Monday, September 30, 2013

Thoughts on Turning 30... And NOT Completing My 30 Before 30 List

Last Thursday marked six months until my 30th birthday.  Yes, that sounds a little crazy to me; but, it isn't hard for me.  I am actually looking forward to it. Really.

If my twenties were marked with CHANGE (think graduating from college, getting my master's degree, starting my first teaching job, getting married, buying a house, and having a baby), I'm looking forward to a season of CONTENTMENT in my thirties.  Maybe that's wishful thinking, but I have a real peace about heading in to this next season of my life... 

It wasn't that long ago when thirty felt so old.  Even just three and a half years ago - when I made my 30 Before 30 list - thirty felt really far away... Like I had all the time in the world.

According to that list, I have six months to write a book, run a half marathon, learn to sew, cook a Thanksgiving meal, go to another continent, paint something I'm proud of, learn photography, take a class, read the Bible cover-to-cover, visit all 11 (well I think I'm only short one or two) of my college girlfriends at their homes, read 9 of the top ten novels of all time, take a vacation with my mom and sister, get something published, go on an overnight hiking trip, refinish a piece of furniture, mentor a younger girl, take hip-hop dance lessons, decorate someone else's house, finish my study-abroad scrapbook, wear a bikini (and not be self-conscious), learn yoga, and learn a song on the guitar.  (That's 22/30 in case you lost count.)

Umm... I hate to sell myself short, but I'm going to go ahead and say I'm probably NOT going to be completing this list before March 26th.  A few of those are still in progress, but I've pretty much given up any notion of me writing a book or running a half marathon between now and March.  I can't even stay caught up on my laundry, people. ;)

Yes, in one sense, I guess I'm kind-of "making excuses" for my lack of commitment and follow-through on my list.  Those things are struggles for me in general; so, yes, there is a certain amount of disappointment that comes with not being able to say I accomplished what I set out to do.

BUT, more than that, I am focused on how much I HAVE done before thirty.  (I will write more about that when its closer to my birthday.)  When I look at that list now, I see a very naive 26 year old who had NO idea how much life and fulfillment would come simply from the ordinary stuff like feeding my baby, changing diapers, and teaching my little boy how to count to ten.

I'm not giving up on my 30 Before 30 list.  Instead, I'm thinking of it as more of a guide to the next thirty years.  I don't NEED those things to feel accomplished; but, they are fun goals to have and wonderful things to do in my life when the time is right.  I think all those things WILL happen, but I'm content recognizing that it probably won't be during this season of my life. 

This season is more about being present right here; and here is a very good place to be.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on getting older and accomplishing certain things in your life?  How has your perspective changed as you have aged?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Blog Gems etc. 9/22

So far, this has been a perfect fall weekend.  Yesterday, I spent the morning outside with friends, the afternoon pulling out all my fall decorations, and the evening sipping a pumpkin spice latte and wandering Target with my sister in law.  Loved it.  If you didn't get fall-fever this weekend, you might be a lost cause.  #justsaying

(A little sneak peak at my fall mantle.  Still in progress.)

I'm not sure what all is on the agenda for today; but, I'm hoping more of the same + some added qt with my little family.  Next weekend starts a very busy season for us (we are out of town four of the next five weekends), so I'm trying to soak up the peacefulness while I can.

Anyway, despite the fact that I was totally slack on the blog this past week (sorry about that) everyone else seemed to be killing it.   Here are a few of my favorites posts etc. from the week...

"Because I'm Twenty-Something" on Today Was Meaningful
 (I've got 6 more months - more on that tomorrow!)

"Things Boys Need from Their Moms" on Good Day, Regular People
"Just Wait: You'll Be a Crappy Mom One Day Too" by Intentional Mom on Blogher

"Decorating When You Have Small Kids" on Emily A. Clark

This from our local newspaper by my next door neighbor about our other neighbor.  So good

And, last but definitely not least.... Remember Erika's popular Letter to New Moms on Infertility?  Well, IT'S HER TURN!!! (I'm ridiculously excited about this! Like, I want to host a baby shower blog-style.  What do you think?!?)

What were your favorite reads?

Enjoy your Sunday!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Midweek Confessions 9/25

Well, it's almost four hours after the time I said this would be posted (#storyofmylife); but, better late than never, right?

- I live in constant fear of being asked if I am pregnant.  No, this is not the most horrible accusation in the world, but I am NOT pregnant (and I'm well aware of the pooch of fat around my mid-section).  I don't know what it is, but something about my age/ the fact that Sam is two now (and maybe that I sometimes look pregnant), has made me quite paranoid about this.  I feel like people stare directly at my stomach when they talk to me, and I instinctively suck-in my belly with every tiny whisper from my students, etc.  For the first time in my life, I'm actually relieved when there is alcohol at a party because by drinking it, I'm dispelling any rumors that might be floating around (or just being further judged).  It's a bad place; and, the way I see it, I have only two options for escape: 1. Do a lot of crunches, or 2. Actually get pregnant (neither of which seem particularly appealing right this minute).

- Wearing maxi skirts is a little dangerous for me.  Twice in the last week or so, I have worn a maxi skirt and found myself getting my feet all tangled up in it and almost falling down the stairs.  It figures, fashion is always risky for me... I'll just add this to the list next to high heels and false eye-lashes.

- I let food go bad.  Yesterday was my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday girl!), so I invited my parents over for a simple dinner last night.  That afternoon, in preparation, I even ran by the grocery store before heading home to meet the sitter.  I had everything I needed to prepare a delicious spinach lasagna and a birthday cake, Pretty Little Liars on the laptop (duh), and a sleeping baby - I was all set.  Unfortunately, the universe is against my cooking (and wearing high fashion clothes, obviously), and I was disappointed to find that the half bag of spinach in my fridge had gone completely bad (and even more disappointed to find that using it when it has gone bad can lead to e coli poinsoning and a host of other really terrible things I didn't really feel like giving my mom for her birthday).  So... plain lasagna it was.  THEN, I went to get out eggs for the cake and noticed that the expiration date on the carton said APRIL.  (I honestly don't know how this happened, or how many people I have poisoned in the last four months.) Just to be sure, I did a series of tests from the internet on the eggs which included balancing them, shaking them, and floating them in cold water, and decided against using the eggs too.  (Thank goodness for good neighbors.)  Cooking FAIL.

- I am rude and awkward. This is a little hard to put into words and probably not worth the attempt, but whatever... On my way home from the grocery store yesterday, I was waiting to make a left turn out of the parking lot onto the main road.  This required that I cut through two lanes of traffic currently backed up waiting for a stoplight.  When the line started moving, I was happy to see that a kind soul was waving at me - presumably to signal that she was going to let me go.  I gave a quick wave of thanksgiving and began to gas my car.  BUT, at that very moment, the kind soul also gave her car some gas - presumably to go ahead and NOT wait for me.  When she noticed her mistake, she stopped, gave me a look of apology, and attempted to wave me on; but, by this point, it was too late.  Cars were coming in the other lanes from both sides.  I don't usually have road rage, but this really frustrated me; so, I gave her the annoyed shoulder shrug (with both palms in the air, do you know what I'm talking about?) and a scowl.  Obviously she had ruined everything.  Once we had help up traffic long enough, she proceeded on, but not without another friendly wave - and that's when it hit me: I KNEW HER.  She hadn't been waving initially to tell me that I could go ahead of her, she had been waving a pleasant hello because we KNOW EACH OTHER.  So... Not only did I get myself all in a huff and cause I traffic jam, but I also was rude to a friend.  Ugh.

Ok, I think that's enough shame for one day... Care to join the fun?  Please link up below!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This Week's Lack of Content Is Brought to You By...


Can you believe it's the middle of the first quarter already?  Me either.

*No "Teaching Tuesday" for you today, but get your posts ready for Midweek Confessions tomorrow.  Post will go live with link-up around 10AM.  See you then!!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blog Gems, Confession Highlights, and More

A few of my favorite reads this week...

"A Different Kind of 'First Day'" by Kim Simon on HuffPost.

"She Yelled and Called Me Names" by Susan Basham for Prodigal Magazine.

"The Habits of Supremely Happy People" by Kate Bratskier for Huff Post.

"The Real Truth about Really Having It All" by Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience.  (One of the best things I've read in a while... Seriously.  I CAN'T WAIT to meet her at Allume next month!!)

Also, trying out something new this week, and featuring a few of my very favorite confessions from this week's link up...
- Mrs. G is GLAD she got pink-eye.  Twenty-four hours of blissful freedom from work/kids/etc. is TOTALLY worth itchy eyes. (#jealous)

- Sarah forgot to change pants after her toddler used her lap as a potty. (#ithappens)

- Samantha's been napping with her kids in the afternoons instead of getting things done. (#metoo)

- Erika is tired of parents complaining about what an inconvenience the extra hour of Daylight Savings Time is for their child's routine. (#lovethisgirl #noroutinedontcare)

- Courtney watched four seasons of Parenthood in two weeks. (#beentheredonethat #september26th)

And finally, and this is pretty much the most hilarious thing ever, Redbook online featured me on their Money & Career web page this month in an article titled "6 Secrets of Financially-Fabulous Women"  (I know... belly laughs are absolutely appropriate).  Check it out (here) to read my "secret" to being so, you know, financially-fabulous. ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

For Friday.. If You Happen to Be Feeling Overwhelmed (Like Me)

Two weeks ago, I was all set to write an amazing post about how great being back at work was, and how I function SO much better in routine*.  Those things are absolutely still true; BUT, the last two weeks have been a lot harder, and I'm feeling pretty buried (Remember this post?)... There are a lot of people and things needing a lot of my attention right now, and I feel like I never have enough time or energy to be effective.  I need a "re-set" button for life.  Anyone else?

If so, here a few tiny bits of inspiration & motivation I found on Pinterest (of course):

What do you do when you're feeling overwhelmed? How do you just BEGIN?

Here's to a weekend full of good laughs, good sleep, good motivation, and good thoughts!  TGIF!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drink Coffee AND Do Good? I'll Have Another Cup Please! (KEURIG GIVEAWAY!)

If you've been reading my blog for any time at all - or, heck, even if you've just seen my profile photo there on the sidebar - you know I am a big coffee lover.  #toptenlistofthingsiamthankfulfor  #sadbuttrue

Hopefully, you also know that I like doing good and helping people. I do.
Anyway, what you might have been able to guess but probably didn't know, is that I'm not - by nature (no pun intended) - the most environmentally conscious citizen out there.  I know. I know.

Of course I love the earth (#alsoinmytopten #oknotreallybutitshouldbe); but, frankly, I'm lazy when it comes to things like recycling and biking and work. 

Thankfully, Green Mountain Coffee® - one of my favorite brands - has deliciously joined two of my loves (coffee and doing good) all while making it incredibly easy for me to do my part to help the environment and stay green.  It's like a win-win-win. :)

Allow me to explain... 
Fair Trade (a term that, if you're like me, you've heard plenty of times before but never really knew what it meant) is a global movement to help improve the lives of farmers and their families.  Since most coffee farmers live in very rural areas with little to no access to credit, they are very vulnerable to the big-box "middlemen" who can pay cash for their coffee even at only a fraction of what its worth.  Fair Trade steps in and assures that coffee farmers get a fair (get it?) price for unroasted, green coffee.  The end result is a better coffee for us and a better quality of life for coffee farmers and their communities.

Did you catch this in my classroom tour?
In 2000, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. became one of the first roasters in the US to offer Fair Trade Certified coffees; and, to date, Green Mountain Coffee® offers one of the largest selections of Fair Trade Certified™ coffees in the U.S, according to Fair Trade USA.  That's pretty impressive! Right?

So my fellow coffee drinkers, I ask you... Why NOT buy Fair Trade coffee?!?! 
This October, Green Mountain Coffee® is celebrating Fair Trade Month through the "Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Choose Fair Trade" campaign.  They have even invited Kelly Clarkson (can I get a "Since You've Been Gone" encore, please?!) to team up with them and share her experience visiting a coffee farm in Peru and the importance of Fair Trade. And, in addition to their already delicious flavors (my personal favorite is Nantucket), they are also introducing the new Fair Trade Certified™ Three Continent Blend -- the perfect combination of flavors and aromas from three different continents in one rich and delicious Extra Bold blend.  Yum!!

To learn more about Fair Trade and Green Mountain Coffee, check out, as well as Green Mountain's Facebook page (here). Trust me, what I've shared up above is only the beginning of all of the great benefits of Fair Trade. :)

Want to win your own Keurig® Brewing System and a Green Mountain Coffee® gift basket? Just check out to watch exclusive video of Kelly Clarkson's adventures in Peru and learn more about Fair Trade then leave a comment below answering the following question: Are you a coffee drinker, and if so, would you consider buying fair trade coffee?

Sweepstakes Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 09/19/13-10/31/13.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Midweek Confessions 9/18

Happy Wednesday!! As promised, it's a confession-fest around here today.  I've got plenty of my own to share, but I'm also including the link-up at the bottom of the post and really hoping you will join me...  A hot mess LOVES company! ;)
- Yesterday, while discussing A Separate Peace with my tenth graders, I made a comment relating the novel to "Pretty Little Liars." (I know, a really deep English teacher I am. The confession really should just end right here.)  Anyway, several of the girls were (obviously) really excited about it and - before I even knew what was happening - one of the boys accidentally blurted out the identity of 'A.'  (Please accept my apologies now if you have no idea what I am talking about... It's probably for the best.)  Anyway, the true confession part comes in the fact that I had a literal fit in front of my students and, then (when I finally pulled myself together) I.COULD.NOT stop thinking about this new information I had received... ABOUT A FICTION TEENY-BOPPER TV SHOW.  I'm not even joking, I had to refocus and find my place on the page I was reading aloud at least three times after this.  Pathetic.

- I almost just typed "pathetic sauce" up above.  Clearly, I've been spending too much time around teenagers (orwatchingthemontv).

- This is the last one about "Pretty Little Liars," promise!   I've been having this internal debate with myself all week about WHY I am so into the show when it really isn't that good.  At one point, I actually had the following thought: "I mean, it isn't nearly as high quality television as 'Scandal' and 'Mistresses.'"  HIGH QUALITY TELEVISION?!?!  This has really gotten bad. Who am I?

- We had someone come to clean our house on Monday for the first time (I know, I'm spoiled), and she did a great job.  BUT, Jeff was out of town until late last night and Addy is shedding something terrible right now.  So... I spent yesterday afternoon re-vacuuming the house like a crazy person so that Jeff would be impressed with the cleaning lady and insist that she come back more frequently.  #hedidntevennotice

 - I HATE cooking! When Jeff is out of town, Sam and I eat out for every meal.  #sometimesimalittlesmugabouthowgoodheisinrestaurants (Did you get that last one?!)

Your turn...

*Remember, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite confessions from your posts later this week!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Teaching Tuesday: Classroom Management

Today's Teaching Tuesday topic (whew, now that's some alliteration) comes from my teacher/blog friend Megan at M*Print.  After being assigned a particularly challenging group of students this year, Megan has called on the blog world to share their best tips for classroom/behavior management, co-teaching, and groups of diverse learners in her aptly named link-up "Better Together."

I'm thefurthestthing from an expert in this area; but, I'm up for the challenge...

But first, before I share some of the things that (mostly) work for me, I think it's important that you know a little bit about my situation/experience since it kind-of sets the scene for my philosophies and techniques:  

Currently, I teach in a speciality center with an advanced curriculum.  My students apply to the program and are accepted based on a number of criteria, and they have to meet certain academic and behavior standards in order to stay in the program.  In short, my students are "the cream of the crop."  Of course, it's not all rainbows and butterflies here - I still get attitudes, Chatty Cathys, and (plenty of) hormones - but, it is quite different from where I was three years ago... 

For the first four years of my career, I taught "regular" and "co-taught" English to ninth and tenth graders.  Granted, the school was/is one of the best in the area, BUT each year I had at least one or two classes full of students who saw school (and the teacher) as the enemy.  Most of these kids had been told over and over and over again that school "wasn't there thing," and many were just biding their time until they were old enough to either drop-out or get a GED.  

Despite my young/naive/ Dangerous Minds & Freedom Writer inspired hopes, I quickly learned that - in the real world -  these are not the teachers that get nominated for "teacher of the year" or recognized at the football game on Friday night.  My students had lost hope in education long ago... Their spark for learning had been replaced by frustration when it "didn't come as easily" for them as it did their peers, or by exhaustion when their "after school curricular activities" involved forty-hour a week jobs or raising their younger siblings.  I - their teacher - was just another thing in the way... Another talking head trying to get them to care about Romeo and Juliet or the-five-paragraph essay when they had MUCH bigger things to deal with.

Now, here's the part that you really need to understand... I DO NOT consider it "graduating" or "moving up" to get to teach advanced classes.  In fact, that is probably one of the biggest misconceptions of new teachers out there and a MAJOR problem in some education systems today.
It is an HONOR to teach the alternative-learning or collaborative classes.   I made the switch to my current position two years ago because I had a new baby at home, and the work hours/opportunity at this new school made more sense for my family.  But, while my students are wonderful right now, I LOVED my previous position too.  And, while I'm sometimes more "intellectually" challenged (and, almost always more challenged to get papers graded quicker) in the advanced classes, the other classes provided a different - and VERY FULFILLING kind of challenge.  My challenge with those students wasn't so much about getting them to pass the class, as it was about making lifelong readers, writers, and learners out of them.  And, when I did see great progress - when I saw a "lightbulb" moment over Lord of the Flies or had a student come back years later to tell me they were the best writer in their college class - those victories were even sweeter.  Really. 

Ok... So, now that I've (hopefully) established a little street-cred here and (one way or the other) shown you a little piece of my heart for the more "difficult" classes and students out there, I thought I'd offer three little tid-bits of advice for classroom management and collaborative teaching from my own experience.  I hope it will be helpful!

1. It is ALL about mutual respect. Often, by the time students get to high school, they have long-ago lost respect for their teachers.  (Be appalled if you want to, but it's the truth.)  Gaining their respect cannot be done by enforcing rules, dressing cool, or exerting power... It can only (very slowly at times) be earned.  Teenagers care SO much about being respected  (SO SO MUCH).  I promise you, the BEST thing you can do for your classroom management is to MODEL the respect you want for yourself.  I don't make harsh demands of students.  I don't yell.  I don't enforce (in my opinion) silly rules like "you may only go to the bathroom once a nine weeks."  I talk to my students like they are human beings with lives outside of school.  I get to know them - why were you up so late that you are sleeping through class now?  I believe them when they say they didn't get their syllabus signed because they haven't seen their parents in two weeks.   I give students the benefit of the doubt and, slowly, they begin to do the same for me.   They listen when I teach and do the assignments I ask of them because they trust that my intentions are good and that I really do want to help them.  They speak to me with respect, and they listen when I ask them not to do something.  They "have my back" against their peers.  It is ALL about mutual respect. 

2.  Practice Tough Love.  As much as I believe in the power of mutual respect, I still know that there are certain times I need to be the grown-up in the room; and, I have come to realize, that students really do WANT that from me.  At the end of the day, no matter how much I love and respect my students (and I strive to make that evident 99% of the time), I am still their teacher.  My job is to keep them safe, educate them, and prepare them for the real world.  And, like it or not, there rules and "un fun" things in the real world.  I don't have a lot of rules, but I do have a few that I consider detrimental and I enforce them consistently.  (Ok, I try to enforce them consistently... This is, honestly, a struggle for me.)  If you cheat on a test - you get a zero.  If you call me a b*^#@$, I'm giving you detention and calling home.  Every.time.  Period.  BUT, I'm not going to cause a scene about it, and I'm NOT going to hold a grudge.  The next morning, I will greet you with a smile.  When it's done, it's done.

3. Be a Team Player.  If you ever have the opportunity to teach as part of a collaborative team (i.e. a regular classroom teacher and a special education teacher), I urge you to TAKE IT.  I have worked with two co-teachers, and I have learned more from each of them than any college course or teaching book could ever teach me.  The key here?  You are a TEAM.  You are not the "main" teacher.  The special-ed teacher is not your "assistant."  You are BOTH professionals and you are both integral parts of the classroom.  Believe that, and practice it!  Make sure you both have a desk in the classroom.  Make sure both of your names are on the syllabus and the classroom door.  Whenever possible, try to do your planning together for the class and provide opportunities for both teachers to take the lead up front.  Think of your co-teaching experience the same way you think of raising kids with your spouse - you might both have different duties or roles in the house, but you are both necessary and beneficial.  You support each other.  You are a united front. *And, as a note, don't be too discouraged if you don't have a co-teacher.  Use whatever "team" is available to you... Meet with other members of your department to share ideas and get help, join an online forum, attend a conference... DO NOT try to do it alone!!

Ok... I'd originally planned to make this a five-item list, but my hands are getting tired and I imagine I'm losing interest by the second. ;)   If you read all this, THANK YOU!!

What's your best advice when it comes to co-teaching and/or classroom management?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Announcements of Sorts

Hope you have all had good Mondays so far.  It is a little gray here and the week is already off to a VERY busy start.  Luckily, there's quite a bit of fun stuff going on in the blog-world in the next few days.  I hope you will be able to join me for one (or all) of the following...

- Tomorrow, I will be continuing my Teaching Tuesday posts; but, this time, with a focus on classroom management and collaborative teaching to line up with M*Print's "Better Together" linky party.  (Don't you love that name?!?)  If you are a teacher and have something (anything) to share related to that topic, please support Megan and DO IT!

- On Wednesday, Midweek Confessions will be making its return!  Several of you have requested that it be "brought back" after my mini-sabbitical, and I've also had a few requests for better notice so you'd have a chance to prepare your posts.  SO... Prepare your posts!  The link-up will be available at 10AM (I will schedule it the night before) on Wednesday, AND I'll be sharing some of my very favorite confessions later that afternoon!!!  Please plan to join the train wreck fun. (Feel free to use the banner or button image below in your post!)

- It's official... I am definitely going to be hosting a guest post series for working moms in the coming weeks.  So far, I have a couple people lined up to start in the next week or so, and I plan to just keep going as long as there are working-mamas with things to share. (Don't worry, I will only share one or two a week to prevent working-mom overload.) If you'd like to contribute a post, please send me an email at ASAP with "Working Mom" as your subject.  In your email, be sure to tell me if there is something specific you want to write about!  I promise I'm going to start organizing and will send a mass email to all the participants very soon!!! P.S. If you contacted me initially when I posted about this idea on social media a few weeks ago, THANK YOU and I'M SORRY I've been terrible about communicating. PLEASE send me another email really quick so I can be sure to include you!!

Ok... I think that's all y'all. ;)

Have a good afternoon!

*As always, thanks to the amazing Fairy Blogmother for the cute banners etc.!

4 Fall Trends I Love (& One I Just Can't Handle)

Saturday afternoon, after I completely stocked Sam's closet for fall at the children's consignment sale, I had a little "retail" therapy session for myself in the form of online browsing (which is much cheaper than the alternative).  After awhile, I started seeing some major trends in my current style...

Four Fall Fashion Trends

Have I mentioned that I LOVE fall clothes?  

I just showed Jeff this image and asked what he liked best.  He said, "they all look exactly like everything you have in your closet."  I guess my style is pretty predictable, huh? #heyonlyonethinghasstripes #thatcountsforsomething 

I love that all of these items could double as work or play clothes, which is top-priority in my book.  Plus, I like that they have a touch of the latest trends, without being overly trendy; which, to me, = class and either multiple years of wear and/or good consignment rates later.  Think about it.

Anyway, all that said, there is one very popular trend out there right now that I just CANNOT get into:

Maybe if I had long lean legs it would be different; but, honestly, I have never seen someone fully "pull off" this look.  I just don't like it.  *Mark my word... NO booties for E.  (And, feel free to try to prove me wrong by emailing photographic proof to the contrary.)

What fall trends are you loving?  Are there any you refuse to try?

P.S. This post isn't a single bit sponsored, but I do consider it my civic duty to share that the embellished oxford I keep raving about is half price at Kohl's right now (I happen to be a proud new owner myself), the navy and mustard dot top from Loft is 40% off, and the Boden gingham shirt dress is also on sale.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blog Gems 9/8 - 9/14

Good Saturday morning to you friends!  I'm off bright and early today for a little shopping at my favorite annual kids consignment sale and (let's be honest) probably Target.  What are your plans for this perfect fall-weather (finally) weekend?

Here are a few good reads from around the internet to get you started today... Enjoy!

"Welcome to the Brain of a Chronically Late for School Mother" by Heather of The EO. (I legitimately worry about this inevitable part of my future... This is totally going to be me.)

"Teens and Technology: What We Expect, Won't Allow, and Why" by Heather on Desperately Seeking Sanity.  (This is actually from last week, but it is too good not to share. SO important for parents of teens especially -- which will be me one day - AH.)

And, I'm a little bit obsessed with these Pumpkin Oat Balls from Stilettos & Diapers right now.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Best Parenting Books for Toddlers?

First, before I get into the meat & potatoes of today's post, I just want to thank you all for your response to yesterday's post.  It felt SO good to just write and share a little of where I am right now - that is always the first step in the right direction for me!  I love that I didn't fool most of you - you all know me too well! It is probably also worth noting that last night I actually made a healthy dinner for my family (with spinach) AND went to yoga at the gym.  Then, just when I was starting to swell a little with pride and think I'd turned the corner, my mom commented that someone stunk during the class, and we concluded that it was MY mildewy shirt that had probably been left in the washing machine for one too many days. Oops!  #youwinsomeyoulosesome

Also, I just want to go on the record as saying that I DON'T hate that first mom from yesterday.  I envy her and I hate the insecurities that I allow her to bring out in me; BUT, I don't hate her.  While I agree with most of your comments that 'she' is unrealistic and probably has plenty of her own imperfections and hardships, I can honestly say that I DO know a couple of moms who really can (and do) seem to do it all like that.  That post wasn't about those moms being fake or insane or anything like that... It was just about embracing the fact that I CAN'T and that is OK.  That's all.

Now, let's talk about books...

When I was pregnant with Sam, I became the proud owner of just about every new-parent book on the market. (In fact, I wrote this post and had it scheduled to go live on the DAY Sam was born.  So ironic given my love-hate relationship with parenting books from that point forward.)

Right after Sam was born, I literally devoured "how to" books.  I mean, truly, when I think back to my earliest days of being a mama I am taken immediately back to the rocker in Sam's bedroom and the PILE of books and dog-eared pages on sleep training, breast-feeding, scheduling, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And, then, I sort-of had a breakdown because of all the books (or at least I blamed them for making me feel so inadequate), so I swore off parenting books for a while...

But now, here we are two years later, and the "instructions" in those books seem easy compared to  language development, sharing, and discipline.  (Oh discipline.)

I'm thankful that I feel a lot more confident as a mom now, and that I definitely know Sam a lot better now.  I can take "advice" on potty training and sleep and even talking and still have enough peace to know that things will likely turn out OK regardless of how much I mess it up.  BUT, the teaching kindness and compassion and the discipline stuff?  That stuff STICKS.  That stuff feels like really big stuff that will affect everything about the person that Sam will grow up to be.  I kind-of need some guidance with that stuff.  (Not to mention, that stuff is also a lot harder to see eye-to-eye with Jeff on.  It's one thing to agree that you both are exhausted and OK with letting your baby get in your bed after 15 minutes of crying; it is a whole other ball game to determine which behaviors warrant reprimand and punishment and which ones are "just part of being a two-year old boy" together... Especially since we seem to need to make a decision like that just about every five minutes these days!)

So... That's where you come in, of course!

I think I'm ready for my come-back in the parenting book club...  Can you help a mama out?!?!

What are your favorite books for parenting toddlers, specifically wild little boys? 

THANK YOU and Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Need the Middle

I wake up long before the day begins and spend a good thirty minutes having my coffee, reading my Bible, and meditating in the quiet of the house.  Then, I throw on yoga pants and hit the pavement for a sunrise run. I return home sweaty and energized and toss in a load of laundry before jumping in the shower.  

I wear a perfectly pressed pencil skirt and starched blouse, and I take time to carefully straighten my hair and complete a full make-up regimen.  Before leaving, I switch over the laundry to the dryer, unload the dishwasher (crossing those items off of my "daily chore chart"), and blend a "clean" smoothie with spinach, quinoa, and acai berries galore.  I kiss Jeff and Sam goodbye and quietly tip toe out the door.  I am at work by 7AM.

After a fulfilling day of enriching young minds, I come home and continue by orchestrating an elaborate sensory activity for Sam followed by a trip to the playground. There, he plays nicely, and I sip iced coffee chai tea and chat with the other moms.  By five o'clock, Sam is having independent play time in his bedroom while I chop fresh vegetables for our wheat/gluten free dinner and wait to greet Jeff at the door with a smile and a drink.

The three of us sit down to eat together promptly at six and discuss our days.  Afterwards, we go for a family walk or visit with friends on the front porch.  At seven, Jeff bathes Sam while I do a "quick clean" of the house and put away the morning's laundry.  By eight, the house is sparkling and still, and I sit down to write a powerful blog post that is sure to go viral and watch a PBS documentary with Jeff.

Um, be honest.... Did you just puke in your mouth a little bit at "my" day?  

Good, me too.  (Let's be honest, if you've been reading this blog for any time at all, you knew it was all imaginary when I said I went for a run with the sun. Ha!)

Even just typing those paragraphs felt ridiculous to me... So full of "catch words" like chore charts and chai and independent play time.  Do people really live like that?  And, would I really WANT to if I could.

On the tapes that play over and over and over again in my mind, the answer to both of those questions is YES.

YES, there are women who "do it all" and are still skinny, ironed, and smiling.  And, YES, Elizabeth, that is who you want to be.  That woman is the gold standard...

This is the reality: 

My alarm goes off at 5AM because there are still dishes that need to be cleaned up from last night's dinner and lunches to be packed before the day begins.  I press snooze until 6 and spend the next thirty minutes running around the house trying to at least make the kitchen look "decent" before the sitter arrives, throwing a frozen meal in my lunch bag, and digging through the dryer to find a clean outfit to wear to work.

I leave the house in a tizzy at 7:15 and send a text to my teaching partner assuring him that I WILL be there by the time class starts at 7:30.  My hair is wet, but my coffee is hot...

... In the afternoon, I get home from work while Sam is still napping and choose to use that time to nap (or mindlessly surf the internet) myself.  "I deserve it" after a day at work; but, by the time Sam wakes up at four, I'm silently cursing myself for NOT doing a load of laundry, starting dinner, or (at the very least) putting away the bag of toys that has been sitting on our dining room table since the weekend.  I will make-up for my laziness now by squeezing in 30 minutes of "play time" and another 30 minutes of mad-dashing around the house in an attempt to cross something off my to-do list before Jeff gets home.  On a good day, I make it to a class at the gym, OR I make dinner; but, either one comes at the sacrifice of more time with Sam.  If I do those things, that means he will spend at least a portion of the afternoon in the gym childcare center or watching a movie while I cook.  Finding excuses and justifying is easy, it becomes my game.

I'm pawning Sam on Jeff at the door and our "family dinner" is usually interrupted by a temper tantrum, spill, or trip to the potty (because he always has to go at the most inconvenient times).  It is 7:30 by the time we are done.  After dinner, there is some time for playing with the neighbors or taking a walk; but, when we come in an hour later, Jeff and I are both on edge because Sam was too rough with his friends, and we're all getting tired and grumpy now.  Bed and bath time is rushed; and, when I flip out Sam's lights at quarter-after-nine; I can barely muster the energy to plan my next day's lesson for school and (more times than not) choose to spend that last precious hour of the day reading other people's blogs and pinning things I'll NEVER actually do on Pinterest.

This is when the perfectionist in me really shines... If I can't have it all; well, then, I may as well not try at all. Why bother?  

And, now, I'm the most depressing blogger in America... 

Here's the deal:

I need the middle. I need the grace to let go of that first person - to accept that I will probably never be well-ironed and sipping a spinach smoothie on my way to work, early.  AND, I need the hope and motivation to want more for that second person - to finally realize that my life runs a lot better when I am intentional with my time, when I take care of my soul and my body, when everything isn't done half way at one hundred miles per hour.

Yes, life is busy, and hard, and imperfect; but, it is also very, very good.  It is FULL in every sense of the word - full of family and friends, laughter, and conversation, but also obligations and appointments, dog hair, and laundry.  

This is my life - the only one I get - and, at least in the forseeable future, I don't see too much changing. (And, to be honest, I really wouldn't change much of it even if I could.)

I'm tired of living on one extreme with an impossible "goal" at the other extreme.  They are too far apart.  Just thinking about the journey makes me want to take a nap.

It is time to live happily, contentedly, in the middleCare to join me there?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Teaching Tuesday: Attendance, Make-up Work, and Papers to Grade

One of the marks of a good teacher, especially an English teacher, is the ability to organize and manage all the endless PAPERS that come with the job...  Luckily, in my previous life, organization was a strength of mine, and for the most part, it has remained intact over my last six years in the classroom.

I get requests for information about these things a lot, so I will attempt to be concise and helpful... As always, please feel free to email me if you have specific questions!

First up, attendance and make-up work:

I don't have any kind of genius plan for this... My paper attendance records are kept on a clipboard in the front of the room.  Every two weeks (or five class periods on the block) I print a new attendance sheet and fill in the dates that particular class will meet.  The sheet includes each student's name, a column for each day, and a large column to record "missed work."  The last column makes it easy for me to remember to tell Sally that she needs to make-up a quiz, or remind Alex about a paper we turned in Tuesday when he was out.  I also try to paper clip the Missing Work Logs for a particular class behind their attendance sheet so I know to harass remind those students to turn in work as well.

I keep these attendance sheets for a month at a time, and then use them to fill in a larger spread sheet in Excel that tracks my attendance for the nine weeks/semester/year. I know there are lots of other (and probably better) resources available for tracking attendance online, but this works well for me.

Finally, I keep a binder for students to check for make-up work if/when they miss class.  Each grade (or block) has their own tab in the binder & folder for loose hand-outs.  If a student is absent, I just write their name on the test/quiz/whatever and stick it in the appropriate spot in the binder.  Students know to look there for anything they could not access via Blackboard upon their return to school.  For the most part, this works well.

And, a tiny bit about keeping up with papers to grade & to return:

I have always used some sort of system like this, but I just found this new accordian file at Target this weekend, and I love that it has a pouch where I can store my colored pens etc. (I'm forever getting home and realizing I don't have a good pen to grade with.)  Basically, I just make a two tabs for each of my classes - one for papers that need to be graded, and one for papers that need to be returned (i.e. have already been graded).  Then, as I collect papers, I simply alphabetize them and put them in the appropriate slot.  This little file folds up and easily goes back and forth to school with every day.

So... What are your systems for managing papers?  Please share!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Boy in a Bowtie

To date, Jeff has been a groomsmen in eleven weddings (with his 12th coming up in October), and I have been a bridesmaid in six.  In keeping the tradition alive, we're starting Sam's count early:

#1. "Ring Bearer" in Jeff's cousin Benjy's wedding.

When Benjy first asked if Sam would do the honor of walking his wedding rings down the aisle, I was hesitant... to say the least.  Kid is a pro at looking cute; but, walking slowly in a straight line while carrying two expensive rings --- that's asking for trouble....

His role was simple - dress in adorable outfit, walk down the aisle, deliver book with rings tied to it, sit quietly with mom and dad during ceremony, walk back down the aisle at the end.  BUT, after a less than ideal run at the rehearsal, I prepared myself for the wedding with a complete bribery kit (Dum-Dum lollipops, Teddy Grahams, and a new book), and significantly lower expectations.

When it was all said and done, Sam completed approximately 2/5ths of his assigned tasks (the dressing up and walking down the aisle parts), and I'm calling it a success...

Never mind that he literally threw the book with the rings on the ground with his first step - luckily, one of the four flower girls picked it up and safely got it up front - and then proceeded to say "uh oh" loudly and pick up each of the petals the girls dropped as he took his sweet time getting down the aisle then immediately ran off to play, he looked precious and and didn't completely ruin the wedding. #win

Later, he showed off his flat-footing on the dance floor, ate an unnatural amount of wedding cake, and tackled several of the older kids (#notmyfinestmoment).  All in all, it was a good night.

Call it the southern girl in me, but I have a soft spot for a boy in a bow tie - especially short, bald ones. ;)

When wedding talk first began, I knew I wanted him to wear a sweet bow tie and suspenders.  I, of course, scoured the internet and eventually came across Cotton Kandy on Etsy*. Not only are Kandace's clothes and accessories absolutely ADORABLE, but she also has some of the BEST prices around -  we're talking $20.00 for hand-made bow tie and suspenders, versus $65 that I found at other shops.  

The groomsmen were wearing khaki suits in the wedding, so I wanted something neutral with a touch of "little boy flair" (that's a thing, right?) for Sam.  Kandance was SO easy to work with and helped me decide on the Cream and Brown Circles Adjustable Bow Tie and simple suspenders in solid light brown.  The order came SO fast and the quality was fantastic.  Sam kept both on all night, got TONS of compliments, and will definitely be wearing them again in the future.

If you're interested in getting your own bow tie and suspenders set (or at least one for your little boy - haha), go enter Kandace's give away on her Facebook page right here for the chance to win $25.00 Cotton Kandy Dollars!  (You better believe I'm entering!!)

If you just can't wait... Use coupon code FALLFRENZY in the shop to get 10% off of your order now!  Trust me, the new fall items are ridiculously cute, you'll be finding all kinds of excuses to dress your little man in a bow tie! :)

Hope you guys had a great weekend!

*I received Sam's bow tie and suspenders for free in exchange for this review.  However, I found the shop all on my own, and I think Sam's photos speak for themselves.  We are hooked!!

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