Jul 21, 2014

Teacher: Back to School Checklist

 Even thinking about this list makes my anxiety level go up a notch. But lists are my JAM. After teaching for a couple years I feel like I know what to expect and exactly what I need to be prepared for the first week of school.  Here are some of my picks to help you conquer your first week at school. 

Oh and nothing really can prepare you for teacher throat unless you work through summer at camp. You've been warned!

Every year I go over and update my syllabus of expectations, supplies, and an overview of the course. High expectations are a must for me.  As a middle school teacher respect is key and makes or breaks you with eighth graders.  There are the essential rules rundown and then we make our own classroom rules, diplomatically. Takes time to think through the rules you want in a classroom and then they are posted to the wall with the "Team" name that the class has chosen.

The first piece of homework is for the parents.  For all of those parent's out there-please hear me out!  I want parent's to give me the opportunity to see a little bit more of who their child is through their eyes.  The homework is extra credit and does not count against anyone.  The letter's I have received are heartfelt and full of meaning.  Some are simple and handwritten, while others are pages(and pages) of stories about their little(BIG) eighth grader. All are meaningful and none are better than the other.  

I am a PLANNER.  I put in all of the field trips, holidays, parent conferences, and key dates in my desk calendar.  I also plan out one-two months in advance what we will be doing each day. This would have never been possible my first year teaching but now I know how fast we go through material and how long our Nuclear Bomb Shelter Activity, Mock Trials, and our full Presidential Campaigns run.  Who says history and government is boring?!? Not THIS teacher. Oh and real life monopoly? That's right.  I am the landlord to 120 darling little eighth graders. Real life skills? Check. Writing checks? Check. Boring? NEVER. Well, that's a matter of opinion but I can't hear the naysayers over the curls of my gray judge wig. Old school teaching new school.

My classroom is full of flavor.  Twinkly lights around the SMART Board, pictures of my family, fabulous examples of projects from past students but most importantly it is full of information.  Each unit has coordinating information- Elections- Nuclear Attack-Trials- Monopoly. 

Pizzazz! Yep, I just used that word. The pictures show just a "touch" of what my classroom looks like. 

I am a planner and making sure that the copies that I do need get done ahead of time is pivotal.  Seriously, those printers break ALL THE TIME. So I make sure that I am set for a month at a time for my classes.  I try to save all the trees I can and post ALL my documents online so that everyone can view them on their laptops. I also have a Blog for my students to post on once a week about a current event on the news that is privately accessed.  That printer has my name, I swear. But so far I have had the last laugh! 

Supplies can get EXPENSIVE and I am excited to share a fabulous contest that helps teacher's and students alike!


You simply upload your school supply list HERE. And Great Clips picks daily winners! Winners will get their back-to-school supply list shipped to their front door for free (up to $100 value). Every little bit helps!

#GREATLIST contest entrants receive a $2-off Great Clips coupon with their confirmation email the first time they submit a school supply list. 

I LOVE companies that care about education! Check out this Before and After of one classroom makeover.

Click HERE to watch the full video of the classroom makeover and see how Great Clips has already fulfilled two teachers' lists. You can help other teachers throughout the U.S. and Canada by downloading the Online Check-In app. 

Online Check-In app - This service lets you add your name to the waiting list at your local Great Clips salon. It’s not an appointment - what it does is let you add your name to the list before arriving at the salon to help save you time.  Help donate to the AdoptAC cause!

With every download, Great Clips will contribute to AdoptAClassroom.org (up to $20,000) to help continue to support teachers and students. Every little bit adds up! A small donation can go a long way to support teachers, their supplies and classrooms. All you have to do is download the App and enter to win your supply list! WIN-WIN.

Many Great Clips salons are offering back-to-school pricing for haircuts! Check out your local salon for details.

About Great Clips - With more than 3,300 salons throughout the United States and Canada, Great Clips is the world’s largest salon brand. Great Clips salons employ nearly 35,000 stylists who receive ongoing training to learn the Great Clips customer service system and advanced technical skills. Great Clips salon owners and corporate office are dedicated to our salon communities with a focus on philanthropic and volunteer activities.

This post is sponsored by Great Clips. As always all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Snow in July

Snow Day at the Phoenix Zoo

He climbed, bounced, boogied, and it took some serious convincing that we should go check out the splash pad and animals. Serious convincing.  

Throwing snow balls!  Disney Radio was playing songs and guess what they played(over and over)? Did you guess the Frozen Soundtrack?!? DING DING DING- We have a winner!  I'm pretty sure there were more parent's singing than children. Hilarious.

Photo Op with Little Sister

Em lasted about thirty seconds, no shoes on meant it was going to be a short little visit for her anyways, but she actually loved playing with small pieces in the grass area.

King of the Mountain

Sharing is caring.

Splash Pad for the win!

Patient little observer.  Em "walked" all over the splash pad with me which ensured that I was thoroughly soaked.  There are so many people that look so well put together at the zoo- I am not one of them.  


Cowboys, Pirates, and Monsters are all he ever talks about...  he loved riding the "horse" with mom.

Round TWO

Do you want to build a SNOWMAN?!?

Too Much Fun.

Last year on this Saturday I was showered by my best friend's and family in honor of Little Em.  I can't believe an entire year has passed!  I am beyond blessed to have such lovely people in our lives!

I wish I could accurately account for the actions that took place to get The Toddler up onto that mound of snow.  Please let it be known that in all his years(two to be exact) he has never once encountered snow.  Sure we have spent the holidays up in the Pacific Northwest but we always missed the white fluffy stuff and just had the rain.  

The Toddler thought he literally was going to die, like clinging to the stroller with both legs wrapped around it with all of his strength.  Not even close to kidding.  So there was that.  I thought that he would LOVE the snow since it was all he could talk about that morning as we drove to the zoo- so I told the hubby to pick him up and plop him down on it.  Parenting win.  It was hysterically(sad) until he actually touched the snow.  For the life of me I do not know what he thought was going to happen- I mean we have watched Frozen and he LOVES that movie.  No tears were shed, or shrieks of fear- just a 45 pound toddler wrapped around my husband's forearm.

We left for the Zoo before 7AM and were thrilled with the cloud-cover and rain clouds that kept the temperatures much cooler.  We were able to go visit all of our favorite farm animals and statues while getting rained on.  Em truly enjoyed interacting with the animals and I can not wait to go with them during the week when the temperatures cool off in September.  We left the zoo at 9:30AM and the sun was out and the temperatures started to soar- thankful we got there so early so that we didn't have to worry about overheating our little ones!

The Toddler definitely LOVED the snow and we had to pluck him off of the top to get going home.  A drastic difference in just two hours.  

Both of them were too excited to take their usual naps but one little girl didn't even make it through dinner...

Our weekend was full of fun with our little ones and fixing up the house late at night.  I redid the grout in our powder bathroom, touched up all the paint in every room, painted the front door and the door to the garage and the hubby worked on fixing the irrigation system.  Small projects that hopefully will leave a lasting impression on our little house.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Jul 16, 2014

Em: 11 Months Old

Dear Sweet Em,

You are now your own little person, truly.  You love to be your big brother's shadow but recently you have been breaking out of your shell and "playing" with other little ones when we are on excursions.

You are a lucky little one that got to visit The Happiest Place on Earth at just ten months old.  Disneyland did you right!  You LOVED the rides, the food, and all of the people!  You waved at Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers, cuddled up to Chip and Dale, blew kisses to Minney Mouse, and ate your weight in food.  You went on Pirates of the Caribbean TWICE- we knew you would love it because you go with the flow and are not scared easily(at all sometimes)- plus the AC felt fantastic!  The drops made you giggle and you waved at the pirates as they fought each other in an epic battle.  Your brother noticed that you were so brave and made sure to point out his favorite things to you and tell you ALL about them.  You LOVED the Jungle Cruise and seeing all of the "animals"- your father and I had one of the best tour guides ever and we were cracking up the entire ride.  You saw your first fireworks and were captivated! We made sure to be far enough away that they weren't too loud because it was so late at night but you were grinning ear-to-ear.  Your time with all of the characters at breakfast was priceless... I will carry those memories with me forever.

You ate a Mickey Waffle and grapes for breakfast.  You had four pouches throughout the day and no less than six mum mum crackers.  You ate the entire container of raisins and rice chex mix that we brought with your brother.  At dinner you had two pieces of corn on the cob, two chicken legs, a bowl of baked beans, and a piece of your brother's cupcake! You and I made friends with the people at the old fashioned baby station for morning and night feedings... we were at Disney for over 14 hours- we were prepared to leave much, much earlier but you and your brother were having a BLAST and did not have one, single meltdown. I know, I'm baffled too.  The Happiest Place on Earth- truly is The Happiest Place on Earth.

You are now standing and can take a step or two.  You prefer to chase your brother crawling... and are much, much faster than him at crawling now.  He actually gets up to run when you catch him!  

You love reading books, eating whatever your brother or I eat, waving at everyone and dancing your little heart out!

You are still in 12 month sleepers and 12 month clothes.

You say, "Momma, Dadda, I love you," and sing all the time.  You have a made up language with your brother and I swear you are fully conversing with each other.

You are our little sweetheart!  

We love you with all of our hearts!


Mom & Dad

Jul 11, 2014

Are You Sure it Doesn't Run in Your Family?

Ever since the birth of Sweet Em I have been working on getting myself back.  I came home from the hospital encouraged that I knew what expectations were healthy for my body-especially seeing how long it takes for the softness to dissipate naturally.  With The Toddler I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in six weeks. I was soft and in no way back to my normal-looking self- BUT I fit into all of my clothes.  I had to pump with The Toddler because of various latch issues(more on that another day) and felt like a failure-basically still do.  So with Em? She latched and I was successfully breastfeeding right from the start.

Breastfeeding helps lose weight right?!? 

Not for me.

In fact nothing has worked for me.  I am the same weight I was from when I left the hospital with Em eleven months and two days ago.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not thrilled with this stat nor am I proud of that fact but it is a fact no less.  If anything I try to be as transparent as I can on this blog when it comes to me personally.  So as embarrassing as it is, that's my life.

I am a former athlete and know everything I need to do to get back into shape. Truly.

I workout 5-6 days a week and eat 1250-1500 healthy calories to which I track religiously. I drink an insane amount of water each day- INSANE.  I have never tracked calories until this stalemate occurred.  Around three months postpartum I started to track what I ate.  Back then I allowed myself to eat more calories to make sure that I had an adequate milk supply- 1750-2000 calories. I am happy to say that I never had a problem with a lack of milk.  I even tried eating more for two weeks with the notion that my body was going through starvation mode with breastfeeding and instead gained ten pounds. TEN.

SO THOROUGHLY FRUSTRATED I trudged on. Everyone I talked to said that it takes longer with the second baby. I agreed but KNEW that it couldn't be this hard. It was not physically possible to put in all of this work and care and to not get anywhere.  I was convinced that I had a thyroid problem. And one of my best friend's(soon to be Nurse Practitioner agreed-should have listened to you Nikki).

When I offered this diagnosis people scoffed at the idea.  Perhaps they thought I wasn't working out or eating healthy?  A doctor actually laughed at me and told me to lay off the pizza. Humiliating doesn't even begin to describe how I was feeling.

Months pressed on.  The workouts continued- the eating healthy continued-AND the water drinking continued.  Nothing changed.

It wasn't until there was a lump the size of my toddler's fist protruding from my neck that I decided to seek help.  I look LOVELY people.

So at ten months postpartum with only the support of my husband I decided to seek medical help.  

The specialist immediately agreed that I have hypothyroidism.  She brought in back up to the office and started to discuss the very real possibility of surgery to remove the massive lump on my throat.  She asked three times if thyroid cancer ran in my family.  


As I sat there wracking my brain I told her of all of the cancer's that do run in our family but that thyroid cancer was not one of them.

She immediately sent me to get an ultrasound on the mass that afternoon and I have the longest list of blood tests to complete on Monday morning.

I collapsed in tears when she told me that no matter what happens that WE will figure it out.  That WE will make sure that my body is healthy again.

It was so reassuring to know that I wasn't crazy.  That there is a reason as to why I am still 40 lbs heavier.

I am beyond terrified of my new reality.  We are thousands of miles away from family and our support system.  Surgery- Cancer-Treatment- Daunting. I am the sole caretaker of the two cutest(biased a bit?) kids. I can't get sick.  I can't have surgery.  I can't have cancer.  

I can't deal with my new reality.

But it is my reality.

I wrote this days before my appointment and posted it while covered in tears. 

I don't know if I can handle all of this.

An answer is better than not knowing.  Even if it's not the answer I want.

Jul 8, 2014

Weighing on my Heart

As the days, weeks, months pass on by I feel myself slowing becoming paralyzed in fear. 

As we inch closer to Sweet Em's first birthday I am feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with emotion, with fear.  There is an innate sense that we need to make sure that the time we have with her is full. Full of love and new experiences. 

I don't have enough time. I haven't had enough time.

I say this over and over again as I rock my little girl to sleep. Kissing her sweet head before I put her down for the night.

Please give me more time.

The past few weeks have been FULL of adventure, new experiences and most importantly love.  Spending time in California at the beach, going to Disneyland, and every waking moment we could outside with family.  Then Aunt Rachel came to visit out in the desert and our days were full of baby snuggles, ice cream, and splash pad fun.  There are so many wonderful memories that I want to share on here.  And I will- I just don't know when.  

For now I am prepping for a sweet little birthday for our baby girl.  Every moment they are awake we are off to another adventure- even if the day just calls for an epic water balloon fight against dad in the backyard.  

I have been noticeably absent here.  The only thing I don't have more of is time.  I can wait another day to post, and I will.

For those that don't know Em has heart irregularities, essentially a hole in her heart- much more complicated than that but I get shaky even just typing out her condition. 

We have been bracing for her next set of tests to see if surgery is the answer both emotionally and financially.  There are many areas that I shop around for- the care for my child's heart is not one of them.

There are times in life that people tend to open up and tell you what they've heard about from a friend.  Along with birth horror stories apparently having a child with a heart problem falls into this category.  I am thankful that many people know someone that has had a hole in their heart and is now fine- although they never can actually tell me what was essentially wrong with the child(hole in the heart is incredibly vague).  I am living proof that you can live an active life with heart problems.  The only problem with all of our friend's and family saying that so-and-so had something like that and they're fine is that is portrays an air of unimportance- that my feelings of doubt and sadness are unwarranted- that Em will be fine.


Since her diagnosis I have heard that exact term from too many people.  I have been shushed and quieted as if her diagnosis was just regular turn-of-the-mill news. People can be so cruel when they are trying to be kind.

The next month is going to fly right on by, just as fast as the past eleven months.  Sweet Em soon will be one and we will know what the future holds for our little bundle of joy.  Not knowing is hard and I break down at night after both of the little ones are tucked in bed, the toys are picked up, and the dishes put away.  I break down at night because you can only be strong for so long before you need help.  A hug, a story to read, and some movies on the couch.  I may look like I'm doing fine, but I am just doing the best that I can every single day. 

Hoping. Wishing. Praying.

Jul 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July from our family to yours!

When a toddler asks you to wear a bow- you wear a bow. I matched Em. 

Our day was simple and perfect.  Tons of cuddles and quality time with the little ones in the morning. Watched some World Cup soccer action- I want Belgium to go all the way now. While the kids napped we went outside and did two hours of hearty yard work in the desert heat. Our backyard looks GOOD now. We ended the day with messy, happy kids. BBQ, corn, and watermelon! Then instead of throwing them in the bath(much needed after dinner) we went outside and spent time in the sand turtle and sprinklers! 

The little ones are sleeping, perhaps we will stay up for fireworks in a year or two? But for now, the Hubby and I are settling in for a late movie and hoping that our neighbors decide to celebrate elsewhere this evening(please don't wake up my babies).