Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hum Drum

It has been a "hum drum" week. Aside from a continued difference of professional opinion at work, the week has been an ordinary run of the mill week. The kids are fighting little colds. Translation: I'm not sleeping. I've been fighting a nasty headache. Translation: I'm not sleeping. My back is sore from running. Translation: I'm not sleeping. And my husband has been snoring. Translation: I'm not sleeping. However, this IS my normal and I wouldn't trade it for anything (well maybe I would trade it for some sleep at this point).

I have had a student observing me teach reading for the past several weeks and today I handed over the reins and had her teach a lesson. It was no big thing. A small group reading lesson. We did a running record together, she taught the lesson, I observed. She forgot to do a big part of the lesson, but I didn't tell her that because it didn't matter. What she did do was great and when I told her "I noticed..." about your lesson, the look on her face was so worth with holding information. This student gave me hope for the profession. Her obvious pleasure in being able to be the teacher was palpable and that right there is the start of a great teacher. It felt good to have a hand in teaching the teacher. Maybe a PhD IS in my future!?!

Weeks like this make me reflect on what is really important. I am busy, but I haven't been meeting myself coming and going. I am tired, but it's nothing new (and I have fantastic friends who bring me coffee without me asking). Weeks like this allow me to take pleasure in the small moments, to see the spark of a life-long passion and career echoed in another, to take the time for "just one more hug and kiss mom" from my runny nosed babes as I leave them at daycare, to get a massage after a month of being back at running, to appreciate the goodness of worth of friends, and though I don't always like that other person (or the sounds they emit), to appreciate that the one person I have choosen to love forever is sleeping next to me.

Hum Drum is good.

Monday, January 28, 2013

From My First Year of Teaching

I found this stuck in a book the other day it was dated Tuesday December 19th, 2006.  I was in my first year of teaching at that time.  I was teaching 1st grade in a very low income area.  Little did I know then how very true this was and how much more real this would become only six short years later.

The rest of the world doesn't know that teachers spend their evenings, weekend, and summer vacations grading papers, making bulletin boards, writing lesson plans, and taking classes for hard a teacher tries to find the right words to chide, comfort, explain, and teachers worry over their students as if they were their own teachers weep when a school erupts into violence because they know it could have been theirs.

- Julia G. Thompson

Unless you are a teacher, you do not know.  You can relate, you can sympathize, but you do not know. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Truths

In dealing with my anxiety, I am learning to tell myself the truth.  These are my truths (for now - remember, I'm working on it):

I'm a terrible mother.
    The truth is, I am a good mother and my children love me.

I'm fat.
     The truth is, I'm not fat. 
     The truth is, I have had two babies in three years.
     The truth is, I'm working at it...really hard at it.
     The truth is, my time (for working out) is not my own.

I'm a terrible teacher.
     The truth is, I'm not a terrible teacher.
     The truth is, I work hard every day (and night, and weekend) to be a good teacher.

I don't have any friends. 
     The truth is, I do have friends.  Good friends.

I'm afraid to let the people I love travel.
     The truth is, the people I love are good drivers.
     The truth is, I don't have any control over what might happen.

This is hard work and I am learning it is easier to tell the truth than it is to believe the truth.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Potty Training and Weekend Review

On the advice of my sister in law (sought in desperation by my hubby and I), we went straight underwear on New Years day with my three year old. We knew he was ready, however, the trauma of his baby brothers arrival was continuing to affect our efforts towards potty training. Well...that and a very stubborn and independent three year old. These two factors combined with tears, temper tantrums, and wet floors lead us to call my sister in law who has two young children of her own (both potty trained might I add). We had already begun to use a visual timer, additionally though, she suggest getting rid of diapers completely. So we did. That day. That was on New Year's Eve. The result, potty trained! And now the preschoolers version of 20 questions...all about anatomy! More on that later...


This weekend was cold. I mean really cold! -10 was the actual temperature! That and the babes has a little cold, so we did alot of indoor activities. First up, a two man band! We dug out all the non-breakable pots, pans, and containers and set up a drum circle. One orange smiley face spoon was the only casualty. :) We also built a fort (Dad headed that one up), and created with an assortment of odds and ends from mom's days as a classroom teacher leftovers. We also had a Cars movie night complete with sleeping bags and snacks picked out by my three year old. He even put the straw in my juice box for me! I very nearly finished my book this weekend as well...The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest...fantastic crime drama...more on that later too. I also did some fantastic cooking and baking if I do say so myself; turkey meatloaf, homemade mashed potatoes, jam tarts, yum yum brownie muffins. No wonder I am running again! Speaking of which, the running is going extremely well. I did a double run on Friday because I felt so good and this weekend I signed up for a spring 10K and a summer half marathon...yikes! All in all a fantastic weekend!

And then Monday morning came. While I was getting ready my three year old was playing at my feet. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Do you know you get to stay home with daddy today?

3 year old: Yeah. With you too?

Me: No, I have to go to work. I wish I didn't have to go to work!

3 year old: oh yeah, I wish you would go to work.

Okay so I thought it was a fantastic weekend!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sick Day

***I borrowed the format of this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Kelle Hampton.

Sick day: pancakes, puzzles, farming, jammies, no makeup, sweatpants, movie, grape juice, pintetest, arts and crafts, cake pans, spoons, two man band, scrambled eggs, snuggles, books in bed, breathers, hugs and kisses, john Deere ice cream truck, phone call from friend, quiet dog, sunny weather, fleece blankets, cuddles, peanut butter toast, daddy's home, laundry, dishes, check the weather, menu planning, naptime, email, pasta, double run, bathtime, vicks, mighty machines, tylenol, dragon, prayers, I love yous, nightlights, no bed time, fox news, puppies, sleep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Special Education Teachers and Books

Special education teachers are the best.  I know this is a generalization and therefore by nature a false statement.  I also know that because I am a special education teacher, this statement may be a little bit biased.  I'm OK with that.  It's my blog, my opinion.  Here's why I think that:  Special education teachers are the best because they spend weeks, months, even years teaching skills only to have students progress at a glacial pace and then when they do make progress, they celebrate it like a 30th birthday!


I am a reader.  When I am happy, I read.  When I am sad, I read.  When I want to relax, I read.  When I want to learn more, I read.  As a special education teacher, here are some of the top books on my reading list.  This is not an all encompassing list, this is just a list of the books that have inspired me to be who I am both as a person and as a professional...for me, it's not just a job, it's part of who I am. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


It is Tuesday and the weight of the week seems to already be crushing me.  Meetings, meetings, and more meetings, followed by two nights filled with conferences and another day of IEP's.  I love my job, but even the best and most loved jobs have a dark side.  Meetings and paperwork are my jobs dark side. 

Last night, I had to tell a mother, that although I have discovered what challenges her child has, I can not fix them.  She cried.  I stayed strong in the moment, but the strain of her tears showed in my mood and actions the rest of the night.  And then I felt guilty because that is her life, she has to watch her precious child struggle and know that she cannot fix what is wrong, while I go home to my own children and leave her to deal with her own problems.  I have written about this child before.  He weighs heavily on my mind day in and day out.

Then the guilt comes.  While I spend hours helping other children, my own are at daycare being raised for eight hours a day by someone else.  A wonderful woman, yes, but me she is not.  By the time my school day is done, especially days like yesterday, there is little left over.  My emotions are raw, and my patience is worn thin and all my children want is a little piece of me (or in this case a big piece of me because it was Monday night and Mondays are always hardest).  Then the guilt comes.

Today, my post is gloomy and sad.  I make no apologies for this.  I am sad for the child with a profound learning disability.  I am sad for the mother whose dreams are crushed and I am sad for me because I have not been giving my own children the best of me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Food and Funny

First, funny. The Sunday night supper table conversation at our house:

Hubby - "Josh looked really skinny, but he was wearing skinny jeans." (talking about next door neighbor).

Me - "Josh was wearing skinny jeans?"

Hubby - "Yeah, I didn't really take him for the skinny jeans type."

3-year old - (busily playing at the table in avoidance of super) "Jesus was wearing skinny jeans?"

And if thats not funny, you either don't have kids or you have lost your sense of humor (or possibly, you don't know what skinny jeans are).

Now the food. First up, the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. If you like your chocolate chip cookies crispy, these are not for you. However, if you like them chewy and dense...these are the best!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love to make pasta. My hubby's reaction to this recipe; "Is this the Olive Garden?" Home Run!!

Creamy Mushroom and Shrimp Pasta

Last but not least, "clean" baked apples...well almost anyway. We topped them with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup. Delicious!

"Clean Eating" Baked Apples

Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Apple a Day

Fooducate. The new app I was recently introduced to, Fooducate, is yet another "tool" promising to help us make healthier choices in regards to eating. It is rather helpful and informative. You simply scan the bar code on food packaging and the app spits out a grade from F-A with pluses and minuses in between, F being the poorest in nutritional value and A being the most nutritional. Being the kind of person and mother I am, I am constantly looking for ways to feed my boys the most nutritional food possible while still making it taste good.

In light of my new found knowledge, I am trying out some new things this weekend. Multi grain french toast for breakfast. Chicken breasts and Kale chips for lunch. It was rather comical to watch my skeptical boys try this version of chips. There was quite a lot of chewing accompanied by thoughtful stares. The verdict: not so bad. If you are curious about how to make kale chips, see below.***

Okay so now on the flip side, it is -3 degrees with a wind chill that makes that temperature feel like something more like -20 or -30. Healthy eating of not, it was a cookie baking kind of day. Chocolate chip on this day, as requested by my three year old. Dad threw down the rule, only one before lunch, but I believe he broke his own rule by 2 or 3, but who's counting. This brings me to the title of my post today, apples.

I recently read an article about weight loss and healthy eating. One piece of advice that stood out to me was, "If you aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, you aren't hungry." Great advice! However, today, I was hungry enough to eat an apple, which I did and I still had room so I ate three cookies as well. Maybe that's not what they meant. Oh well, we all thoroughly enjoyed the cold cookie baking day and especially the end product.

I did have my apple today and I do try my best to feed my family nutritious meals. I am learning though that the body is not the only thing I need to take care of. My spirit is hungry as well and my boys need me to not only feed their bellies, but also to feed their spirits. My three year old reminded me of this last night at supper when he requested his favorite prayer, Johnny Appleseed, a long standing family favorite. The connection was clear for me, the spirit is hungry for "apples" too.

Literally and apple a day.

***Kale Chips

1 bunch kale, washed and dried, stems removed
1-2 tsp. olive oil
fine salt (popcorn salt) or seasoning salt

Directions: Line non-insulated baking sheet with parchment paper. Tear kale into bite size pieces and spread on parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until edges are slightly brown, but not burned. You may have to "stir" them around once or twice depending on how evenly your oven bakes. Remove from oven, cool, enjoy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

IEP Day and 3 Year Old Lessons

Today was and IEP day for my teaching partner and I. We have a wonderful system. From 8am to 2pm we schedule a meeting every hour, alternating hours. So I have one then she has one then I have one and so on until we reach the end of the day. It is a rather exhausting day, but it is so freeing to have all of them done in one shot and not have to constantly be checking the calendar for dates. In between meetings and typing IEPs, I did a little creative research for materials that would help my students. Among the finds:

*an awesome sight word kit at teachers pay teachers called Rainbow Words
*blank punch cards for monitoring kids behaviors and earning rewards (think coffee cards)
*a list of series books for boys, separated into different reading levels

I can't wait to utilize my new finds (and finish typing IEPs so I can check that off my to do list).

On the home front, my three year old was involved in a scuffle at daycare in which he walked away with a clawed up cheek. I don't know that he learned the value of sharing from this incident, however, I think he did learn the value of telling mom and dad the truth. I discovered today that I am a bit of a helicopter mom (not full fledged, but the tendencies are definitely there). In spite of my tendencies, I felt good about the way I handled the incident and as a result so did my son.

A full day was topped off by a surprise visit from Papa, who practically has celebrity status at our house...and he brought supper!

I am busy and tired, but I am so blessed. AND tomorrow is Friday! Now, if only it could be a snow day...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dyslexia and Bananas

Tonight after school, I went to the grocery store to pick up macaroni, chocolate milk, and bananas...a few forgotten items from yesterday's stock up trip. When I got to the check out, I realized I had forgotten the bananas. Luckily, the cashier was kind enough to let me run back and get them. By the time I returned two more people were waiting in line, waiting for me to get my bananas. I jokingly said, "that's what happens when the list is in my head and not on paper.". This of course had some truth to it, but the bigger reason for forgetting the bananas was because I had dyslexia on my mind. Specifically, a 7 year old blondie, with a shy smile, a love of hunting, and a soft spot for dogs...who just happens to be dyslexic. Some people can leave work at work, teachers cannot.

I have been involved with this student for over a year now, however, his dyslexia identification is a recent development. Being the kind of person I am, I have been reading and information gathering since the word "dyslexic" came up. I have recently been to a workshop with presenter Karen Bourne as well as consulting with a local "expert." Additionally, I have been scouring the internet for information, listening to books on audible, and immersing myself in the self-proclaimed user friendly "Dyslexia for Dummies." But it's not enough! I keep thinking, if this was my kid, I would be researching, fighting, advocating, to find a way "around" dyslexia - so I must keep researching, fighting, advocating, and searching for a way around dyslexia because this kid is "mine."

Dyslexia is a diagnosis. Dyslexia is a disability. Dyslexia is not a choice. There is no cure, but there are ways around this obstacle. I am determined to find them.

No wonder I forgot the bananas!

Monday, January 7, 2013

John Deere Green, Sleds, Christmas Trees, and Naptime

It is a very sad day when my husband and I ask each other at 7am, "How many hours until nap time?" We calculate this, not because we dislike our children's company, but instead, we ask this question because we are exhausted!

Our second child is our pride and joy equally as much as our first born is, but they are very different children. Where our first born came into the world with a loud, spirited, and curious personality, our second child came into the world with barely a cry and has continued to be the passive observer. We know he is just as smart as his brother, because he watches everything and takes it all in before acting. Well, until about five days ago that is! Ear infection? Teething? Growth Spurt? Weather change? I hope there is an explanation...we are exhausted!

Despite our exhaustion, we ventured out on Saturday for coffee and cookies from the local coffee shop and a trip to buy a sled. We were looking for a hard plastic or rubber sled, with enough room for two, handles, and an optional pull rope. Doesn't seem like such a tall order for a rural Midwestern town on the first weekend in January. However, apparently sled market closed around Christmas time...needless to say we went home with a little red shovel instead of a sled. Our three year old seemed satisfied with helping shovel for the time being. I guess we will count our blessings that he is excited to help dad shovel! (on a side note, I did find what promises to be an awesome sled on-line and it should be here by Wednesday!)

In addition to excitement about outdoor winter activity, our three year old has had a very creative speaking vocabulary lately. When I hollered, "What are you doing?" from the kitchen on Saturday, the response I received was, "Riding my John Deere green bike in the hallway. That's just what boys do Mom!" Yes indeed...that is what boys do.

Speaking of things boys do, our 10 month old took the tree out for the third and final time on Sunday. It was not as traumatizing the third time as it was the first, so we decided as long as it was down, we would officially take it down and put Christmas away.

Which brings me to my to do list this week:

1. Take down and pack up Christmas decor.
2. Plan meals for next two weeks.
3. Fold laundry and put away.
4. Begin training for 10K (run at least 3 days this week...ugg).
5. Get groceries.
6. Pick up new glasses.
7. Type 5 IEP's.
8. Find creative, easy, screen free activities for boys to do. (thanks pinterest)
9. Read "Dyslexia for Dummies" (stay tuned for blog post regarding Dyslexia)
10. Work on updating boys scrapbooks and journals.

Whew! And thats how we do weekends at our house! Have a great week and here's to getting your "to dos" done.

Friday, January 4, 2013

What do you mean you can't find it?

So yesterday morning, what was supposed to be a quick trip to pick up my husband's pickup from the shop, turned into a 35 minute ordeal in which we were very seriously told, "We can't find your vehicle."  Those who know me, know that I am not a very patient person in certain circumstances.  This was one of those circumstances.  Those who know me, also know that I am not a morning person most days.  This was one of those days.  Needless to say I was frazzled by the time I arrived at work twenty-five minutes later than expected.  In a conversation with my boss, I explained not only the ridiculous reason for my tardiness, but also that I had spaced out a doctor's appointment and would therefore need to leave early.  I felt like just flushing the entire day with a start and an end like that! 

However, five minutes later, a little boy who loves super heroes, changed my mind.  An hour later, a little boy who finally learned all his short vowel sounds, changed my mind.  Two hours later, a little girl with a new haircut, changed my mind.  My day was not a waste.  There was so much good to be had and here I was choosing to be mad about waiting for our pickup instead of enjoying the extra thirty-five minutes with my kids (even if it was while they were strapped into their car seats while my husband and I waited for our vehicle to be "found").  I was choosing to have negative thoughts about my doctor's appointment even though I thoroughly enjoy the company of my doctor and respect what she has to tell me.  I was choosing to throw away a day that had just begun for the students at my school.  Lucky for me, that little boy who loves super heroes, changed my mind early.  I thanked God for that little boy today.

While getting my own children ready for bed last night, my three year old whispered, "Mommy, you a sweetheart.  I love you like crazy cakes."  My day was not a waste.  I thanked God for that little boy today too.

Everyday has something good and I am so thankful I didn't flush this one away.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year and Looking Back

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...He thought...means a little bit more."
                                                                                                        ~ From the Grinch the movie

Today as I started each of my groups, I gave each student two minutes on the visual timer to spend talking about whatever they wanted to share that was special about Christmas break.  Some of the kids shared about the new xbox they got, or the new snowboard, or video game.  However, the majority of the kids spent their two minutes sharing what they did and who they did it with.  Though they may have thrown in a "I got a new __________ from __________," the excitement and focus was not on the gifts, but rather the joy found in who it was from and spending time with those they love and those who love them.

Reflecting on my own life, I can only pray that I have the tools as a mother to raise my children to appreciate the who above the what.  During my own vacation it was a joy to see my children open up their packages and get excited about presents...a new combine from a favorite Grandpa picked out for a little one who loves all things farm...special night lights to give the children a sense of security from Grandma...warm blankets and new jammies from Mom and Dad to cozy in bed in on Christmas Eve.  These gifts, I know my children will use, love, and remember, but above all, I hope they will cherish the special people they received these gifts from but more importantly the time spent - sleeping in and baking cookies with mom, riding in the tractor with Papa, shoveling snow with dad, snuggling with Grandma, playing with cousins at the hall - when they are given their two minutes to share what made Christmas break special.

Happy New Year!