to the library every week. Each week Blake gets 7-9 books and Colby gets 5-7 books. I have been picking up 2 books each week. I am always shocked to see that we have plowed through the books and are ready to return them the next week.

The last two weeks Colby has been choosing books off a list we found of books for children who liked the Wonder series. He asked me to read one last week and one this week.

Book - Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliLast week he had me read Star Girl, by Jerry Spinneli. Star Girl is written about how a school deals with “The new girl” who starts school for the first time. Leo tells the story of how Star Girl changes Mica High from the first day she arrived. Star Girl did not look, act or even think like anyone else in the school. Is it good to be THAT different? Can the positive energy and unique desire to be happy all the time, that is Star Girl, bring about a change in the culture of a whole school, or at least a few of the students there?

I really enjoyed this story and so did Colby. I believe in some ways he could relate to Star Girl. He was just the new kid and he too is very emotional, passionate and always wants people to be happy. Now don’t get me wrong he doesn’t dress crazy, or call himself a unique name, or go out of his way to feel that different, but he knows his personality draws people in and makes them happy.  This is a YA book and one that is a good read for teen and tweens. The story is written from the voice of Leo and how he reacts to Star Girl. Both male and female readers can relate to this story.Book - Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Colby and I both plowed through the book Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine yesterday. It’s not that the book was super short, it was just that good. Caitlin is in the fifth grade. She is bight, a gifted reader and a talented artist. Caitlin also has Asperger’s syndrome. Before, her brother Devon helped her negotiate how to fit into a world that makes little to no sense to her. But, then the unspeakable happened. Devon was killed in a school shooting. Her father doesn’t no know to deal with his own emotions never mind those of his daughter. The school counselor tries to help Caitlin see that with a little guidance she can understand empathy and then understand how to help herself and so many other people in her life that are hurting after this tragedy.

This book is a good ready for anyone! It was an interesting look into the thought process of a child with Asperger’s. I have taught children with this and I could relate. I have know children with his and see how they just don’t fit in even when they don’t realize they don’t fit in. They see the world through their own set of eyes. This book did an excellent job of showing how important it is to see each person for their strengths and that if you just step back and look at the person for their strengths and not the aspects of why they don’t fit in you may see you have more in common than you realize.

The theme of school shooting plays a back plot in this book. It is not discussed in great details, but more deals with how this effects those left behind. The purpose seemed to be to connect a variety of characters to the same tragedy. This is something that is being addressed in schools on a regular basis, and helping children see how the shooting effects more than just the victims themselves may help children see this act in a new light as well.  (this is also a YA story)

food · through my camera lens

chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies

IMG_20180628_134437.jpgYesterday we had a rainy day so I decided it was a good day to make cookies. I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. I have found a new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from my Duff Bakes cookbook. This is the chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, he as a crispy one too, but I don’t like that one… sorry Duff!

This time I decided to switch it up a bit and add in peanut butter chips.

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Chocolate Chip/Peanut Butter Chip cookies (adapted from Duff Goldman’s Fat and Chewy Chocolate chip cookies)

  • 2 1/4 c. AP Flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c. butter softened
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 c. pb chips
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy
  3. add in eggs and vanilla
  4. add flour, baking soda and salt
  5. stir in chips (pb and chocolate)
  6. scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets (I used my silpats)
  7. bake cookies for 8-12 min depending on how gooey you want the centers to be
  8. cool for 5 min on sheet then transfer to cooling racksIMG_20180627_183953_742.jpg

These cookies are soooooo yummy. The center is soft and with the perfect level of chew.  The cookie base itself is super buttery and there is just the right level of salt. The combination of the chocolate and peanut butter is balanced and adds a great sweetness. As you can see, Colby tried them too and he also loved them. Blake doesn’t like pb chips, but he has had this when I made it with just chocolate chips and liked it.  Hmmm I think next time I’ll do chocolate chips, pretzels and butterscotch chips. Ummm yummy!

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.

 

book · reviews

Hello Love– book review

You can tell it is summer by the rate I am reading books. Or maybe it is because I have been reading lighter stories lately. Last night I finished reading Hello Love, by Karen McQuestion.

This is a really cute story, predictable, but cute.

Hello Love by [McQuestion, Karen]Dan lives with his daughter Lindsay and their dog Anni. Anni, so named because Dan’t wife Christine gave Dan Anni for their anniversary. Christine passed away a year ago of cancer and Dan is trying to hold all the pieces of their lives together. Every night Anni waits for Christine to come home, which makes it hard for Dan since he knows his beloved Christine will never return again.

Meanwhile… Andrea is dealing with moving past her recent divorce from Marco. Her friend Jade drags her off on an outing where Andrea is expected to push away all the negatives of her life and as the cosmos for something more positive. Andrea plays along even though she doesn’t believe it will work.

One day Lindsay lets Anni out and she is “dognapped” from their driveway. Lindsay and Dan are devastated.

Andrea, who works for a management company, get a complaint of an illegal dog. She finds the dog there and feels the dog is being abused. Instead of calling the police, she takes the dog and claims it as her own.

Dan and Andrea’s paths cross from time to time. Will they ever realize the connection they truly have. Can they each find what they are searching for in life?

This is a great summer/beach read (even if half the book is set in the winter… that’s not important). It is an easy read where even if you know what is going to happen you want to continue to read to make sure all is right in the world. There are a less predictable moments, and those help to keep the story rolling. If you like dogs and want a happy ending story, then Hello Love by, Karen McQuestion is a good book to pick up.

 

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Alton Brown’s Chewy Peanut Butter Cookie

P1080303When I went to the grocery store on Monday, they had a sign saying that Tuesday, June 12th was national peanut butter cookie day. That was enough incentive for me to bake peanut butter cookies. I mean who doesn’t love a good PB cookie?

So I decided to look in a few cookbooks I have and settled on Alton Brown’s Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies from his cookbook EverdayCook. The recipe starts by telling you that this is  “A one-bowl, no mixer cookie that’s also gluten free.” I hesitated at first, but decided to give it a go anyway…

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookie

  • 1 c. smooth Peanut butter (I used Recess’s peanut butter)
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  1. Heat oven to 350
  2. line cookie sheets with parchment paper (I used my silpats)
  3. put peanut butter and both sugars into a large bowl, beat together with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated
  4. add the egg, baking soda, vanilla and salt. mix until will combined
  5. roll dough into 1 oz balls (I used a cookie scoop)
  6. place 8 per cookie sheet (or whatever fits with space between for spreading)
  7. flatten cookie using a fork to create cross hatches
  8. bake for 10 min or until the cookies look dry and are just lightly browned
  9. cool for 2 min the sheet pan.

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Ok I will be honest these cookies turned out a lot better than I expected them to. The whole concept of cookies without flour just sounds totally wrong to me. But, they taste like peanut butter and sugar, and what could be better than that? I did have a slightly difficult time mixing the peanut butter and sugars together with the wooden spoon. I did get it to fully incorporate, but I think I’d pull out my hand mixer and make it go that much faster next time.

Richard and Colby both enjoyed these too. I didn’t send them into work with Richard because they only made about 14 of the size I made.  They are rather crumbly, which is odd since they do not have a dry mouth feel. I will certainly make these again!

 

book · reviews

The Selection- book review

Over the weekend I finished reading The Selection by Kiera Cass. I picked it up as a free book through Amazon Prime. I’m noticing that they have a lot of first in a series books as part of the prime books.  Of course… suck you in with a good story and then you are willing to pay for the rest of the series? Well this is on series that I am considering giving in and paying for.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me tell you about the book.

This book is set post World War 4. When the world we know it doesn’t exist. There is now a royal family and caste system in place. Moving between castes is near impossible, especially for females. Well that is unless you are part of the “Selection”. Thirty-five girls, one from each region will be selected out of the masses, and this selection will change their lives. For one… the biggest change of all.

America Singer wants nothing to do with being part of the selection. She loves Aspen, but he is in a lower caste. Can they figure out how to make this love work? When America’s name is called as the selected girl from her region, she is shocked and still critical of the whole process. But, when she meets Prince Maxon, she begins to think of life differently.

What will happen when America goes from her “just good enough” home to living in the castle? Will she get along with the other girls? Will she make it past day one never mind to the end of the selection process?

I really enjoyed this story. It reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games, without the whole making children kill each other part. The world is again that post apocalyptic state of the world. There is a government that is ruling over the world that holds everyone into a caste system. The government is a royalty who is searching for the right person to marry their heir. They are searching among the masses to show that anyone can be the next princess, even though the system set in place makes it difficult to move up and crazy to move down.

I found myself sucked into this story and wanting to join America in her adventures. I found myself running the gamete of emotions with her and now I need to get the next book since this one left off with 6 girls still in the selection process. I guess I’m off to find “The Elite” Hmmm maybe I can get it at the library? If not, I will pay to download it on my kindle… it’s that good.

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Mixed Berry Corn Muffins

I had some blueberries that I needed to use up. Originally I was going to use blueberries and strawberries, but the strawberries went bad… I hate that.

So I found this recipe for Berry Cornmeal Muffins on All Recipes. After seeing that it had decent reviews, I decided to try it out.

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Mixed Berry Corn Muffins

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 10 oz naturally flavored strawberry yogurt (I used Siggi’s strawberry)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of berries (I used 1 cup of fresh blueberries and 1 cup frozen mixed berries)

Preheat oven to 350

line muffin pan with liners

Sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and set aside 1/2 cup

Mix together yogurt, butter and egg

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until just combined

coat berries in the 1/2 cup dry mixture to coat (I think you could get away with just using 1/4 cup)

Gently stir berries into mix

Scoop into muffin pan

Bake at 350 for 25 min

Enjoy!

I really liked these muffins. They are really moist for a corn muffin base. I would guess it is the yogurt that is in it. I personally liked when I hit a red raspberry in the one I tried, so I think the next time I make this I’ll just vanilla yogurt and red raspberries. It is an easy recipe to tweak to your flavor liking. P1080246

book · reviews

All the Breaking Waves- book review

I can tell that summer is near, I’m reading more and more. There is something about sitting down and reading while the breeze blows, the birds chirp and the world is warm that just works. Or maybe it’s the fact that life slows down in the summer and you have more time to just sit and read? Who cares what the reason is… it’s summer and that means I’m reading more.

I finished my latest book yesterday. I’m still enjoying reading books that I can get free through Amazon Prime. This time I read All the Breaking Waves: A Novel, by Kerry Lonsdale.

Molly is an art history professor, a jewelry maker and a mother to her eight year old daughter Cassie. But, those are the easy things to understand about Molly. She has a secret or ten that she has kept from the public for years.

Molly lost both her parents on the same day just before graduating from high school. This experience altered her path and choices for the rest or her life, or so she thought. When her daughter Cassie began having premonitions about tragic experiences with her friends, Molly had no choice but to dive back into the life that is her past. Molly packs up her stuff and Cassie and heads back to the house she called home.

Molly never expected to go back to her Nana’s house in Pacific Grove, but she knew that was the best place for Cassie to get the help she needed. While there Molly has to face the many pieces of her past that she walked away from many years before.

I found myself drawn into All the Breaking Waves: A Novel. It was one of those books you knew would have a happy ending, but you keep reading just to make sure you are right. The relationships in this book feel true to life. The questions and challenges that Molly faces may not be the same as other mothers, but I think that most mom’s can relate to the challenges she is facing and the choices she makes. I would highly recommend this book.

food · life

Some days you bake bird food

Yesterday I took the honey “bourbon” chicken recipe and used it with pork butt. My goal was to make honey “bourbon” pulled pork on homemade rolls. Well…. this isn’t exactly how it turned out.

First I decided to make this in the crock pot. I didn’t think the pork would cook well in the electric pressure cooker. I also had just seen a test where the person tested cooking pork in a pressure cooker, a slow cooker and a dutch oven. The dutch oven did the best and the pressure cooker did the worst. Well, shockingly, I don’t actually have a dutch oven so into the crock pot I put my pork.

Since I was cooking it on low for hours I decided to add a splash of chicken stock, which in the end I didn’t need since there was more liquid than needed. OH well!

I also decided to try out a new roll recipe. I found a recipe for french hamburger rolls made in the bread maker.  When the dough was done I knew it was wrong. I decided to try anyway. This dough was SOOOOO sticky I had to incorporate more flour into it so that it wasn’t all over me, the counter, and everything else. This then meant that the dough was overworked. I plowed on and baked them anyway. They had no flavor and were soooo dense and didn’t rise. So out to the birds that batch of rolls went.

I decided to make rice and quinoa to have with the pork.

It was pretty good, the texture was good, but it just wasn’t the taste I’d anticipated. OH well… such is life. Some days your rolls rise and taste yummy and some days you make bird food.