Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dear Mentor,

I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Because of you, I am on a path that I would have never thought was within my grasp. Because of you, I have confidence in my skills and my intuition. Because of you, I see value in my ideas and am eager to share them. Because of you, I am mindful of the qualities needed to be a leader.

Without you, I would be a hard working teacher, but I would be learning at a slower pace. Without you, I would continue to be a follower. Without you, I would happily take on the ideas of others with little deviation. Without you, I would be content in my current abilities and leave true growth for the future.

Teaching is hard. Being a parent is hard. I have spent many of my years as an educator trying to balance the two hardest jobs I will ever have. For many of those years, I was all too happy to be stagnant- just "making it through". I have always loved my career. I love my students, my content, my path. I was content to be what I was and love my days in my classroom without change.

I'm not content any more. Because of you, I want to be more and because of you, I know I can be. Because of you, I don't want to wait for the future. Because of you, I have the drive and focus to be better now.

Being an educator requires that you never stop learning and growing, so I know that there is no end to the process. There is no finish line to cross. However, I also know that I can be more thoughtful every day, not just "someday". I can be the educator I want to be today, adjusting what that looks like as the years and lessons come and go.  I have learned that being the best me does not come with a title or test scores. It comes with a choice.

Because of you, I have made that choice.

Thank you for being my mentor. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping me believe in myself.

Admiration Always,
Your Grateful Student

Monday, January 4, 2016

Healthy Mediterranean Pita Pizza

Our family has been working on a healthier diet. We have also been mindful of trying new things and being creative with what we make for meals. Today, I scoured the refrigerator and the pantry for ideas for lunch. It needed to be quick as the boys were "Starving!". For the past month or so, we have been huge spinach eaters. As a family, we always are, but lately it has been a daily food option. I have also been on a feta kick- sprinkling it in just about anything. With these things in mind, and a couple other finds in the fridge, the Mediterranean Pita Pizza was born!

I chose the name as all the ingredients originated in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Pita bread is from Syria, hummus is from Egypt, spinach came from Persia, and feta cheese is from Greece. That's it. Those are all the ingredients for this delicious, healthy snack. Sound easy? Well, it is. Not only are there few ingredients, but there are only three steps to whipping up this yummy dish.

Here's how to make it:

1. Spread a hummus of your choosing (there are many, many flavor options) on top of the pita bread.

2. Add a layer of spinach on top of the hummus

3. Sprinkle with feta cheese



Next time, I might try baking the pita bread a bit, just to give it a bit of crunch.

This is so yummy that my boys gobbled it up, and it was so easy that I just might add it to my packed-lunch rotation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Facing Fears

Several years ago, my school district offered teachers the opportunity to work with a local university to earn a reading endorsement. I had considered getting a reading endorsement before, but the convenience of the classes being in-district, the lure of reimbursement, and the credits toward licensure sealed the deal.

Even after taking several classes, I saw the program as beneficial to my teaching, but I wasn't hooked. Then came my practicum. During this time I would needed to complete case-studies with individual students and create lessons for my classes. A spark was lit. Seeing the strategies that I had been taught, truly heighten students' confidence and create literacy gains far beyond what anyone expected made me feel like a real teacher. Someone who could make a difference.

Then I had two of my own kiddos, I chose to move to a part-time schedule, and I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. My focus and love for teaching literacy was still there, it was just buried for a bit. Two years ago, for some reason -I can't remember exactly why- I decided to ask to teach a reading intervention class. Actually, I practically begged. Last year, I got my wish. I even got two.

Although it was a lot of work, the rewards of teaching these two classes were ones that I could have never imagined. The spark that lived in me years before, was back. I gained confidence in my abilities as a teacher. When students made progress, I was not only proud of them as if they were my own children, but I was proud of myself for helping them to see their potential. It was wonderful.

Free Inspirational Printable about Fear - All for the Boys: As the schedule for this year got closer and closer, I was anxiously awaiting more literacy intervention classes. However, I was also nervous (as I am every year) about the hours my schedule would require. When I began my part-time venture, I was exactly half time and in the morning. Pure gold. The next two years, I was .6, but one year in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Last year, I was .8- meaning I taught all except one class. Each schedule had it's own struggles, but last year's was the hardest. It was the longest day, the most preps (classes to plan for), and the most difficult for my boys and their schedules. I didn't want to do that again.

When I left work in June, the schedule itself was looking good. .6 in the morning. Pretty great. There were only two literacy intervention classes, but I was still excited. Then I got a phone call. Would I be interested in working at the other middle school as well, teaching two more reading intervention classes? Uh, yes! Well, maybe. These classes would be added to my already planned schedule. Meaning .8 again. Not just .8, but .8 with travel between schools daily. Scary. Super scary.

I was extremely worried about how this schedule would work with our family needs. My oldest would be starting kindergarten, so his start/end times had to be considered. And what about my youngest? He sure hasn't gotten much of an advantage of having a part-time working mama. What about me? Could I really handle a more complicated and challenging schedule than the one I believed I had barely survived last year? I only had an hour or so to decide, so I had to think fast.

I was absolutely terrified of what this new schedule could mean, but I had been waiting for a very long time to show what I could do. I wanted the challenge. Helping those who struggle with reading is my passion. Although it should have been a much harder decision, it wasn't. At the time. I took it on. Reluctantly.

As the summer days went faster and my first day back to work got closer, my excitement to teach grew, but my fear of the unknown also took over many of my thoughts. I came to the conclusion that this year would be rough. I would love my classes/students, but the schedule would be something I would just need to get through. Next year, it will be better. Those of you who have read my past thoughts, have heard that line before.

Then it started. My colleagues at the other middle school welcomed me with open arms. Still a little nervous. Then kids came and every reservation flew out the window. As the first month of the school year is coming to the end, I can confidently and happily say, this has been the BEST month of my teaching career. The schedule has been a breeze, both at school and at home. My boys have settled into their schedules flawlessly and I love what I do each and every day.

I can not believe how empowering this decision has been. I had no idea what I was missing out on. I am so very thankful that I was offered this opportunity and that I was brave enough to give it a shot. All those quotes about facing your fear are truth in the purest form. Do what you love, especially when it terrifies you.

quotes about life:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Bake Lactation and Energy Bites

I have tried many recipes for lactation cookies throughout my nursing years. Some I loved, some were okay, others were just plain yucky. When three friends had babies all within months of one another, I decided I should take a chance on making my own recipe. I had struggled to find brewers yeast in the past and have searched for recipes that taste good and work as a lactation treat without it. This was super difficult to do as brewers yeast is one of the ingredients that helps mother's produce milk, however, this recipe has several other supply-helpers which have worked just as well.


1 cup dry oatmeal
1 cup Wild Friends Honey Sunflower Butter
1/2 cup whole ground flaxseed meal
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients together, then put into the fridge for 10-20 minutes to help them set a bit. This makes it easier to roll them into balls. Once they have hardened a bit, roll balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and put back into the refrigerator for another 10-20 minutes to set completely. This recipe will make about a dozen good-sized bites.

I love this recipe mainly because it is so versatile and many ingredients can be switched out for others if desired. Although this recipe does not call for brewers yeast you could definitely add a couple of tablespoons if you would like. It also does not contain nuts (this was a concern for one of the mamas as her toddler is allergic), but once again, you could substitute sunflower butter with good old peanut butter as well. The chocolate chip mixture could be different as well. Use any chip flavor you like.

I eat these as energy bites (even though I do not have a nursing child) and my kiddos love them too. They make for a yummy, easy to make, healthy snack for everyone as well as a wonderful gift for any nursing mama!

Monday, June 29, 2015


Yesterday, I attended a baby blessing for a third-time-mommy, but a first-timer for having a bouncing baby boy. Each guest was asked to bring a blessing, poem, or advice rather than gifts. I had never been to a baby blessing before, and I have to say, it was pretty wonderful. Instead of surrounding the mommy with gifts, she was surrounded with support. It felt heartfelt and powerful. Before heading to the get-together, I spent many hours thinking about what I would like to share about being a mommy of boys. I wanted it to be worth reading.

The writing process required me to think long and hard about my boys: what they do, who they are, and what our daily lives look like. It also made me think about me as their mommy: what I have learned, what I do, and how they have changed me. It was so therapeutic to reflect on these things. Writing the note was for my friend, but it ended up being for me as well. By the end, I was in love with what I came up with.

Here is what I had to say about being a mommy to boys:

As a mommy of two boys, I have a one-sided perspective on what it is like to raise children. I have no personal comparisons to be made between boys and girls, but I can share what I know of my boys and what I have learned while being their mommy. They are bold, and energetic, and exceptional. Boys do things differently.

They talk incessantly about topics which little girls see as gross. You can probably guess what topics, however, I think that it's only fair that I give you some examples: things that (should) take place in the restroom, bodily functions, and their rear ends......let's be honest, the word "butt" is used a great deal. They are loud. Everything that comes out of their mouth is decibels above the socially acceptable noise level in any given situation. They also say, "I love you", and "Mommy", and "Good Morning" in the sweetest way. They ask thoughtful questions, and they make jokes and silly faces that will make you smile on even the worst of days.

They are physical. They punch, hit, pinch, and/or kick whatever/whoever is near when they are angry, frustrated, happy, or excited. Really, whenever they feel any emotion at all. They also wrestle as their main method of play. It isn't fun until someone gets hurt. Although they may feel the need to work through their aggression in a physical way, they forgive and forget quickly and deeply. They give the biggest hugs and kisses, and they protect their loved ones with a fierce and unwavering sense of duty.

They are messy and sneaky. Everything they find amusing requires a lack of safety and/or a predetermined number of "No's" associated with it. No matter what project or activity you set before them, they will find a way to make it into a soap and water after-party for mom/dad. They also teach you to live in the moment. Not worrying about the mess, but watching them learn and grow. To see joy in little things, like how ants are swarming the discarded goldfish cracker or how the paint looks so very different on the hardwood floors than it does on the window in the kitchen. To be curious. To find the answers to the seemingly random questions- that are really well thought out and vitally important.

They are self involved and impulsive.Tantrums come anytime they do not get their way. They want what they want, and they want it now. The world has always, and will always revolve around them. Until it doesn't. One day, they will surprise you with the level of compassion they feel toward others. When it is most needed, yet not asked for, they will show they care in a way that only they can. They are instinctive and insightful, and use these super powers in the most unexpected and wonderful ways.

Your son will challenge you. He will change you and your family. He will help his siblings become the individuals they are meant to be. He will help you become the parents and people that you are meant to be.

I am completely biased, but boys are simply fantastic.

Two very special boys and their thankful mommy

Monday, May 25, 2015

Three or Done?

When asked how many kids she wanted, Taylor Swift said something along these lines, "I don't know. Until I have kids, I will have no idea what it's like. It would be silly to guess." Smart girl.

Throughout my early adult life, I had my heart set on four kids.....then I had one. It took me two years to agree to have another. My husband has always said he wants two. That's it. For a long time I agreed with him. Now I'm not so sure.

I need to sort through all of my thoughts about adding to our family. I go back and forth daily (maybe more often). Having a third child is a huge decision and we need to be sure that it is truly what we want. Plus, my husband will need a great deal of convincing.

Reasons for Three                              Reasons to be Done
Liam is an awesome big brother          Sleepless nights
Nolan needs a younger sibling             Acid Reflux
Baby snuggles                                      Spit up on every piece of clothing I own
Nursing                                                 Pumping
Liam is starting kindergarten                Liam is starting kindergarten
    (saving on childcare)                             (saving on childcare)
Baby names we love                            My feet are full
Baby clothes                                        Diapers
We have an extra bedroom                 Someone will have to share a room forever
I would love a little lady                       The thought of three boys terrifies me
Financially stable                                 Financial goals
I will love them unconditionally             Alopecia
We know what to expect                      We will be outnumbered
The baby smell                                     We have always planned to adopt
I just want to                                         I'm not so sure


Friday, May 8, 2015

Student Appreciation

Every new school year, I have to relearn, rework, and re-imagine my job. With every new group of students I need to learn who they are, what they need, and how to best support their education. Every year, this is a long, changing process. This year in particular, has been quite challenging. It has been difficult to feel as though I am doing my best to support all of my students, to teach them the skills they need to know, and to do my best as an educator. I have struggled. It has been difficult. A week ago, my thoughts about the end of this year consisted of excitement for summer break, excitement for next year's schedule, and preparation for doing things differently. I was ready.

Since then, my thoughts have changed drastically. This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week as well as conferences. Throughout the week, cards and snacks trickled in from my sweet students, as they usually do. But this year, my students gave me a gift that I was not expecting. Gratitude, true appreciation, and a profound sense that I have done my job this year, that I have made a difference. These are the things that I needed. They are the things I didn't know I needed.

Wednesday (our last day with students this week) one of my quiet, sweet young ladies met me at the door first thing in the morning. She had a bouquet of flowers and a handwritten note in hand. I love the flowers, but it was what she said that I took to heart. She thanked me for taking extra time to teach her writing skills that she had struggled with and gave me a big hug. Although I know we have worked together quite a lot this year, I did not expect this. I had no idea that my extra time meant so much to her. A wonderful way to start my day.

My beautiful flowers

Then yesterday (our first day of conferences), I talked with many students and their parents. Much of the day went as conferences usually do, but there were some differences from conferences of the past. My last set of visitors before our lunch break changed my day. She changed my perspective. I will call her "E". "E" came in with her dad, who has attended each of the conference days this year. Each time we meet, I get to gush about how wonderful of a student "E" is, how respectful and responsible she is, how she has grown into a tremendous leader, and about her publish-worthy writing skills. Every time we meet, it ends in all smiles. This time it ended in much more.

"E" entered my room with a painting in-hand. A painting she MADE for me. She spent hours of her time creating this painting as a Teacher Appreciation gift. Just as with the flowers, the painting is so appreciated, it will hang in my classroom forever more, and words can't express my gratitude. However, the words behind the painting are what has changed me. "E" and her dad told me how I have inspired her, how she has learned things from me that have nothing to do with conventions and sentence structure, how she appreciates me and what I have done to help her grow as a young adult. When they left, nearly forty five minutes later, I didn't mind that I had missed most of my lunch. I had all the energy I needed.
A stunning painting from an astonishing young lady

Later that evening, a mom stopped by my table. She asked how her daughter, "K", is doing and listened to my positive comments and suggestions. It seemed, once again, like a normal conference. Then the mom asked about a small group activity with a local author that I had arranged for our aspiring 6th grade writers. She told me how much "K"had appreciated the invite to the event and how it had led to a novel project that her daughter and a friend had created. She also told me that "K" spends hours telling her about our classroom discussions about bullying, homelessness, teen activism, and leadership.

She said that her daughter tells her about the respect she feels in our classroom, how I talk to them like adults, and that we talk about grown up topics. She thanked me for inspiring "K", who is very quiet, to be a leader and to stand up for what she believes in. This same young lady, gave me a card the day before as well as wrote me a very thoughtful, specific letter about how I have impacted her school year and her life.

Every year I hear (as every teacher does), "You are my favorite teacher!", but these interactions were different. These students had more to say. They had specific reasons why our time together matters to them. They used words like "inspire", "respect", "challenge", and "support". I left conferences dreading the end of the school year. Realizing that I have only one month left to complete my work is a sad thought. I want more discussions with these students. I want more chances to reach them. I want more time. My struggles with this year are no longer front and center. Now my limited time with these amazing young people is what matters.

It always surprises me who gets the most out of my classes. This time, it may be me.