Sunday, January 30, 2011

Valentines for YOU...

I recently got the new Valentine Digital Scrapbooking Kit from the oh-so-talented Louise at Adori Graphics! After a fun, crafty afternoon, I have some buttons you can use on your blog.  Just click on the one you like, save it as a photo to your computer and then post it in your sidebar or a Valentine post.  Have fun!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Love Reading...

I ran across a great book this week that I have really been enjoying...
You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
This is a collection of short stories all centered around Fort Hood, a large army base in Texas.  The author tells stories of military families.  She talks about what it's like when husbands deploy for a year.  How couples deal with the separation.  She tells stories of Iraq and Afghanistan  and how the soldiers stationed there feel.  She talks about how hard it is, on wives and husbands, when the men return.  The author paints a compelling portrait of the life of soldiers and their families.

I highly recommend this collection.   One of my favorite sorts of books is the type that gives a reader a glimpse into a world that is not her own.  This book does just that...lets us look into the world of an army wife, the world of a soldier and gives us a chance to understand.

In honor of Valentine's Day, all February Book Club posts will be about my all time favorite books.  What are your favorites?  Could you choose just four?  Join the conversation and share the books you love!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Workouts...

January is a notoriously difficult month for me to work out.  For most of the world, resolutions are set in January and the gyms are crowded.  Most people get their best workouts in January.  Not me.  This month it's hard to wake up.  Hard to get out of bed.  Hard to head to the gym in the dark.

To keep things interesting, a friend of mine helped me create a few swimming workouts.  It's much easier to spend the time in the pool when you have a specific workout, rather than just swimming laps.

This is the workout I did today:
* Warm up - 400 m
* Pyramid (15 seconds of rest between each set)
   - 4 x 50 m
   - 3 x 100 m
   - 200 m
   - 3 x 100 m
   - 4 x 50 m
* Drills - 50 m each - swim, kick, pull, swim, pull
* Cool Down - 200 m

How do you keep your workouts interesting?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What was she thinking?

I love the prompt for this week's, Working Mommy Wednesday... 
What was she thinking?
A post about me, from my kiddo's point of view...

 I do not understand what Mommy has against my ipod, or my DS, or the Nintendo 360.  Just when my brother and I get settled into a game, she's asking if we set the timer or if our homework is finished.  Any minute now she's going to have laundry for us to put away or say the table needs to be set.

And another thing, why does Mommy care if my brother and I argue?  It's not like we're hurting her or yelling at her.  She doesn't understand that he cheats and I have to let him know that I know that he's cheating.  After all if he doesn't take turns, then I'm not going to take turns.  He usually starts it anyway, but it seems like I am always the one who gets in trouble for arguing.  I really hate it when Mommy grounds the video games.  I don't think it's fair at all that the video games get grounded just because my brother and I have an argument.  He never let's me have my way, he always has to have the first turn and we always have to play the game that he wants to play.  Then when I say something about it, the games end up being grounded.  It's so unfair.
Another thing I don't understand at all is why Mommy's so concerned about baths, and teeth brushing and deodorant.  It's my body. I don't think I need a bath every night.  And then she's all over me to hang up my towel and make sure the toothpaste is cleaned out of the sink.  My brother and I are the only ones who use the sink, and the towels for that matter, why does she care?

The last thing I really don't understand is the laundry.  I guess it's nice that Mommy does the laundry, and folds everything into the basket, but it doesn't really matter to me.  And I don't understand why she gets so upset if things aren't put away in the right drawers.  They're my drawers and I don't care if there's underwear with my t-shirts.  Why does she?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Talking to the Boys...

I'm a science teacher.  With a degree in Health Education.  In my house that qualifies me to be that know the one who talks to the kids.  About sex. And other things.

The other night, Kyle was at work, Aiden was at a birthday party and Connar and I were working on a project.  It was the kind of project that required attention, but not a lot of thought.  As a teacher, I have noticed that when kids are engaged in something that requires their attention but not a lot of thought, they tend to open up more.  Something about not making eye contact, but being able to listen and talk is a freeing opportunity.

So, I took advantage of the opportunity and asked if he had any questions.  If he had heard anything he didn't understand.  If he was wondering anything.  And after a couple of minutes he said that he had heard something on TV and wondered what it was.  Without looking at me, he asked me if I knew what masturbation was.

And I was glad that I was looking at my project and not at him.  Glad that I could take a couple of seconds to catch my breath and think.  I was glad that he had asked.  Glad that we had time to ourselves when we could have a conversation.  I took a moment to remember that I wanted him to ask me.  That I had an answer.  I took a moment to be thankful that I was, in that moment, his confident.  I also had to remember that I believe kids need information, and facts, that are appropriate to the question asked.  And I talked to him. 

After about three minutes he said, "That's all I want to hear about that Mommy.  I'll ask you again later when I want to hear more."

Ok, punkin'  Let's take this growing up thing one step at a time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love & Luck...

I have been having so much fun with Valentine's Day crafting...and other fun things!  You'll see lots of them over the next couple of weeks.  This is one of my new favorites...

I started with four blocks, 4" tall.  I started with an 8 foot post and cut them to size with my chop saw.  The great thing about that is then you have blocks to make a Count Down or what ever other project you can dream up.

I lightly sanded my blocks and then went to the stash of scrap book paper.  I cut 4 Valentine-themed papers and 4 St. Patrick's-themed papers.  I cut them about 1/4" inch smaller than the face of the block.

I also used my rounded corner punch on all the paper corners, for a more finished feeling.

Time for the trusty mod-podge.  If you're struggling with making your mod-podge turn out great, check out this video from the girls at How Does She!

Once the pink hearts were dry, I turn the blocks over and applied the green shamrocks in exactly the same way.

Then I went to my lovely Silhouette to cut some vinyl.  I only took one picture, but I cut out "LOVE" in one font and "LUCK" in another...

I love them...and I love a decoration that can stay out for two months!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Friday...

It's been a long week and this working mom is celebrating the fact that it's Friday!  I decided to link up with Mama M over at My Little Life for 5 Question Friday...

1. Where did you meet your spouse and did you instantly know it was love?

We met one summer at a local amusement park.  He ran the Ferris was pretty cool!  I actually met him the day after he graduated from High School.  We spent the summer hanging out and having fun.  It wasn't actually love at first sight...but it was like at first sight.  We started dating at the end of the summer and the rest is history!
2. What is your favorite room in your house?
I don't really have a favorite room.  I spend most of my time in my kitchen-dining room-living room, that's where we all spend most of our time.  I love my little craft room/office though and at the end of the day, my bedroom is very cozy.
3. Can you wiggle your ears?
Nope...that would be a great party trick!
4. What is your evening ritual?
Once the kids are done with dinner, they usually finish whatever game they were playing when we interrupted them with dinner.  Kyle and I chat a bit longer at the table.  Then we launch into "every day jobs and baths"...the kids have a few jobs that need to be done and they typically dawdle a bit before they clean up and head to the bath or shower.  Kyle and I clean up the kitchen and corral the boys.  Then we all head to the family room to snuggle on the couch and watch something we have saved on the DVR.  I love "couch time" because it relaxes us all and gives me an excuse to snuggle with my kiddos...who think they're too old!  Finally, we head upstairs...I read a story with the youngest and then all four of us settle into reading in bed until lights out.
5. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?
Lots!  I really like to get 7 hours if I can although that doesn't always happen.  The more the merrier the next morning!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's for dinner?

I don't usually post recipes because, to be honest, I don't usually cook.  My husband is a great cook...he's inventive and takes time to put together delicious meals.  This week I felt a little Betty Crocker-ish...I felt like giving him a little break and so I cooked for several nights.

This Crock-Pot recipe is delicious and so easy to put together...even I can do it!

Cheesy Chicken and Noodles
Into the Crock-Pot:
* 4 chicken breasts
* 2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
* 1 can Cheddar Cheese soup
* 1 can of milk
Turn the Crock-Pot on low and walk away for 7 hours

When it's time for dinner:
* Prepare a bag of egg noodles according to the package directions
* Add some veggies...either to the chicken and sauce or as a side dish
* Serve the chicken and sauce over the noodles

Put together a vegetable, salad or bread and you have a complete dinner that everyone will love!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

It's that time of the week again...the prompt for this week's Working Mommy Wednesday is...
10 Things I Believe
  • I believe children pay more attention to what we do than to what we say.  Our actions speak louder to them than our words.
  • I believe I am a better mommy because I am also a teacher.
  • I believe I am a more patient mommy when I work out in the morning.
  • I believe I need to read with my boys, and play with my boys every day.
  • I believe that if I want to have real conversations with my teen age kids, I have to start building that relationship when they are much right now!
  • I believe that I can teach my boys more with "teachable moments" than I can with censoring things I don't want them to see or hear
  • I believe that one of the most important parts of our day is a family dinner
  • I believe that I am the first and foremost teacher of my boys
  • I believe that I need to prepare my boys for the world that is not the world I wish it was
  • I believe that right now I have the best gig in the world and I need to remember, each day, to enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Busy Kids...

Last week our x-box (and all related gaming systems) was grounded.  This happens occasionally when I have been called in too frequently to referee arguments, when the timer has been forgotten or when it seems that video games are the only toy in our house.  Every so often, the boys need to remember that there is more to do than play video games.  Last week was that week.

In the midst of a grounded gaming system, Connar went shopping with allowance money.  He spent quite a while in the "science kit" section of the store and ended up choosing a Build Your Own Radio kit. 
I was surprised by how long it took to build the radio, and how complex the directions were.  He stuck it out though, rebuilding it more than once. 
Once the radio was complete he had a hard time tuning into a station.  This led to some online research and some trial & error attempts to improve the signal.  All in all he spent several hours with the radio and it was fun to see him so engaged!

Aiden got a rock tumbler for his birthday and the long-weekend gave us time to get it going.  He was a little disappointed that it would be 16 days of tumbling before he had polished rocks, but it was fun to set up. 

All this, along with some great Tech Deck and Bey-Blade tournaments reminded the boys that there is more to life than video games!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Count Down to...

I am so excited about this project!  Last fall I ordered the "Count Down to Candy" kit from the ladies at How Does She.  My kids loved moving the count-down blocks while they were waiting for Halloween.  It struck me at the time...why don't I use the concept and the blocks to make more fun count-downs?  And that's just what I did!
 The block on the bottom is from the original count-down that I made for Halloween.  The number blocks in that kit had obvious Halloween paper and I wanted something that would lend itself to all of the count-downs, so...

I cut new blocks, found a selection of craft paper that was festive and used my trusty bottle of mod-podge to prepare the number blocks.

Next, I used the original large block and chose papers for my three new count-downs. 
Once all the papers had been applied and the mod-podge was dry, I was ready to affix the vinyl to each block.  Here are my new count-downs...

I just spin the bottom block to find the new topic!  I love the way I can use this set for several occasions and my kids love to "Count Down" anything.  Right now the Birthday countdown is on display as we head towards my husbands birthday in February.

What would your family choose to "Count Down" too?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Club Friday...

I just finished the best book and I can't wait to share it with you...
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen  I have been enjoying Anna Quindlen lately and I am still reading her collection of essays, Loud and Clear.  This book, Rise and Shine is set in New York and tells a story of sisters, a story of finding yourself, a story of relationships and growing up, and a story that pulls the reader in and doesn't let go until the last page.

A quote that stuck with me, "There are no sides.  You love somebody and you help them, and you give them a break.  And they do things you don't like but you love them so you go along."

I also appreciate her perspective on being a mom, "Children blow up your life and then they leave."  This book runs the gamut on emotions and tells a story that captivated me. 

What's next? I think I am going to stick with Anna Quindlen for a bit and pick up Black and Blue.  I really need a book that I can sink into right now, and this one seems like it has nothing in common with my life. 

What will you be reading this weekend?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feeling Reminiscent...

I was looking through some old pictures and I stumbled upon these, from January 2006.  Sometimes I get so caught up the schedules and routines, the ups and downs of life, that I forget to remain in the moment.  Here's a moment that made me smile!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Working Mom Routines...

I missed the official prompts for Working Mommy Wednesday but...

I was recently watching an episode of "Super Nanny" and was struck by the realization that the first piece of advice Jo offers to families is a Family Schedule.  Routines help kids know what to expect and I know they help me keep track of my busy family.

In my house, you wouldn't be able to point to the one routine that makes all things possible...depending on who's home and the situation, we have several.  The important thing is that we have the routines.

"Meeting Daddy at my School"  This is Aiden's least favorite routine.  Since my husband works 24 hour shifts, this routine involves Aiden waking up early to go to school with me.  Kyle works just down the street from where I work, so he picks Aiden up and takes him to school on the way home.  For the first time this year, Connar stays home until he leaves for the bus.

"Regular Mornings" Connar sets an alarm and is just getting up when I get home from the gym.  He makes his own breakfast and watches cartoons before he gets ready for school.  Kyle is getting up just as I am leaving and Aiden is usally getting up then too.  Aiden has to turn the TV off at 8:00 so that he can have breakfast and get ready for school.  It's kind of like a dance...and it works well for us.

"After School" This routine really depends on who's home and what's on the agenda for the afternoon.  The boys usually get 1 ticket of video games before homework.  Often a friend or friends are over to play.  In the spring and fall there's soccer practice.  When it's nice outside there's skateboarding and playing and when it's gloomy we often head to the indoor pool at the gym.

"Everyday Jobs and Baths" As dinner is winding down, Kyle or I make this pronouncement.  The boys take care of their jobs {in a timely manner} and hop in the shower or bath.  Kyle and I finish up laundry & dishes before the kids are done and then it's time for...

"Couch Time" This is my favorite time of the day.  Everyone's in their jammies and we all snuggle up on the couch to watch a show...usually something we've saved on the DVR.  It's cozy and calming for all of us.  From couch time we head upstairs for stories {Aiden} and reading until we fall asleep.

What routines make your family tick?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Child Poverty...

Today I am linking up with One Wee Voice – Child Poverty campaign.  Every morning I drive 30 minutes from the comfortable neighborhood where I live, and my children go to school.  I drive across the city to the neighborhood in which I work, and have worked for the past 10 years.  

This neighborhood has many names…affectionate slang from those who live and work here and appreciate this part of town…dismissing slang from those who don’t understand and judge….sometimes they’re the same name, it just depends on who’s using the term.  I teach in a middle school in a neighborhood with high poverty.  Today about 85% of our students are on free or reduced lunch.  Many are a transient population, often moving once or twice during the school year.  Many don’t have cold weather clothing, school supplies, or food.  

Think about the school where your children spend their days.  At my school:
  • We have a clothing bank inside the school that is accessed during the day by counselors and staff to make sure children have clean, warm clothes.  It’s open to families in the afternoons and during our monthly family nights.
  • We are building protocols for children to access the new medical and dental clinic that just opened at the community center across the street.  We will be able to help kids access medical or dental assistance during the school day.
  • We serve a free or reduced price breakfast and lunch to most of the student body daily.
  • Teachers have drawers full of healthy snacks and they’ve learned how to slip them to the kids who need more food.
  • We buy sweatshirts and gloves, scarves and hats so that kids can be warm on their way to school.
  • We give away books and feed families at our Family Night’s.  
  • We have cupboards full of school supplies and backpacks so that kids are able to attend classes prepared.
  • There is anxiety in the days leading up to a long school break because many children don’t know what they will be eating or where they will be sleeping during those weeks.
  • Almost every child has a story that will break your heart.

At the same time we have to be careful not to let those facts become the excuse…we can accept that those things are but we cannot allow them to cloud our resolve to teach.  We cannot allow those facts to keep us from presenting children with a rigorous educational curriculum and helping them find the resolve to learn.  It is very easy to get sidetracked by someone’s story…to allow pity and guilt to move in and take over.  When that happens I no longer see the resilience in the child…it’s hard to hold him or her accountable to learning about the Conservation of Matter when you know what they saw at home last night.  And so…I hold their stories in one part of my heart but with my voice, I push them to learn.  I help them find some relevance in the academia because I believe that education is the way out of poverty.  I believe that to my core.  I work every day, usually behind the scenes, so that our kids can find the resilience and strength and courage to leave poverty behind.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow-y Craft...

I love to decorate seasonally.  I try not to over do it, but it's fun to have a few things that change out each month to mark the seasons or holidays.  This month I have a new decoration to share...
I made the "Snow" sign with some great wood pieces and a little mod-podge.

I started with wooded letters, a wooden plaque, some craft paper and mod-podge.

Since I knew I was going to mod-podge paper on the front of the letters and the plaque, I started by painting the edges with acrylic paint...white on the letters, blue on the background plaque.

Next I painted the heart red and while the paint was still wet...
I sprinkled on some glitter and brushed off the excess.

I traced around each letter (upside down, on the wrong side of the paper).  I had initially tried mod-podging the paper on first and tearing the excess off to form the shape of the letter.  I decided I wanted a cleaner looking finish, so I traced and cut out all the letters before I applied them to the wooden cutouts.

I mod-podged paper onto the back ground also...this paper I did tear around the edges to get the shape of the wooden background.

And here's the finished project...I really like how it looks up on my little shelf with the Robot Snowmen. Check out how we made those at The Science Mommy

Friday, January 7, 2011

What have you been reading?

There are simply too many good books in this world...I am doing my best to get through them all but they keep writing more!

What I've Read...
Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian  I have always liked Chris Bohjalian and this is one of his books that has been on my wish list for a while.  It was perfect reading for winter vacation.  The book is about a family of water dowsers, one of whom is married to a lawyer who's a lobbyist for the ski industry in Vermont.  He is also the point of view through which the story is told.  Through the story his personal ideas about the environment are shaken and challenges him professionally.  It's a compelling story about how our atitudes and perspectives change, particularly as we see the world through the eyes of our children.  This book is so good, I highly recommend it!

What I'm Reading...
Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen Here's another favorite author of mine.  I stumbled across this collection of essay's and articles while I was shopping in the Kindle Store :)  I appreciate the author's opinion and perspective on the world, and on raising a family.  It's been fun to have a collection of essays on my Kindle because sometimes I don't have time to settle into the book I'm reading.  These are like reading snacks!

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes my good friend has been raving about Sushi for Beginners by the same author.  When I searched for it, I realized that I had already read that one, but The Other Side of the Story looked like fun.  Right now, with going back to work and settling back into the regular routine, I am in the mood for a fun, light story.  I am only into the first chapter...but it's definitely going to be a fun read. 

What are you reading right now?  What great books have you recently finished?  Join the Book Club!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Running Workouts...

I am learning to love running!  One of the keys to this adventure, for me, has been finding different interval workouts.  Keeping focused on the interval, and changing the intensity of the treadmill, has helped me run farther and faster than I have in the past.  I found some ideas for intervals and adapted them to work for me.

3-1-1...These are fun intervals to run because they are so short.  I really have to pay attention to the clock on treadmill, so I am not paying attention to how I feel.  When I started 3-1-1's I chose a slow, a moderate and a faster pace.  I ran 3 minutes slow, 1 minute moderate and 1 minute faster.  Now I run 3 minutes at my moderate pace, 1 minute faster and 1 minute even faster.  This would work with the incline also.  Run as many intervals as you can.  You can also bookend the intervals with a 5 or 10 minute run at the slow or moderate pace.

Ladders... Again I choose 3 different levels to run at.  In this workout though, I run 5 minutes at each level, up and down the ladder.  Before I start running I decide how many rungs I am going to run, or how many miles I will accomplish before I finish.  For me, I need to decide on the distance or the time before I start, then I can hold myself accountable to finishing.

Bumps...I think I made this up, and it happened because I misunderstood a friend (who is a runner...a real runner) talking about tempo runs.  So I started out thinking this was a tempo run, and when I learned that I was wrong, I decided to call it a bump run because I liked the workout!  I choose the level that I am going to start my run.  Every 10 minutes, I bump the intensity up by 2. 

The end result of all these workouts, is that I actually like running!  I'm having fun challenging myself with different combinations of intervals and the intervals keep the run interesting.  Please remember that I am not a professional runner, so if you are going to try these use your own sense of what is right for your body.

Happy Running!