family · life · through my camera lens

Kayaking

Since moving to PA, we have been trying to get out and do a variety of outdoor things with the boys. The took mountain biking lessons, we’ve gone hiking, they learned to sled, ice skate and make snowmen. We are enjoying the county park that is located about 3 miles from our house. We love that we have 3075 acres of nature to explore and enjoy.

Out latest adventures was kayaking. We have always seen tons of people out kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on the lake in North Park. We often talked about getting out on the water and trying out kayaking. Saturday was the day we got out. We went through LLBean Outdoor Discovery School

. (We went with them on 2 hikes last year) Our feeling was to get with an instructor who would help all of us begin to understand the techniques of kayaking.

Each of the boys was able to paddle their own kayak, which was a big plus. None of us were perfect, but we had fun. Colby struggles in the beginning, but Richard helped him muddle through the basics and then his paddle stroke became near perfect. Blake on the other hand just went at it. His stroke is a bit sloppy but that doesn’t stop him from going.

For me I found turning to be the most challenging, part, but I’m getting there.

Richard has the most water craft experience, so this was a lot easier for him. (he is the one who had the camera, hence the picture of me)

While on the water we saw lots and lots of Canadian Geese, they are starting to practice for their migration flight. We saw Harry the Great Blue Heron and a snapper turtle who decided to pop up right in the middle of all of our kayaks.

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Education · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday — Back to School (things edition)

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When parents are getting their children ready to go back to school, they often think about getting clothes, backpacks, notebooks and lunchboxes. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you will often get a list of supplies from your child’s teacher as well.

Image result for back to schoolWhen picking out items for your child to use at school it is often worth spending a bit more now so you don’t have to replace these items later in the year. Over the years, my sons have had 3 backpacks. I let them pick out a fun/novelty backpack for preK but after that we switched over to a better quality backpack. Make sure the size of the backpack is proportionate to your child. We tend to get JanSport backpacks. The ones that we purchased when Blake was in K we still have and use to this date. This is smaller than the one they now use for school (we got those ones when Blake was in 4th grade). When you get a quality backpack it will last years. I had many years where children had cute backpacks, but by February they were destroyed (typically the zippers broke or the pack itself will tear)

Lunch boxes do tend to be something that we replace yearly. This is more because things will spill, the lining will tear or in other ways it will get ruined/destroyed. Again make sure you buy something that is proportional to your child’s size. I also always get reusable ice packs to put in the lunch box with their lunches. Make sure your child is able to open up all the containers you put inside their lunch. When packing lunches take into account the timeframe that your child will be given to eat. Most schools have about 25 min for lunch, but this includes getting into the cafeteria, sitting down, eating, TALKING, and cleaning up. Many children get frustrated when they have too much, or not enough lunch.

When getting clothes for school make sure your child is able to get in and out of the items independently, for bathroom purposes. Make sure you send your child in wearing clothes that they can move, work and play in. Do not send them in wearing clothes that they feel like they can not get dirty or play in. Your child will be sitting on the floor, going to recess, as well as the various special area activities (art, music, pe). Send your children wearing shoes that they can run and climb safely. Also, make sure you check out your school’s dress code.

Some of these things seem trivial, but to your child and their day it is major. School days may seem long to you, but the days are packed and busy. There is limited time for doing tasks, and you don’t want your child struggling with materials, clothes, or lunch items when they don’t have to the time to fumble through the process.

 

Education · life

School Supply Lists

It’s back to school time. Which means it is time to hear people complain. Let the complaining begin, or should it?

You will start seeing/hearing/reading about people complaining about supply lists. I know both sides of these lists. And, while I understand the issues, I also understand why these list exist.

So… here!

Why do teachers send supply lists in the first place? Because school systems do not supply materials for classroom use. I’ve worked in schools where teachers get a $25 budget to buy resources for the classroom… do you know how far this goes for 18-22 children? Back to school time is the time that items are on sale. So while your child may not use 50 pencils in September, he/she will use/lose that many during the school year. Plus most classroom teachers have to share specific supplies with special area teachers (art, music, library, computer lab, pe … etc)

Why do teachers ask for specific brands? After teaching for many years you get to know classroom supplies. We realize that it is cheeper to buy store brand, but it won’t last as long. Crayola crayons color in true color and most other crayon colors are slightly off. Friskar scissors are the sharpest and do not break. I’ve had students with off brand scissors have the scissors break during the year. These kids are NOT gentle with their supplies. We do not get money from these brands, we are just trying to find the ones that will last the longest. Trust me it is worth a bit more investment now instead of having the teacher/your child ask you to replace the items later because they are broken, dried out or totally lost.

When teachers ask for specific color folders, notebooks or other items, they have a system in place that uses these colors to help your child get organized. They are not trying to make it so your daughter can’t have the super cute folder she wants. They want to be able to say take out your red writing folder. Or pull out your green science notebook. This helps speed the process of transitioning between subjects.

Think of this, your child’s teacher is having to store these items in the classroom for future use. But, as I stated most of the items teachers ask for on back to school lists are on sale at this time of the year. When grade level lists have to be created teachers spend a lot of time hashing over what to ask for and where to store the items until they will be used.

As a teacher, I often find it quite humorous that the parents who are the most forceful on everything being equal are the ones who often complain the most about having to buy a specific brand item. This isn’t about being equal, or trying to make parents spend too much money or any of the things you think. The teachers are attempting to figure out everything your child will need to be successful. If you question a product, ask the teacher what it will be used for, they will tell you.

For example, I overheard a parent a few years ago complaining that their kindergartner needed dry erase markers. The parent was saying… how many markers will a teacher go through in a year. My child will probably never even get to use the marker on the board. Where if the parent asked they would probably find out that every child in that classroom will most likely have a lap size whiteboard that will be used in the learning process.

Parents… Teachers are not trying to make you go broke. They are not trying to punish you. They are not even mildly attempting to be unreasonable in their requests. Just remember that if they do not ask for these resources now they will either have to ask later (when parents are less likely to buy since they won’t be on sale) or buy the items themselves. I know myself and most teachers I know spend a LOT of their own money for the classroom. If you can’t afford items the teachers will not make your child’s life miserable, the teacher will just go out and buy the items him/herself.

life

Ready for the new school year?

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. There are often times when I wish the boys went to school all year long. They do so much better when they have a routine. Then there are days when I am so happy that they have summer break. I love the slower moments of life.

Today the boys got up, had breakfast and then went downstairs. They are playing with hot wheels cars. They take control of the fire stick, but that is fine. They don’t always play well together, but when they do it is nice. I enjoy the easy relationship they have together. They certainly are best of friends and worst of enemies. They have a natural relationship together. They are both strong willed and that shows in ugly ways at times, but I wouldn’t change in either of the boys.

We have kept up some routines, schedules and expectations over the summer, but also loosened up some of them too. I like that as they get older they have more independent times. We are getting to the phase in their lives where they balance is shifting. They need to make more and more decisions on their own. They need to be more responsible for their choices, actions and forward movements in life.

So many times it seems that parents want to keep their children younger. They want to shelter the children. They want to stay in control of the choices and decisions that are made. That is not the way that Richard and I parent. We want the boys to have a firm grasp on reality. They need to understand choices and consequences now before those wrong choices could land them in more trouble than an apology can fix.

So am I ready for summer to be over? Yes and No. Am I ready for the boys to grow up? Yes. I love seeing the changes in the boys. I am excited to see what the next change will be. I’m excited to see the growth and development in all aspects of life. Going forward into the next grade of school is a huge step in the development process… so bring on 6th and 5th grades. I’m ready to see the changes it with bring in their personalities, development and all around self. (Not that I’m ready to start the whole get up and function in the mornings)

life · through my camera lens

Different way of looking at things

There are so many things in life that could frustrate and upset you. You could feel like things will never workout the way you expect them to. You could feel like the cosmos are going against you.

I look at my backyard and realize that I should be frustrated. The clover has taken over. Now granted I know that I haven’t done a ton to improve the quality of the yard. I can’t get mad at the yard when I don’t put the effort into making it look the way I wish it looked. I get it!

But, then I look again! Now I see that the clover has attracted butterflies, bumblebees and bunnies (sorry I didn’t get a picture of Easter or Peter that’s what we call the rabbits who visit out yard). So it isn’t all bad.

Some times what you have to do is look at life from a different angle. You have to stop and reflect on the positives. Now I’m not saying that I’ll never work on getting rid of the weeds in my backyard. Just as I need to work on working out to improve my health/physical shape. Just like I need to keep working on my relationship with the boys and with Richard, all things take work, but doesn’t mean that they are bad. It just means that sometimes you have to look at it from a different angle to see the good parts.

Take the time to realize that even negative moments help you grow as a person. Take the time to stop and breathe and realize that there isn’t totally bad, just as there isn’t total good.  Look for the butterflies and bees…. they flit in fast and are fleeting, but they are there.

book · family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

P B & J sandwich cookies

cookies

If you follow my blog on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram (@teacherturnedmommy), then you know I baked cookies yesterday!

I have been reading the Hanna Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. AJ at A Petite Slice of Life, mentioned that she not only had read these books, but made many of the recipes in the books. That was incentive enough to test one out myself.

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I just finished reading Blueberry Muffin Murder and one of the recipes in that book was  Peanut Butter Melts. One of the suggestions she made was turning them into peanut butter jelly sandwich cookies. Well…. as it turns out Richard, Colby and I had just talked about pb & J cookies this past week. When we were in Amish country we purchased 4 jars of jelly. Colby has been working on polishing off the strawberry jelly and loving it with peanut butter.

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Sooooo the baker in me decided to use another jar of jelly to make pb & j cookies.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies -adapted from Peanut Butter melts by Joanne Fluke

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • jar of jelly (I used raspberry)
  1. Preheat oven to  375
  2. Melt butter in microwave add both sugars and vanilla mix well
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt. mix until incorporated
  4. Add peanut butter to the mixture
  5. Add in eggs one at a time
  6. Add flour and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated
  7. Use small cookie scoop to dish out the dough, put onto cookie sheet leaving space between balls. press balls flatter with the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern
  8. Bake at 375 for 6-8 min (if making bigger cookies bake 8-10 min) cookies should just start to golden on the bottoms.
  9. cool 2 min on sheet and then move to cooling rack
  10. when fully cooled spread jelly on the bottom of one pb cookie, top with another cookie to make sandwiches.
  11. I then put all the cookie sandwiches in the fridge to finish cooling and let the jelly set up

P1000282Colby loved these cookies. He had one last night and then quickly packed another to have at camp today for snack. He really wanted to pack 2 cookies but since he was having a PB&J sandwich for lunch I didn’t think he needed two cookies. I”m sure he will have one as a snack when he gets back from camp today.

Richard said they had a really good peanut butter flavor and liked them. He took a tin of them into work today to share with his co-workers.

I would tell you my opinion, but I haven’t had any yet. I’m using my will power! As I’ve mentioned I’m trying to eat healthier, working out and following a specific program. I do get a cheat day and plan on having that this weekend, so trust me I’ll have one then!

 

food · life · reviews

More protein needed!

Ok so I mentioned on Monday that Richard and I have started using BeachBody’s Liift4. First of all let me tell you that my body hurts and I’ve only done two workouts! Today is our rest day. This program has M, T, Th, F workouts and then W, S, S are “rest days”. We plan on sleeping in on Wednesday and then working out at night with the boys on that day doing either core or cardio workouts.

I am also following their meal plan. I didn’t get the containers, I’m pretty good at portion control and I can measure if I need. They have provide a meal plan based upon your current weight that helps balance calories and type of foods consumed.

I’m allotted:

  • 3 veggies
  • 2 fruits
  • 4 proteins
  • 2 carbs
  • 1 healthy fat
  • 1 seed/dressing
  • 2 oil/nut butter

I’m drinking my shakeology for breakfast. Typically my shake is 1 protein, 1 carb, 1 fruit and 1 veggie. I use milk (1 carb and 1/2 an oil/nut butter), a fruit, spinach (veggie) and the shakeology powder (1 protein).

This leaves me 2 veggies, 1 fruit, 3 proteins, 1 carb, 1 healhy fat, 1 seed/dressing and 1.5 oil/nut butter for the rest of the day.

I have no problems with anything except the proteins. I will eat a portion of protein for lunch and one for dinner, but I have to fit in one more portion. Typically I’d grab nuts (those are considered healthy fats), cheese (also healthy fats), peanut butter ( oil/nut butter… oh and you only get 1 tsp in a serving), hummus (healthy fat)

They think of proteins more of meats and eggs. These are snacks to me. I can eat plain yogurt-yuck! I’d have to leave a fruit for this. I can have cottage cheese, which I like, but don’t want to have daily as a snack. They say to have tuna as a snack, but that doesn’t work in my mind… tuna is lunch not a snack.

Now I’m debating on making eggs for breakfast and then moving my shake for later in the day. But, I’m making the shake for Richard too in the morning, he drinks his on the drive into work. So it makes sense to just have mine for breakfast. Plus I’m used to having a smoothie for breakfast that is what I drank every day when I worked.

Ok people… help me how can I make find a way to have a protein snack?

family · life

Your “Hard Thing”

My post earlier today, coupled with a conversation I had at dinner with the boys got me thinking…

When you talk about grit, you are talking about the thing that you are passionate about, the thing you work hard to achieve.

So I got thinking about myself. I know I have grit and passion about teaching. I’m always learning and changing as a teacher. I believe that that you have to constantly grow and improve in teaching. There are always new methods, ideas and ways of disseminating information.

But, what else am I passionate about? What is the thing that I enjoy? I realized when I was talking to the boys about finding that thing for them that cooking and baking would probably be one of those things for me. How did I figure this out?

I was talking to one of my sons about the fact that when he was young he was good at playing sports, but never put in the effort to get better. When you are passionate about something you don’t settle with “good enough” there is always a way to get better, stronger, faster, whatever… but you are never good enough. And that good enough isn’t defined by anyone but yourself.

So what is grit? it is the that push, the drive, that desire to not be good enough at something.

So my friends…. have you ever thought about it? What is your hard thing? What is the thing you keep pushing yourself to do more in? What is your passion?

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit Part 2- parents and educators

I wrote a few week ago about reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. You can read that post here. I still haven’t finished the book, sorry it is going so slowly but it is deep and I feel like I need to read some and then digest it before reading more.

As the title of my blog states, going from being a teacher to being a mother is not always as easy as it sounds. When I read the section on teachers and helping children develop grit and such, I was like… that’s me… that’s how I run my class. I’m not sure I have provided my sons the grit they need, but that too is addressed in the book.

Angela Duckworth addresses parenting and the development of grit. She discussed two different types of parents. One being the parents of quarterback Steve Young. They pushed Steve to excel. They wouldn’t let him quit. Steve Young stated that he became a stronger player because his father pushed him to go beyond the basics. He was never satisfied with ok, he needed to be the best. It didn’t matter what he did, he had to do it to the best of his ability. One could state the Steve Young’s parents believed in the philosophy of tough love, they were there for their children, but the children had to step up and do beyond their best.

The second set of parents were the parents of Francesca Martinez, who is now a comedian in Britain. Francesca was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. Her parents did not push her in any direction. They allowed her to figure out life on her own. The supported her and the decisions that she made. They allowed her to leave her formal education at 16 and focus on following her dreams of acting on tv. Her brother also dropped out of school to become a portrait painter. Her parents state that they didn’t over indulge the children nor did they spoil them, they believed in “no-nonsense parenting”, “follow your dreams parenting”.

While these parents may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum they have a few things in common. Both parents were child-centered in the aspect of putting their children’s interest first. They were not trying to relive their own dreams through their children. They supported their children and helped them, in very different ways, realize their true potential.

She encourages parents to develop a warm, supportive and respectful relationship with their children. There is a need for rules and high expectations to foster the grit needed for success. Children need to view you being gritty if you want them to become gritty. When children understand that everyone works hard in what they do and love to do they will understand that they too need to work hard.

We as parents need to look at effort, work ethics in their children. They need to show the same passion and perseverance in their own life. We need to model that the effort is just as important if not more important than skill/talent. We need to stop praising children for each step, but instead point out what they could do to make things better. Not being super criticizing, just letting them know you know they can do more.

In the classroom you will often see teachers tell their student that they know they can do more/better than they are doing now. I often could be heard telling my stuggling readers that I know they can read, that I need them to realize they can read. That I need them to do x,y,z to become stronger at whatever topic/subject we are working on at the time. An outstanding teacher sets the bar higher than each child can achieve and pushes the individuals to reach and exceed the bar.

The challenge with parenting is so often you are just excited to see the littler steps in your children. You find yourself cheering the children on for each step instead of pushing them to see where they can grow. As parents we often forget to set the bar high enough so the children have a place to grow towards. Do we show our children what we are working towards? Do they see that even adults need grit? That each step of the process is a step towards a long term goal? She states that we need to create an environment that acknowledges the rule “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t”. Parents need to stop making life easy for their kids and start helping their children see that hard work pays off.

Angela Duckworth discusses that with her own children she talks about them each having a ” A Hard Thing” to work on. The children have to pick their own hard task, and they had to stick with it for the whole season/session/ whatever you paid for. She has one daughter who found her hard thing in playing the piano as her hard thing. Whereas her other daughter has bounced around trying a variety of different things, finally landing on the viola. She also explained to her children that her work and her husband’s work were their hard thing and that they worked hard at the things needed to be successful in  their careers. The parents also have a physical activity that they consider their hard thing.

Duckworth discovered that colleges and universities look for students who stick with activities. They also discovered through research that students who stick with a given activity for at least two years in high school are more likely to be successful in the college years. This shows an additional level of grit.

How can we help? Stop focusing on and praising the steps. Show how they can improve and get better going forward. Give children specific tasks to work on and improve. Model grit and the understanding that hard work pays off. Provide opportunities for children to choose their hard thing and then have the stick with it. Let them interact with others (teachers, coaches, etc…) who can push them to excel and see their own potential. Recognize that finding the right thing is hard, but it is necessary. When you have passion for something you have the drive to work hard. You want to succeed and move forward in the learning of the activity.

I promise at least one more post on grit once I finish the book!

family · life

Beach Body Bandwagon

Happy Monday morning! I’ve been up and going since 5:30am so I feel like it’s time for lunch and it’s only 10am. A few weeks ago I contacted a friend of mine who is a coach in the Beach Body program. I have quite a few people on my Facebook that are Beach Body coaches, but the one I contacted was a co-worker in FL that I got along with well and knows me the best. So while many people have been on the Beach Body kick since 21 Day Fix became popular I fought joining the craze. I did P90X years ago and loved it, but it was soooo long. I had a hard time fitting it into my day. Then when they started 21 Day Fix I was turn off by the limitations of the foods and trying Shakeology.

Fast forward to the end of June/beginning of July. Richard and I started talking about heath and fitness. We decided it was time for a change. We were spending a lot of money on a gym membership that we got to once a week if we were lucky. Yes, I know I could have gone more often since I don’t work, but I wasn’t motivated to go. I didn’t like going there on my own. I liked it even less when I had to drag the kids along. When we first joined I went almost every day. We used the pool and the boys could workout and then play video games in their youth room. The club changed in a variety of ways. They changed ownership. They began renovations. They closed the youth area and mixed the tweens in with the younger kids and took away the child size fitness equipment. We had the kids go and take their kids workout class, but they were still not allowed to use the cardio equipment, even though they’d been trained while in the youth zone or the weight area even thought they took the kids lifting classes. I was over it! So on Sunday we turned in the paperwork to terminate our membership.

So I decided to contact Katie and get onto the Beach Body bandwagon. They have just started a new program called Liift4 which is a combination of weight lifting and Hiit. My Beach Body box arrived on Saturday. I tried the chocolate Shakeology on Sunday and was surprised how well it filled me and how good it tasted. I haven’t played with the flavor combinations much yet, but it should be fun to try. I’ve had access to the on-line videos since I signed up. On Friday the boys and I tried out 2 of the kid/family friendly workouts. Today Richard and I began the pre-Liift4 workouts. We will do that for two weeks, since Richard is traveling next week, and then jump into the real program.

I do hope that this program helps me find my motivation. My goal is to slim back down, get stronger, healthier and feel more motivated to work out again. I want to feel good about myself when I get moving each day. I know that the energy gained from working out is worth it. Now I just need to keep moving!

So you might see a slight change in the foods I post about. You might here me talk about working out a bit more. But, just know I’m making these changes for me… and that is what’s important!