Friday, July 30, 2010

A New Mom Bag...

Awhile ago, I shared my love of Mom Bags with this post. I am getting ready for a long-awaited Family Vacation and decided I needed a new Mom Bag, just for vacation.
Aren't these great?  I got a kit to make the tote bag at a local Quilt shop.  I loved the fabric...of course it's green with daisies!  And the words on the front pocket... Make Life Fun...Make Life Beautiful...Make Life Simple...Make Life Colorful...Make Life Sunny...Perfect thoughts for a vacation Mom Bag.
There was enough fabric left from the tote bag kit, to make this adorable clutch.  You can find find the tutorial right here!  This pattern was quick and easy to make and I love that it's a perfect match!  I can't wait to carry around my kids stuff with such a cute Mom Bag!

What are your "Must Haves" when you're getting ready for vacation?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Big Photo Challenge...

The Big Photo Challenge

I missed the Big Photo Challenge last week because I was out of town...this week the topic is

I decided to take a photo that would show as many facets of me as possible in one shot.
  • My desk was custom built for me, by my husband, when he finished our basement.  Rather than building in a spare bedroom, he created this office space which overlooks the family room.  He actually cut out the wall, creating this window.  I can work on crafts or projects while the kids play in the family's perfect.
  • I do enjoy sewing...though I do much more of that during the summers when I am home.  This summer I have been working on unfinished projects and making really cute clutches.
  • On the far corner of my desk you'll see a book I am reading for work on top of my school calendar.  Even though I am off for the summer, there is prep work to be done so that I am ready to go when school opens.
  • My desktop is green, as is the book case on the far end...I love green!
  • No surprise that there's a book case here...I have one in every room of my house...I love to read!  This one holds several projects and notes on the top shelf AND my entire collection of Madeleine L'Engle on the other shelves.
  • On the wall above the book case you'll see pictures of my family, especially my boys.  There's also an altered book I made and a basket of shells.
  • Do you see the photo of daisies in the green frame?  Guess what?  I love daisies too!
  • There's a little snippet of windowsill you can husband and I tiled it last year and planted a small zen garden in the window well.
There's a lot of ME in this one photo.
What best paints a picture of YOU

Working Mommy Wednesday...

Once again I am joining Julia at Work, Wife, Mom...Life! for...

The prompt this week is to brag about yourself!  Wow...that's an interesting invitation.  I'm a teacher.  I teach middle school science and I love it!  I've taught 4th grade through 8th grade, but middle school is my favorite and Science is the best content {in my humble opinion}!

I've been at my current school for 9 years, but teaching for 15.  The school I work at has a high percentage of students who live in poverty.  Children who aren't well-nourished and who don't live in print rich homes.  Children who often fend for themselves.  It's a tough crowd, and I love working there.  I love making connections with kids, seeing the light bulb go on over their heads, celebrating their successes.  I love knowing that the content and skills they learn in my class will help them in many ways as they continue through life.  I love hearing their stories when they come back to that made it!

Currently I am working as a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) and I am an instructional coach.  Think about a sports coach...the person who brings in resources, coordinates practices, provides feedback to players, brings in new ideas and new strategies, helps players achieve their goals...that's what I do for classroom science teachers.  I don't have a class of my own anymore, but I get to work with amazing teachers who are dedicated and talented.  It's a fantastic opportunity.

Teaching is an interesting, and I believe often misunderstood profession.  I have a Bachelor's Degree in Health and Biology with a minor in Chemistry.  I have a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  Last November I achieved National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science.  I'll be starting my doctorate in Educational Leadership next summer.  Teaching is a taxing, difficult, stressful job.  It's also extremely rewarding and there are always new challenges around the corner.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sporty Mom...

Just two weeks ago, I completed my first triathlon of the season.  Yesterday I ran in ...
Race the River
It was a great family was on hand to cheer me on...
I swam hard for the 1/2 mile swim...
My bike ride felt really strong...
My transitions were speedy...
I ran my best...still not my favorite event, but my father-in-law makes it look great in the photo...
And I ran into the finish with all I had left...
It was a good day!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mom Tips for Dinner...

My boys, like most kids, have picky eating phases.  There are some days when they will eat everything in sight and others when I can't get them to eat anything.  For those days when all they seem to want is macaroni,  I have a couple of tricks.

My favorite trick is DINNER GAMES.  In our kitchen I keep a basket with games that can be played during dinner.  Some nights I ask one of the boys to choose a game.  This gets everyone laughing and engaged during dinner and makes dinner take longer, often encouraging the kids to eat more.  We do break up the game with "time to eat" periods or have "everyone take a bite" between players.

The "NO-THANK-YOU-BITE"  is another favorite.  I read once that it takes up to 15 tastes of a new flavor before it's a preferred flavor.  To make sure my boys get those 15 tastes, I ask them to have a no-thank-you bite of anything they don't really want to eat.  On nights when I am craving a side-dish that I know the boys won't like I make them their own side, but ask them have a bite of mine too.

Finally, we sometimes have THEME MEALS.  These range from one person's favorite meal, to a replication of a favorite restaurant dish to a color theme or a meal based on a book or movie.  Whatever the theme, I have discovered that I can sneak in unfamilar food.  The boys are having so much fun with the theme, they're more likely to give something new a try.  I also know that when the meal is their favorite, chances are great they'll have a full dinner.

What are your favorite tricks for getting kids to eat?
Have a great weekend.  Coming up next craft tutorials, mom-tips for allowance and mom-tips for packing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Working Mommy Wednesday...

It's time to link up with Julia at Work, Wife, Mom...Life! and all the other mommies of the Working Mommy Network for ...

This week's prompt is:  Top 5 things you say to your kids on a daily basis.

1.  Have you both spiffied up your bedrooms?

2.  Time to do your everyday jobs.

3.  Do you want milk, juice or water?

4.  Hey punkin...

5.  Love you buddy, you're my favorite 6 (or 11)  year old!

What do you say to your kids on a daily basis?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Homework?

I must be the meanest mom on the block!  Every week day during the summer the boys do a bit of homework.  I really like the Summer Bridge Activities.  

Aiden is working out of the Kindergarten to 1st Grade book.  Each day is divided into 4 different academic activities...a little bit of math, a little reading or spelling, practice writing letters or numbers  etc.  The activities are all aligned with the National Standards, so I know that what he's practicing is relevant.  The first third of the book is a bit of review, the 2nd third is reinforcement and in the 3rd third, kids are introduced to some new concepts.

Connar is working through the 5th to 6th Grade book.  He also has a bit of math, reading, writing and other skills to practice each day.  Both grade levels also have projects kids can work on, personal goal setting and fitness activities throughout the book.

Over the summer, kids who don't read or practice math skills can lose up to the equivalent of 2 months of learning.  Children, especially early readers, can lose hundreds of vocabulary or sight words over the course of the summer.  While my boys don't exactly cheer when the clock says "home work time", I hope they will appreciate the habit of continuous learning.  And...the learning doesn't stop with practice books...check out The Science Mommy for an update on our recent Science Exploration day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Working Mommy...

This week, I am traveling for work, so I am posting from my hotel room.  While it took a little organization on the home front to leave this morning, I think this trip will be a good one.  I get to attend a class, and be trained on equipment that supports our new science curriculum.  Back at school in the fall, I will work with my traveling teammates to train other teachers in our district.

Some advantages to traveling...
* My kids had a special day with their grandparents, and a slumber party tonight
* A very rich and delicious dinner in a fancy restaurant
* Spectacular views on the drive down.  At one point I could see 8 volcanoes at once - amazing
* Traveling with science teachers...priceless!
* Due to a last minute cancellation, a room to myself...luxurious
* Pedicures at the hotel spa tomorrow after class
* Great opportunity to learn something new

Some disadvantages to traveling...
* Teary good nights over the phone
* Missing my husband for a week due to poor timing between my trip and his work schedule
* A hotel room to myself (frankly I'm never alone and I get lonely after 1 day)
* Missing / adjusting training time for my upcoming triathlon
* Missing 4 days of stay-at-home mom time
* Teary good nights over the phone (this time it's me...I can be so sappy!)

What do you miss the most when you're not with your kids?  What's the best part of a little mom time?

Friday, July 16, 2010

I got an Award!

I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Butterfly Wishes and Wonderland Dreams.  Wow...thanks so much! This is a very exciting way to end the week!

There are a couple of conditions to this award...
1.  Thank the person who gave you the award...Thanks so much!

2.  Share 7 things about yourself...
* I have always wanted to be the voice of a cartoon character * When my husband and I were just dating, we learned rock climbing together and because of our work schedules often went climbing late at night {not children aren't reading!} * I was fired from a job from rapelling off the roof {I was young} * I cut up my wedding dress to make a christening gown for my babies, I wanted to extend our vows to include our children and I never wanted someone to feel bad because she didn't want to wear my dress * I love to read * When I was 35 I decided I wanted to be sporty...I recently finished my 3rd triathlon and I have another in a week * My favorite running music is The Dropkick Murphy's ...nothing like a little Celtic Punk to really get you fired up *

3.  Pass on the award to 15 other Bloggers you have recently discovered and you think are fantastic! (These are in alphabetical order)
* Adori Graphics - if you haven't checked our her site, you really must!
* Blooming on Bainbridge - Teresa is so inspiring and fun
* Confessions of a Wannabe Supermom - Amanda puts things into perspective
* Durable Goods - Jeri has such beautiful quilts and projects
* Everything Happens for a Reason - I love reading Ashley's blog
* Mary Janes and Galoshes - Taylor has great product reviews and ideas for crafts
* Sew Many Ways... - Karen also has great project ideas and hers are so practical, I love them
* Shopper Gal - Tessa has great ideas for working out, saving and finding all the cute things out there!
* The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love - I love the perspective shared by Lab Mom...and she quilts too!
* Work, Wife, Mom...Life! - I got connected to the Working Mommy Network through Julia

So, that's not quite 15 but it's a good representation and they are all very deserving & versatile bloggers. 

I hope you all have an excellent weekend!  Next week on Chase-ing the Dream I will have a cute clutch I made, and Mom Tips for Traveling without your kids...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Key Chain Scrapbook Tutorial...

I take lots of pictures and I like to find creative ways to use them. This key chain didn't quite turn out the first time, but I like the finished project.  

I started with wood pieces that I found at a craft store.  There were actually about 20 pieces in the set and I chose two different sizes of square and the star.  I also got a key ring sized, split ring at the craft store.

I stacked the wood pieces and clamped them together before drilling, so that the holes would line up.  I also compared the drill bit to the split ring to make sure the holes were large enough.  Finally, because the wood pieces are so thin (1/16"), I made sure to drill the holes far enough away from the edge to keep the wood from splitting.
Next, I went to the computer and printed off the pictures I wanted to use...I made sure they were cropped to the right size for my wood pieces.

I treated each wood piece as a tiny scrapbook page...finding paper, stickers, embellishments and a photo or quote for each one. 

Once the pages were all assembled, I used a stylus to locate the hole in each wood piece and punch through the paper.  This would have been a lot easier {and looked neater}  if I had used a hole punch on the paper before affixing it to the wood piece.  {learn from my mistakes...punch holes in the pictures & paper before adhering them to the wood!}
Finally, I threaded all the wood pages onto the split ring to create my key chain... didn't really work!  Since I hadn't punched a hole through my paper/pictures before adhering them to the wood, adhesive was sticking on the ring.  Also, since the holes were drilled lower on the wood squares the pieces didn't flip around the ring like I hoped they would.  (You may also notice the star is gone...the hole in the wood split while I was twisting it onto the ring...)
I happened to be helping my son clean out his desk while I was pondering a solution to my key chain...and I found this ball & link chain that he didn't want.
Strong wire cutters (thanks Kyle!) helped remove the wood pages from the ring without going through the spiral again.  {Twisting them through the ring had mangled some of the paper.}  I removed all the wood pages and...

...reassembled them on the chain.  I used the wire cutters to cut the chain to size and added a couple of charms that hadn't fit on the split ring.

I don't think I'll be carrying my keys on this particular key chain, but I really like the way it turned out.  It's also a fun, fast way to showcase a few current pictures.

What crafts are you working on?  What do you do with all the pictures you take?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Working Mommy Wednesday...

 This week's prompt is...10 Things You Wish Someone Told You About Motherhood...

1. All of a sudden everyone around you will have an opinion about what you're doing...and they will share it with you
I was stunned to hear complete strangers asking about my birth plan, telling me how to stop him crying, commenting on my choice of bottle / formula.  Everything becomes fair game for a conversation and an opinion!

2. "This is what works for my family"
In reaction to the overwhelming numbers of opinions and advice I heard, this became...and still mantra!

3.  Formula-fed babies are not dumb
So maybe I am a little bitter about #1, this is another reference!  I could not believe how many people, told me point-blank, that formula-fed babies are not as smart as their breast-fed counterparts.  I am still shocked that someone would actually say this to a new mom! (And happily, my formula-fed babies are not struggling academically or otherwise!)

4.  Being a mom is really, really, really hard
I thought that getting out of the first year was the real with a pre-adolescent this summer indicates that I may be longing for the "simplicity of an infant" in the not-to-distant future.  Being a mom is hard, every day!

5. Being a mom is the most amazing thing you'll ever do!
The moment Connar was placed in my arms, I had a total sense of peace and a sense of ..."Oh, this is why I am here!"  That feeling was only intensified when I had Aiden.  The sense that my purpose is to be their mom is feels so important and I feel so lucky! Before you get too wrapped up in bliss see #4! They go together in an endless cycle!

6.  You will question yourself constantly...
Did I feed him enough? Is he warm enough? Should I have packed more diapers? Can he cry it out? Should I comfort him?  Was I too hard on him? Was that time out too long? Can he really wait until lunch? Should I comfort him? Is he hurt? Does he need me? Maybe peas really will make him throw up? I should have bought that toy? Will he be ok?  Will they take care of him? Did I do enough? Did I do too much?...

7. Trust yourself...
Another endless cycle with #6...Remembering that I am the mom, that I have their absolute best interests at heart, that I know them best...trusting myself is one of the most important lessons I have learned.

8.  Wave a convincingly cheerful goodbye...
That line comes from an essay I read years ago...I didn't save the essay and I don't remember the author but that line has stuck with me.  As a mom my job is to bandage, comfort, wash, feed, discipline, hug and love and with the very same hand wave a convincingly cheerful goodbye.  I have to practice that one...I practiced when they went to camp, when they go to school, when I leave them at soccer practice, when they get new privileges... convincingly cheerful!  Then I turn around and cry, when they can't see.

9. Connar is one of the most amazing people you will ever have the chance to know and it will be your responsibility to make sure that he is ready to be a man...a student, an employee, a friend, a father, a husband, a person.

10.  Aiden is one of the most amazing people you will ever have the chance to know and it will be your responsibility to make sure that he is ready to be a man...a student, an employee, a friend, a father, a husband, a person.

It's a daunting and challenging task, but I've never had more fun! They bring more to my life then I could imagine before them.

The Big Photo Challenge...

The Big Photo Challenge

This week's Big Photo Challenge, hosted by Adorible Photography is Green...
This was a tough challenge for me because I love green {you might have picked up on this by looking at my blog}!  I tried some interesting shots of my favorite new green pillows, a collection of my favorite green knick-knacks, and a shot of some new green fabric I just bought...none of it was quite right, so I headed out into my garden...
At first your eye sees the lovely lavender, but then you can soak up all the amazing greens in the background.  I took about 8 shots of these little flowers before I captured just the right mix of sharp detail on the flowers and softness in the green stems. I was also trying to maximize the number of green shades that are discernible in the background.  They are all part of the same plant but the light causes many different shades. 

I used my Canon Rebel xsi and I was shooting in the macro setting.  The flowers are mine too...I have two large clumps of lavender and they smell amazing right now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Club...

Summer reading is my favorite!  I love sitting on the beach, on my deck, at the skate board park...wherever I am, with a good book!  This month has been a great one for reading...

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udell  was the only book I read this month that was on my book shelf.  I know I said that all the book club books would be on the shelf...but it's my book club :)  This book was a little long and a little self-absorbed.  I do however, like to read books that give me a glimpse into another way of life.  This story describes several months in the life of a polygamist, with one of his wives and one of his children having a voice in telling the story. 

Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb is the reason not all my book club books came from the book shelf.  After the previous book (which took forever to finish...I did say it was a bit long) I needed something different and ran across this one.  Wow!  This author is fantastic!  The women in the book all have complicated lives, with real issues and serious problems.  The book is written in such a delightfully irreverent style that I was both laughing and crying many times throughout.  While I never forgot that the women were struggling to overcome hurdles, the author never let them wallow in self-pity either.  "Grab the love.  Hold on tight.  Treasure it.  Put that love you have for your husband first, arrange everything else around it, and all else will work out.  Love must be cradled and nurtured and enjoyed and danced with.  Never ever forget the love.  It's why we want to live."  Loved this book!

The Last Time I Was Me by Cathy Lamb is another reason I didn't read anything else off my book shelf.  I loved the first one so much I needed to read more of hers.  Again, this book didn't disappoint...different central characters, different issues, same irreverent, buck-up style of writing.  Again, laughing and crying through the book.  "Find a backbone and stick it behind your ribs.  Quit sulking and wallowing in your sulking.  Suck it up.  Deal.  Quit being pathetic."  This was a quick my favorite manner of summer reading I just inhaled it!  This is worth picking up!

I also read...Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb and A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve. 

What are you reading?  Post your current reads in the comments or include a link to your own blog post.  You can grab the "Book Club" meme in my sidebar to include in your post.  Then, find your books for next month...I'll be reading the books on my bookshelf in the sidebar.  (Probably...!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Valley Girl Triathlon...

My first triathlon was last year and I loved it!  It was an amazing feeling to "find my sport" in my 30's after living a fairly un-sporty life.  Now I am sporty and it's so much fun!  Today was my first triathlon of this season - Valley Girl.  This is a race that is literally held in my backyard - I rode my bike to the transition zone.  There were so many women I knew competing that the environment was really fun and positive...very inspirational.

My race started in the lake...isn't it beautiful?  The water was wonderful!  I swam 1/3 of a mile and felt really strong.  One thing I need to work on is staying on the course...I kept swimming to the right and ended up spending time to get back in track.  Swimming is a lot of fun though and I tried to remember to enjoy the was the only time I wasn't toasty all morning.

I ran out of the water into the transition zone to get my bike...

...and set off on a 12 mile bike race.  I had personal best records in both the swimming and biking this morning...yay!
Back into the transition zone and it's a quick change into my running shoes.  I got new elastic laces and they worked really well to get my shoes on quick.  I headed out for the final leg of the race...a 3 mile run.

Running is my nemesis and I didn't have a PB race this morning but I did find my great friend Tessa during the run and we finished the race together.  We've been training together and work out together most mornings so it was really great to be able to finish this race with her!
And I am a finisher!! I felt strong through most of the race and I had a great time.  I really love triathlons and I love feeling sporty!

Friday, July 9, 2010

5 Question Friday...

 It's Friday, so I am linking up with Mama M at My Little Life for 5 Question Friday...

1.  What is one food you could eat everyday?  
I love cereal and could easily eat that everyday.  In fact, I nearly do!  It's a great breakfast...oatmeal or granola...and it's a great snack...Cocoa Puffs or Lucky can even be dessert!  Yum!

2.  Are you working in the career you thought you would be when you were 18?
Not exactly...I grew up thinking I would be a teacher, but when it came down to applying to, and going to, college I switched to nursing.  I'm not exactly sure what brought on the sudden desire to be a nurse, and it didn't last long.  I was two years into the required Biology major and needed to apply to the actual nursing school when I gave a lot of thought to the actual job of a nurse...not for me!  I loved the science classes I was taking though and switched my major to secondary education with endorsements in Biology and Health Education.  I have never regretted the switch. 

3.  What is something you wish you would have done when you were younger and you didn't?
 I wish I had stuck with sports.  I tried to play softball and basketball when I was in middle school, but I really wasn't very good and I had no confidence in a sporty me.  It wasn't until I was 35 that I realized there was a sporty me hidden inside and she just needed to find the right sport.  I wish I had stuck with being more athletic so it was a lifelong habit...I am really enjoying finding the sporty me now! 

4.  What color are your kitchen walls?
My walls are "Warm Cocoon"...such a lovely warm buttery, yellow.  I love them! That color makes me so happy!

5.  Do you remember what your very first favorite song was?
The first song I remember loving, separate from music my parents listened to, was Blondie's "Heart of Glass".  I got the Blondie cassette tape for my 10th birthday and listened to it in my cassette player, plugged into the wall, over and over and over!

Fun!  I love 5 Question Friday...I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Next week I will have a fun tutorial for "Not a Scrapbook", our Family World Cup Championship and July's Book Club...and I will have all the details on my first triathlon of the season - Valley Girl!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Photo Challenge Tag...

I was tagged in a photo challenge by LabMom at The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love.  I was supposed to pick the 8th picture in my 8th photo folder to post. 

This picture was from a trip my family and I took to San Diego in February 2009.  At the Wild Animal Park, we were able to go on a giraffe safari.  The truck we were in traveled into the giraffe enclosure and we were up close and personal with these amazing animals.  We fed them and learned so much about them, both in the wild and in terms of conservation.  It was an incredible experience for all of us. I am tagging others and I am curious to see which photos pop up for you:
Tessa at Shopper Gal
Ashley at Everything Happens for a Reason
Danny at Dancy
Jeri at Durable Goods
Teresa at Blooming on Bainbridge
Louise at Adorible Photography
Cori at Vaughntastic!
Amanda at Confessions of a Wannabe Supermom

What is the 8th photo in the 8th folder on your computer?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Working Mommy Wednesday...

I am linking up with Work, Wife,Mom...Life! on Working Mommy Wednesday.  This week's about a momemt of Mommy guilt (and how you pulled through).

I appreciate the distinction between real guilt and referred guilt made by Julia at Work, Wife, Mom...Life!.  There are people I know who bombard me with referred guilt and over the years I have gotten a bit better at not assuming that guilt for myself.  One of the strongest real guilt situations I experience is my lack of patience, at the end of long days, for my kids. 

I hate the feeling that work has gotten the best of me...literally!  That all my laughter, patience, tolerance and creativity was used up on other people's children and there isn't any left for my own.  I hate the evenings when all I have is frustration and pickiness or worse The Yelling Mom

One of the ways I have found patience is to workout in the mornings.  Strangely, sacrificing an hour of sleep to spend sweating gives my body more patience at the end of the day.  It helps that I have friends at the gym, so it's a social hour for me, and time spent on me (even though it's really early!) 

Another strategy that works for me is to recognize those days when I am at the end of my rope.  If my husband is home, I'll let him know that I am going to be home a little late and I drive through Starbucks and park by the river on my way home.  A stolen half hour reading and enjoying a cup of coffee in the truck helps me put my work day behind me and look forward to family time.  If my husband is at work, and it's just me and the boys, I plan something special.  I take them swimming or we go out to dinner...something to change the routine and give me time to enjoy the kids without looking at everything that needs to be done in the house. 

What are your Mommy guilt moments?  How do you deal with them?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Big Garage Project...

I love our house!  It's our first (and maybe last) house and I love it!'s small and in need of a storage makeover.  The first step of the makeover was THE GARAGE!

Our garage has become a collect-all with lots of stuff and no real organization.  We started by sketching a couple of large storage systems that we (Kyle) would build.  Then we piled everything into the driveway and headed to Home Depot!

Of course the project took longer than we estimated, and of course we took more trips to Home Depot than we thought we should...

...but at the end it turned out so fantastic! We were able to bring storage bins out of the basement store room and make more room for Storage Makeover Project #2.  All the tools, gardening materials, skateboard ramps and Christmas trees have a place they belong...

...and all the skateboards, skis, and golf bags are easily accessed!

What projects are you working on this summer?