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 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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Some days

EToday the University of Memphis beat the University of Mississippi Rebels in football for the first time in a VERY long time. Our fair city hosted many new friends and the whole town was finally rooting for the tigers together without hardwood being involved. 

My oldest daughter, ran the Lebonhuer Pumpkin Run 5k and came in 3rd in the age group (even though she accident it aged herself up during registration!) and then went to finish swim practice! (For those with kids, this is a great race to go to and play while your family member(s) runs. They have a bounce house, face painting, snacks and music while the race is going on AND it supports our awesome Children's hospital.)

While Annie was at swim practice the little girls and I went to the park and played. We met some kind boys who helped the girls on the spinner, they both conquered the GIANT spider web, Dill pushed Georgia on the swings and both of them expressed clearly how tired they were getting from such an active day! 

Then we went home, made some baby gifts for our impending cousin, finished up a pair of pants for Georgia, got nails done, napped, played and did this...

For all my "togetherness" as a mom, I'm constantly pushed to up my game, stay on my toes and be reminded that I am human! Dilly has seen all of the Tiger blue around the city, she watched the game and saw kids with blue face paint, and then stumbled upon in our swim meet pouch that we keep in Annie's swim bag. Complete with sharpies. And guess who became an "awesome blue tiger"? Yup. And I have to admit, I was VERY impressed with the speed in which she did it! 

All in all, fall break has been a wonderful week. I've sewed, baked, cooked, organized, cleaned, played and snuggled with my family. It's my love language and I loved getting to "speak" it to my children. I hope we made some memories they'll cherish. 


Shabbat and a Budget

So, I was going to spend this post talking about what Shabbat is, what it means and how special it is to me and my family. Which I will do. But today was also a pretty informative day for me. Up until now, I have not really had a strong ability to mange my money well and surprisingly, I also realized I haven't managed my faith well, either.

Did I pay the bills? For the most part, yes.

But could I really say my money was "working for me"? Oh heck no, I was WORKING hard for it!

So, after my post yesterday, I decided it was time to stop acting like a victim to my money and start acting like the owner of my financial freedom. I looked up budgeting and found these articles through Google. None really connected for me...maybe one will help you.

Since those weren't really sinking in and I am constantly getting emails from my bank about utilizing some of the other services at the bank; I went to the bank today and reviewed my ENTIRE financial status with a bank associate. He was really kind about explaining things to me, showing me how to use different features of the bank's website and (most importantly) demonstrating how to set up a budget.

How does this connect to the celebration of Shabbat?

First let's start with what Shabbat is...

Shabbat, is the Jewish holiday celebrated every friday night at sundown and ending on saturday's at sundown with the Havdalah service. Shabbat is celebrated, generally with others, by sharing bread, wine and lighting shabbat candles. Prayers are said over the wine, the bread and the candles and the evening is spent sharing time and dinner with friends and/or family. Saturday is spent relaxing and rejuvenating the self for the week ahead.

Havdalah, which begins at sundown on Saturday, is the celebration of the end of shabbat and ushers in a new week. The service is spent lighting of a havdalah candle, drinking wine and smelling sweet spices.

Both services are meant to rejuvenate and remind us of our connection to each other, to ourselves and to G-d. Some rabbis suggest setting religious or faith goals for the week. The intention is for you to think about the services, the time spent with others and your actions and interactions. Lately though, much like my financial income and outcome, religiously, I was mostly going through the motions, and not connecting with the core values of my faith, or for that matter, my family.

I could share all sorts of things about what the holidays were, what you needed to participate and what foods were traditionally eaten at the time, but the real meaning for our weekly shabbat, was not sinking in. Writing about the holidays over the last few weeks had started to make me feel more connected.

So, today, after I left the bank, I realized that money management is just like your faith management. The two take energy, practice and faith. You must put forth energy to control what is happening around you; how are you spending your time, your energy, your spirituality and your money? What practices are you participating in to enrich your life? How are you practicing good stewardship of your wallet, your heart, your faith and your family? What faith are you investing in yourself, in your family and in G-d?

I know this may have felt a bit strange. But there is something to be said for taking the time to consider these questions as they apply to your faith and financial practices.

Maybe you won't be financially rich any time soon, but I can promise that you will easily be faithly rich in family, in self and possibly in a different type of relationship with your own spiritual G-d, in whatever form you practice.

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The green eyed gal

I have I spent a decent amount of time today working in this blog post. Thinking about what message for parenting and/or teaching I wanted to share today. Because it's my fall break, that also meant I spent to much time on Facebook. I saw lots of beach and vacation pictures and sadly, I felt my eyes turn a little green. 

Then this afternoon, after taking Annie to go use her gift cards and buy things she didn't need, we had the following conversation. 
Her: I'm so tired of seeing vacation pictures. 
Me: well, if it makes you feel any better, I think most of the people I see are shivering. 
Her: (laughing) true 


Her: my friends went to the beach together and didn't invite me. 
Me: what would you have said if they did?
Her: I probably couldn't have gone, but I wouldn't be jealous because at least they would have asked. 

Several other omens occurred today that made me jealous of friends for the following reasons:
1. Perceived better credit, income, money management, savings, etc
2. Less kids 
3. More (perceived) free time
4. Personal recognition/achievements at work 
5. Reaching/pursuing personal goals
6. Hanging with mom/siblings
7. Bigger/better houses

None of these speak anything to whether or not I have a great life, kids, family, etc I have a great life, wonderful kids and an awesome family. 

But to be real and fair, this is part of being human. We think whatever is on the other side of the grass, is better than what is right in front of us. And there may be parts of that life that we might like for a minute or two, but ultimately, we would go back to our own lives. 

I feel terrible for new moms. They have it the worst in all of this, I think. We've got seasoned moms sharing what worked for them as thought get thje it is holy truth. Their own mother and/or mother-in-law, or more, sharing what worked for them as though it is holy truth. Then there's the physicians and sadly, Pinterest and the Internet. There's no way to navigate that and not come out feeling like you're doomed before you even start. 

Is there a way to never get jealous? Maybe not. But I think if we can find a way to encourage each other, choose our goals carefully and work towards them; we might start to feel better about all of it. And if you're a new mom or dad and you're reading this, please know whatever it is you do to care for your child, it's exactly right. Do what works best for you and your family and you should come out just fine. 


A Recap on the Bat Mitzvah

A little over 2 years ago, I shared all the planning that was going in to getting ready for Annie's Bat Mitzvah. It was such a beautiful day!

So many friends and family came to help us celebrate Annie's great accomplishment.

When we first started out on this journey, we really didn't know Megan, the girl with whom Annie shared her Bat Mitzvah, and her family. Now, I can't imagine my life without them.

Here's some of the things we did:

For the service we wrote our own program. It had some information about the girls and specifics to their service, a lot of information about our synagogue and some great ideas about things our visitors could do while they were in Memphis. If you would like a copy for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, email me!

We also made busy bags and coloring programs for the service. This was a HUGE part of having a really great day! The kids who came to the service all had a way to engage with the songs that are a regular part of the service, but the coloring pages were pictures of what was happening in the same order that things were actually going on!

For the luncheon following the service, we invited family to Central BBQ. We had posters of each girl for family to sign and paper and crayons on the tables to keep the kiddos occupied. Flowers acted as center-pieces for a few of the tables and the whole experience was warm and special.

For the party, we headed to the pool! A inflatable projector screen made it possible to share pictures of the girls and we grilled burgers and hot dogs! We had custom cups printed as a party favor, and really got to enjoy a big birthday celebration!

If you are interested in the weekly to-do lists for the last couple of months of planning, I am working on a DIY workbook! If you are interested in being one of the first to know about it, please let me know, by emailing me here.

Here's a few pictures of the great day!

It was a great day, beautifully photographed by our dear friend, Hiedi Walter. If you would like to have her photograph your family, please email her here.

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What's for dinner? And breakfast and lunch and dessert

Fall break has begun at my house and with it comes LOTS of cooking. The list of recipes in this post will be MUCH longer than usual. You may want to par down if you have a busy week. If not, if love to hear how these recipes turned out at your house!!!

Breakfasts: We have a supply of biscuits, bagels and cereal for the week. Let's keep it simple.

Lunch: Chicken salad, Egg and Avocado Salad, Lunch meat, PB & J or leftovers.

Sunday: I'm hoping to kick our week off with some snuggles, a movie and tortellini soup. We're going to try out making freezer ice cream too!!

Monday: My husband is on the road for a photo shoot, so tonite is meatball stroganoff and country salad, since he doesn't really like it. And why not make an apple pie, but we use a freezer dough instead of making raw dough, to (hopefully) go with the ice cream from last night. 

Tuesday: oven fried chicken, spinach, macaroni and cheese and we're going to try the Martha Stewart chocolate cupcakes

Wednesday: By this point, I'm expecting to be a little worn down in the kitchen so this is going to be a simple taco night and as a surprise to my husband, we'll be making a chocolate chip pound cake! This recipe is a labor of love that is so tasty! 

Thursday: This is one of my favorite meals, especially when there are lots of leftovers; baked potato bar! This is a great one for entertaining too; pull out lots of toppings or have friends bring their favorite and set out a bowl of baked potatoes. Cut them in half and allow everyone to dress them as they like. So yummy!

Friday: Dinner out with family

Saturday: I'm hoping by Saturday we have cleaned our house or most of it, so we'll be ordering a pizza for sure! 

What does fall break look like at your house?

No recipe shared for macaroni and cheese because I'm wanting to know what your favorite recipe is!! Share in the comments!!

No grocery list this week, to encourage you to pick and choose what you'll make!

Cheers to a great week!


Sometimes normal is just normal

I've noticed a lot of friends on Facebook and in day-to-day life ponder if their child's behavior is normal. (Maybe because sometimes our threenager's behavior is so awful we want to believe it must be a possession, complete with a need for a Linda Blair level exorcism?!) We all want to make sure we're doing the right thing, but also that our kid is, as the docs might say, WNL (within normal limits). Even after 5 kids, I still struggle with making sure everyone is ok, doing the right thing, and within normal limits. 

The same is true for marriage and relationships. But things are also a little different. Children grow, they change. In some ways, so does your marriage. Who you and your significant other were when you set out on this journey has, most certainly, for better or worse, changed. 

For example, when my husband and I met 15 years ago, I was 19 and he was 25. Both of us had not graduated from college, we had no children, all of our parents were still alive, etc. etc. over the course of our relationship, we have both grown and aged as people separate of our relationship and within our relationship, but so has the relationship. We have friends we've made as a couple, friends we had before our relationship, whom we now share and experiences we share that have changed our relationship, for good and for not so good. 

Ultimately, what I'm getting at is that after 5 kids and 15 years of marriage, what I know to be normal is a bit wild and crazy, but it seems to be normal for everyone. Teenagers will talk back, test boundaries, speak more for themselves, slam doors, help with more chores, develop their independence, smell bad, among other things. Smaller people will need to be reminded of boundaries, safety and appropriate coloring surfaces, convinced that it's ok to go to bed first, not watch EVERY SINGLE CARTOON EVERY MADE IN INE SITTING, and that sometimes we have to keep our shoes on. Marriages will be stressful, wonderful, easy, hard, emotional journeys. 

All of this is what makes life worth living. It's a great beautiful world and though my husband and children sometimes (often) help me have more stress in my life than I would alone, they make each day richer. 

So, if you're life feels like your constantly being pulled and you feel like it's a struggle. Please, hang in and hold on. You're not alone. We all feel it. Let your wall down and ask for help, or go to bed with a book and a sink of dishes. It may not seem like it right now, but you're worth the extra 5 minutes. 

I promise, you're doing great and I'm proud of you. 

A mural in downtown Memphis, with the right message. 


Before you write a meal plan...or any plan.

It may seem a bit out of order, that last week I would write about how to write a meal plan and this week, I'd write what to do before you write a meal plan...but hear me out!

If you have just started meal planning, it may feel daunting. You may have struggled before and only jumped back in because I suggested it. That's ok! There are always challenges when we are learning new things. Below are some recommendations I have for next week when you sit down to plan your meals..

1. Look in your kitchen!!
Do you have 15 cans of diced tomatoes? Let's plan some recipes that will USE the diced tomatoes! Try to make sure you have at least 2 meals that include half of the ingredients that are already in your house. It will make you use what's there and not build up a giant pile of food that needs to get eaten sitting next to a pile of leftovers that need to get eaten.

2. Make room for leftovers.
If you plan a meal for every night, you will not be able to eat ALL the leftovers! Unless your family eats every bite of every thing that you make,  there is going to be food left. Throwing it away is not economical and you can't always finish an entire lasagna for lunch! With that in mind, leave space in the schedule for a leftover night. Is it the most fun? Probably not. Practical though?

3. Build up to it.
You are not going to be on Master Chef tomorrow. I promise your children will still grow into normal functioning members of society even if you use a microwave! If you'd like to have some veggies and frozen is more practical than fresh, go with it. It's cool.

4. Make habits.
Have you noticed in your own life that you have patterns and habits? Maybe you take 3 sweet-n-low in your coffee? Swiffer the floors on thursday? These are patterns and habits. If they work well in other parts of your life, why would you not incorporate them more often? I try to do some meal prep for the next night, while I'm working on the current meal. Sometimes I even get farther ahead than that.

5. Create patterns.
Some call them theme nights, I call them patterns. My children know to expect chicken mid-week and to expect Italian-type meals on Monday. I tend to grill on the weekends and every 3-4 days, we tackle leftovers. Whatever works, you decide, but look for the things that make the process easier, not harder!

Happy Meal Planning!!
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Another spin on the same thing

I have taught a candy lab on the classification systems for years. It's one of the hardest and best labs I do. 

The kid get a Baggie with 6 different candies, asked questions about how Aristotle and Linneaus created their classification systems and then they have to create their own classification system for their candy. It's up to them if they work together or not, but everyone turns in a lab sheet. 


This year one of my students just was not getting it. She took notes all week, listen intently to instructions, asked her peers and it just was not making I did this. 

That's ribbons and note cards. It's the classification system turned into a tree! And it made total sense to everyone!!

Teacher WIN!

Then to top it off we had a great pep rally for homecoming, a strong turn out for Mock Trial interest meeting and then I went and voted before taking my girl to the football game. 

It's a right I'm grateful to have. I hope you exercised your right. 

We had a great time at football with our friends, ate skittles and drank lots of water. 

All in all, today was a day I was prou to be a teacher. 

What made you proud to be a teache today?

Context Clues and Observation Skills

Keys to Success
As a science teacher, I think those two things are the two most critical pieces of a student that I can help develop. Context Clues and Observation Skills. My students do not always come to me with these skills, nor can I always develop them as much as I would like in my 9 months with my sweet darlings.

Today I received an email inviting me to speak at STEMCON. I plan to try to go. It's an incredible opportunity to share with some of the really great minds in my field. But, what I find we all keep coming back to, is that as teachers we have to find ways to bring out the context clues for our students or demonstrate the use of observation skills. This means that no matter the skill level, reading level, IQ level, functionality, etc, our students can all use more developement in the area of context clues and observation skills.

I find that my students not only hear teachers often say, "are you sure you read ________" referring to novels, directions or most anything, but that often the students eyes have gone over the symbols on the page without really absorbing the full content within, much less gaining any clue to the context.

Most of our students today have grown up around technology in a way that most veteran, ie 4 years or more, teachers did not. Most veteran teachers watched the technology develop, some have even embraced it into their classrooms as much as their schools will allow. What this means for our students is that they are used to memes, instagram and vimeo videos, youtube, google, facebook and other medias, being short snipets of information and sound bites that are always at their disposal.

How as teachers and parents can we navigate the minefield and get them to actually see the world around them!?! How will they discover the science behind Leonardo DaVinci or Claude Monet?! When will they notice the patterns of flowers directly match the wind patterns months prior? Or how will they find out that Vincent Van Googh was the first to finally make us able to see turbulence and the prior to this, no scientist or artist could really get it right?

What as teachers can we do?

1. Create class lessons that utilize 10-20 minutes of time and then require the student to do a different task using a different part of their brain.
2. Question what we show them.
3. Give them word searches and word puzzles and brain teasers to start our high school classes.
4. Make our content rich classroom, Actually RICH WITH CONTENT! Don't throw it all on the wall, give it meaning.
5. Teach your students to see context clues and how to use observation skills. Maybe give them a search and see sheet for your classroom or show a short clip and have them write everything they saw.

What ideas do you have? Post them in the comments below.

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Simchat Torah and A Mass

I shared last week that my family and I practice Judaism. My daughter attends a Catholic school for Pre-Kindergarten. It's a sweet little school in Memphis, that I can say without reservation, is AMAZING. She has a classroom full of sweet children, a teacher who loves her, a principal who loves her and a clergy full of priests and sisters who all seem to enjoy getting to know her, too. It's a great choice. And one that many of my friends and family were surprised we made.

On Sunday we celebrated the holiday, Simchat Torah. It's a beautiful holiday in which Jews all over the world, rejoice that they have completed another year of Torah study and read all 5 books of the Torah; Genesis, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Numbers, and Exodus, and roll the Torahs in the synagogue back to the beginning. 
The holiday is spent eating, drinking, blessing the Torah, singing and dancing around the synagogue, spot reading various passage and making sure that the entire scroll of each Torah is loving looked over to places needing care. It's one of the loudest and happiest holidays we have. And we just celebrated it early this week.

Today, my daughter shared in a completely different celebration. The Guardian Angel Mass. To be honest, I was unfamiliar with such a thing. I have heard of Mass, primarily in reference to Christmas, but never regarding Guardian Angels. I googled. Here's a link to what I found. The best I can understand from this is that the children are told that the Guardian Angels are watching out for them and the parents are saying they will help the Angels. Sounds pretty good to me. 
I have to be honest, it just doesn't sound too bad. I like to think that my mother is somewhere watching over me, my sisters, our family and my children. It's oddly comforting. Especially given the day I had yesterday! Though Judaism does not teach directly that our loved ones are around in the form of Angels, we have some references throughout many texts that G-d has sent angels to watch us, share messages and help guide our lives.
I got asked if I was sure that this was the right choice for our family. To be fair, you can never know for absolute certainty that anything is "right". But it seems to be a good fit. My daughter comes home and explains prayer hands, "the father, the son and homey ghost" and tries to tell us about "Her Mary full of grass". It's cute for now. I know that at Christmas we will be learning more about the Nativity. 

But I also know that each night when we sit down together for dinner, she is the first to ask about saying or singing the Hamotzi, our prayer over the bread said before we eat a meal, and encourages her siblings to do the same. She loves to go to services at our synagogue and is IMMENSELY jealous that she is not yet old enough for Sunday School classes. 

So is it the right choice for our family? Time will tell.

But it's right, right now.


Tuesday equals second monday?

I don't know about you, but the start of school for 3 of my children and teaching takes a lot out of a person. There are days that I feel like I'm really on the ball and on top of things, and then there are days that I feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Do you have those days?

Since losing my mom, I spend a lot of time feeling like something is missing in my life. And there is, it's my mom. That's not news. I don't know if that feeling is ever going to go away. Some people say that the pain of losing someone you love will not be as strong as time goes on, I'm not sure if that is true or not. While I can talk about my mom with friends, family, my students, even strangers, without getting all teared up, I don't miss her less. Maybe I'm more comfortable with the loss than when it first happened?

Right now, I'm having a hard time. Not only am I missing my mom and having some general morale issues with being a teacher, I'm actually and acutely jealous of my friends right now as a result of my life choices. Please do not think I am say I regret my children. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that I'm looking at my friends who have one or two children and I'm remembering the simpleness of that compared to where we are now and I'm missing the more simpler part of my life. I'm sad for my friends who are struggling to get pregnant. I truly do not understand why I can get pregnant so easily and they cannot. How is that fair? What is it about my family that makes it so that I lose so many people I love in such a short time, and have 5 children without much effort? Why do my friends get to watch their parents grow VERY old and I don't? Why do I get to have 5 kids and some of my friends can't have even one? How does that make sense? Some people say it's G-d's way, but that leaves me feeling lost. So, I'm not sure what the answer is and that frustrates me.

Some people read my blog or see me in person and think that I have it all together. Please believe me when I say, that I so don't. I work hard at a few things that are important to me and I make the required effort at the others. Organizing and planning are things that I enjoy doing. Checklists make me feel like I am in control of the situation I am in, even if I'm not. I do not have a clean house, but I have a clean classroom. My space is organized at school because it is more conducive to learning and a fast-paced environment. My home is slightly more chaotic because I do not have imminent domain. My kitchen, bathroom, laundry area, well, my whole house; is not immaculate, but my children are well fed, they have clean clothes, they are bathed and they are loved.

Is it perfect? No. 
Does it work for us? yes.

For now, let's celebrate each other's good things. I'm going to try to be grateful for my kids today. I'm going to try to look for a silver lining and work on cleaning my house this afternoon, since I carved out some time to do it. I'm going to share with a friend who isn't getting pregnant, how much I love her. Will I be able to fix it for either of us? Probably not, but I'm hoping a coffee and a hug will let her know I care about her. Hopefully, cleaning a room, with my checklist and hugging my friend will help us both.

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Fancy Baby Pictures

Those who know me personally, can tell you that splurging on "fancy newborn pictures" is not really my thing. But when your professional photographer friend wants to take pictures of your sweet newborn, it's really hard to say no!!

So, friends, here is Georgia's photographic debut!

If you love these pictures and want some of your own, please talk to my friend Kellie Conlon!! She does great work, is really sweet and accommodating with the kiddos and really makes beautiful pictures! Here's a link to her site.

Seriously. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

Call her. You won't regret it. I only wish I had done maternity pictures with her!! But, hopefully, she will be doing our Holiday Pictures!!
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