Clear and Precise Instructions

With 5 kids, a job and what I'd like to call a life, there is little room for miscommunication. I just don't have time to deal with incorrect instructions for filling out forms, signing up for things or missing out because we just didn't know.

It seems that this is a necessary fact in nearly all aspects of my life. I think it's why I appreciate lists so much.

So, today, here are a few ways to improve communication skills in your own life.

I think you might recognize these....

1. Who? Who do you intend to involve, or for that matter, exclude. For example, if your child gets an invitation to a party, do not assume that all of the children are invited. If it is a friend hosting and you feel comfortable asking, ask. If not, you have 2 choices; either ask or don't ask. If you ask, be prepared for them to say no, it's their party. If they say yes, great! Proceed as necessary. If you are the host, make your mind up ahead of time and invite who you intend to.

2. What? Make sure you give and get clear instructions regarding what is expected of you. It is much easier for everyone if you clarify for yourself whatever you don't understand. The moment you think of a question, it is time to clarify to make sure you proceed forward correctly. This makes everything better.

3. When? How do people ever do anything spontaneous anymore? I have no idea! Because I always have a when. When are you arriving, when am I arriving, when do I need to leave my house to be on-time? Am I perfect at this, HECK NO! I have 5 kids, you silly person. But, I know when I needed to be there... Double checking date, day of the week and time are all important!

4. Why? Well, I should hope you have not arbitrarily agreed to do something without knowing what it was, but the purpose is still important. That said, understanding the purpose of your event will have a direct effect on number 5 in this list...

5. How? How should you dress? How should you act? How should you expect your children to act? All of this is answered in understanding how this thing, whatever it is, is about to go down...

6. Anything else? You don't always have to understand anyone's reasoning for doing anything. But you should know if you are expected to bring plates and napkins to a party. These details are important to more than just you. Check on them.

If you get through these items and you are still unclear about what is going on, maybe you need to call your host, the friend, or possibly, your boss. It's only kind to make sure that everyone is on the same page. As you continue to do these things, you will become better prepared for events and more and more people will (we can only hope) quit thinking that mom = mindreader....because it doesn't. But asking these questions and knowing what is expected of us, will help us all feel better about meeting any of the expectations laid out for us.

Keep it up my friends, you're doing great!
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Coupons, a cooking club and a meal plan

A few weeks ago I shared that I was trying to save money by being more conscious of where and how I was spending money. One friend suggested I try couponing. So, I'm giving it a go. It's a bit of a numbers game and I am just getting started, but I used the coupons to help plan out the meal plan for this week. I got 2 newspapers to double my coupons and organized them into categories that worked for me: Baby, Cleaning, Dog, Hair & Body, Mouth, Feminine, OTC, Paper & Plastic, General Food, Fridge & Frozen, Restaurants and Extras. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I'm keeping a running list of recipes that we will be using so I can put all of the coupons for those recipes in the very front to start getting those things together. I'm also planning to try to be more aware of the circulars that jam up my mailbox and may even save a few extras digitally. I use a few different apps on my phone to help with saving money, I'll link them if you don't have them so that you can start saving some money too!!! Where it is applicable, I'll put my referral code next to the link and then you can thank me by joining with my referral code and then let me know what you think of the savings apps too!!! Some of them are super user friendly and that only makes it more awesome!! 

In no particular order....

1. Cartwheel for Target, secret coupons or percentages off for every item you can think of! The more you use it, the more coupons you can have on your barcode at a time!
And a RedCard!

2. Kroger Mobile Coupons; it's like having secret Kroger coupons and the regular mailed circular in your phone! How easy is that? Click on the coupons to add them to your list!

3. Ibotta: (referral Code: azbqrq) Earn rebates for items you purchase all the time!! My total savings since I joined are up to $30.95. Once you join and use my code, you get an extra $2!

4. Receipt Hog, (referral code: clump306) snap pics of your receipts and then you get coins that add up to amazon cash. Spin the wheel to win extra spins or cash credit for your last receipt!!! Once you sign up and use it with the referral code, we each get extra spins!

And now for the meal plan: 

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner; pancakes, bacon, and eggs

Monday: Taco Night!!!

Tuesday: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo and Broccoli

Thursday: Pizza Night

Friday: Sausages, Macaroni and Cheese, and a yet-to-be-named Green Veggie

Saturday: Leftovers

On our family landing board, I put up the meal plan so that I can stop getting asked by people who read, "what's for dinner?" But, I figured since I need to hold myself accountable to keeping my house a little cleaner, I'd add a chore for each night. If I can stick to this, well, my house might look MUCH better!!!

I'm also working on making my friends join me in a cookbook club! We'll get together periodically, each making something from a new cookbook and get to all share in the work! I'm excited!!! Anyone ever done one?

Got any time saving tips or tricks you'd like to share?

I don't have much time to spare!!!


It's Raining Monday

I'm sure by now, those who follow the blog closely could point out that I forgot my meal plan post last night. I could make excuses about how tired I was after a busy swim meet weekend or I could just say, "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry. 

If you were waiting for it; here's the plan:

Monday: tacos
Tuesday: breakfast
Wednesday: Brauts, smashed potatoes, green veggie of choice
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: grilled chicken and veggies (and Mac and cheese for the kiddos)
Saturday: burgers and fries

I've been thinking a lot about recreational sports and activities and how we oversee sporting activities for kids. Have you noticed the egos that are going crazy? It's the adults. Not the kids. Generally speaking, of course. 

Many times the people who are getting the most emotional, upset and dramatic about anything that is going on are the ones who are supposed to be "adults". I find this confusing. 

Let's try to work on setting an appropriate example of good sportsmanship, modeling appropriate language and losing gracefully. 

Here's a few suggestions:

1. Congratulate a parent on their child's good performance, time, etc. (especially if they beat your kid or are on an opposing team.)

2. Cheer for great plays/swims/runs/hits etc. If it's great, it's great!

3. Congratulate the winners of a game/match/race, even if they are not your child/team. Don't complain about the referees, clock, ball, bat, etc. 

4. Let the coaches coach and try to say to your child, "I enjoyed watching you play". 

5. Thank the referees, coaches, volunteers, etc for their efforts in helping with that event. 

6. Pick up your trash. No matter where your contest takes place, do not leave your trash. It's just rude. Seriously. 

7. Be mindful of others. If you must complain, because sometimes you just need to whine and get it out, respect small ears. Reserve the more colorful, strong language for after you leave. 

8. Remember your company. Similar to number 7; sometimes we forget when we are "in our space" that your guests/hosts, or their friends, may be nearby. Let's not make them feel unwelcomed in that moment of complaint. They make take personally your whining. Maybe you have a solution you can offer later for improving for next time.

9. If you must have your phone, resist emails and focus on what's in front of you. Photograph your child/their team and share it with the team. 

10. Encourage your child to thank the coaches, referees and volunteers; when appropriate. We're not talking about kissing up or attempting special favor, just appreciating their time. 

Have any others? Please feel free to share in the comments! 


Repair the World....one bandaid at a time

In Judaism, we have a required work, called, Tikkun Olam; which translates to "repair the world". It calls all Jews to take up work that will help to repair the ills of the world, one good deed at a time. Some argue this is a call to social action or social justice, you can read about the beginning of the debate here.

I think it quite succintly explains why so many Jews work in service of some type; law, medicine, education and many others.

As a teacher, and former nurse, I feel as though I have a unique position to pass on to my students an interest and a love of serving others.  I try to find ways that our work in class either connects with their real-world lives or that we can connect it to other things. Such as, their long-term assignment of writing science books at a kindergarten level. This may sound easy, but once you take a look at the Dolch primer list of words, the project becomes astronomically more difficult.

This year, teaching feels a bit like we are under attack. It seems every way we turn there is someone else wanting to fill out a form, check a box, observe a space, or give some new standardized test to see what we're up to. I'm not sure what's helping and what's junk, but it's a lot.

Ultimately, I have to believe that what I am doing is helping. I have to believe that I am empowering my students to "think globally and act locally". My students asked if they could read their books to small children once they are finished, so I'm working on a field trip for them to go to area feeder schools and read to the students at their old elementary schools. I hope that the kids I'm teaching can show the kids I'll eventually teach that science is fun!

I think this is one of the many reasons why I can't leave education just yet.

I feel like I need to for personal reasons, mostly financial. But the love I have for the work and for the kids keeps pulling be back.

I guess eventually I'll get run down enough that I will finally give in. But for now, I'm going to keep pushing.

To that end, if you would like to help me in my quest to help St. Jude, please feel free to follow this link or this link, for my daughter's page and donate.

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Odd days make for odd feelings

Today was day 2 of block scheduling so my students can test in their English classes. Trust me, they're thrilled. 

Since I had my planning period today and grades were due today, I decided to go for a run during my planning period. I have not really run since late August. You'd be amazed how fast 6 weeks can disappear off a calendar! They FLY!! While I was on my run I had all the usual thoughts, "this hurts, that doesn't, I'm frustrated with x, wonder about y, etc". But I also realized what frustrates me so much about the day grades are due. 

Here's the proof. Cause, ya know, if you don't post it, it never happened. 

It's the day that precedes the day when the disengaged parents re-engage and the day that precedes the same thing for my students. 

Mind you, I did not go into teaching with some doe-eyed notion that I was going to miraculously change the world. But I continue to be saddened and disappointed by the number of teenagers who give up on themselves, disengage or don't commit to their own grades. I wonder if the students, or their parents, believe that Neely showing up warrants the gift of a C or B. I find it baffling the number of students who make low grades and are content to just float with it. I did not become a teacher so I could track 0's and bag teenagers. 

I've tried using fun projects with multiple parts and interesting topics, but somethings just can't be made much more exciting than what they are. I find that my children do pretty well in this area, but the more I coach my kids, the less chores get done. We are working in findin our balance. 

So, in light of this; these are my resolutions for the rest of this semester to see if it helps:

1. Students will bring a signed printout from home with their grades, if they're lower than a 75. (And get bonus points for doing it.)

2. Students will get late homework signed by their parent or guardian. 

3. I will remind students of due dates daily and in Friday's via text message using our messaging app, remind. 

4. Sadly, I will have to increase my parent call rate and call ads and Fs each week, instead of just Fs. 

What ideas do you have, as a parent or a teacher? 


Making things and teaching...well, myself

Today was an interesting one. 

We just came back from fall break and I forgot to finish all of my planning for when we returned. (I was also late with my meal planning yesterday...)

So today I mapped out this week and then the rest of the 2nd quarter! I then proceeded to write the pretests, reviews, chapter tests, semester exam study guide and the semester exam! Then, I went through my files from last year and figured out what I would be yang again today. I also managed to photocopy the project instructions for this quarter. Not to mention, I got TONS of grades put in the computer! Whew! 

Know what we call this? Progress!!!

So this afternoon I met a mommy friend for a play date. Mostly to hide from my laundry, but also for our kids to play. 

Wouldn't you want to hide from that?!?

 While at the park, we commiserated over small babies, getting back into working out and trying to lose baby weight. I got some great feedback and shared some of my ideas for the blog. I'm thinking of sharing my breastfeeding tips, writing a workbook/planner of things to do for yourself/kiddo kind of like a book of yearly checklists, and (maybe) sharing some of my more personal tips regarding being married for 14+ years. Some days are great and some days well, they just aren't. 

I have found though that approaching parenting like teaching really helps. One piece of this, I discussed last week when I said that I had gone to the bank and was told to start by setting small goals. Well, guess what? I had a list of to-do's and one of them has already paid off!!

So, don't try and do all your laundry at the same time. But maybe set a goal for a load a day? What great tips do you have for managing it all? 

A day late and a dollar short

So, I was supposed to post this meal plan yesterday...buuuuuut, my internet and my computer decided not to talk to each other...

So, here's the meal plan, a day late and a dollar short.

And just a warning, it's very carb heavy because we have a swim meet coming up...and you need carbs stored up for a swim meet...

Sunday: Meatball Subs and Country Salad (we used the meatball recipe from Spaghetti and Meatballs; see recipe on friday.)

Monday: BLTs and grilled cheese; what's your favorite way to make this classic? I'm planning to try adding some cut up pepper slices to mine!

Tuesday: Pan-seared chicken, mac-n-cheese and green bean casserole

Wednesday: beef and broccoli stir-fry with rice. I've really wanted to try this and I'm excited. If you try this recipe too, please let me know what you think!!

Thursday: We are headed to out to dinner with my cousin to talk race day prep for my daughter's first Half Marathon!!!

Friday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, green beans, bread

Saturday: This is swim meet day 1, I'm planning on sandwiches and leftovers because we will also be going to a Halloween pumpkin carving party. I'm bringing corn dip.

Sunday: This may also be a leftover/chill day...because Swim Meet weekends make me really tired. (Let's just face the reality of this...I use paper plates to avoid much clean-up and I find making dinner after a swim meet is tiring on top of being tired and I'll probably have a decent amount of clean-up to do around my house. So, yeah...)

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