Summer Fun: A Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away

Every summer since I’ve moved to the midwest, I’ve wanted to venture out  and explore nearby beaches in my area.  I grew up in the East Coast and spent a lot of my summer days at the Jersey shore.  It took me a while, but I finally got around to discovering some amazing beaches in Chicago.  There’s so much to do in Chicago, and I love that I can even get a beach day in right downtown!  Alas, it’s a bit trickier to get ready and head off to the beach these days.  Gone are the days when I could just pack a beach bag, some sunglasses, and be on my way. With my little tot around, there’s so much more to pack and plan for.

That’s why this summer, I’ve really been more appreciative of what is available to us right outside our patio door!  Since DJ’s been born, we’ve upgraded our yard and added a playground and swimming pool. This particular summer our yard has become a complete lifesaver. No packing up and scurrying to look presentable hours before heading out somewhere.  These days we eat breakfast and head right out to the yard to play.  There are days my son has wanted to rush back in and play inside, but it’s so great to be outside when the weather is beautiful, so I move my son from activity to activity to get him to stay out and play; we’ll dump cars and other toys in our splash table, jump in the pool to play with a beach ball, draw pictures with sidewalk chalk, or blow bubbles. They’ll be plenty of time to play indoors when our frigid winter returns.

DJ- Bubbles              DJ ice crm

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Travel Meets Mommyhood

Nothing thrills me more than a trip to somewhere.  Different country to explore?  I’m there! New culture to immerse myself in?  Absolutely! Another bag to pack?  I’ll get started! Fortunately, my husband shares my love for traveling to and discovering new places, so we’ve shared many adventures together.  What I always found funny, however, was that I’d get the same advice every time I’d talk about my latest trip with friends or co-workers…”Enjoy it now before you have kids,” many would say.  At first, I sort of took the advice seriously and certainly did make sure  to travel as much as I could and enjoy the time I spent with my husband.

Then, my little guy was born, and the more I thought about it, the more I figured, I WANT to travel with both my boys [husband and son] as soon as we can get started.  Heck, I’ll throw caution to the wind and ignore that advice  I’d heard again and again. “Just go for it,”  I thought to myself.  Granted, I feel I have it easier than other moms with more than one kiddo.  However, I’m pretty proud of myself for venturing out with my little one; I’ve learned some lessons along the way and figured out how to travel with as little stress as possible.

1.  Pack comfort items for the trip- I pack some comforting essentials for our trips, so that my little guy encounters his favorite familiars, no matter where we go.  These items include his favorite stuffed toy and blankie he loves to sleep with; his nighttime playlist saved on my phone, which I play for him at bedtime; and his favorite reads (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Ten Little Ladybugs are musts)

2. Pack extra [healthy] snacks- often the unexpected can happen during a trip, like getting stuck on the tarmac for an hour,  waiting to deplane. In such instances, I’ve learned it’s important to make room for the unexpected and be prepared.  I try to prepare by having enough food and drink for my little guy to have in case we’re stuck somewhere and my son needs to eat.  I try to make sure I have fruit and flavored water [or juice]. Though I have other snacks packed, I always try to start with the fruit, just to make sure my little guy fills up on the healthy choices first before moving on to granola bars, crackers, etc.

3. Have  plenty of entertainment available- we’re not fans of our son constantly using electronic devices, so we limit his use to trips.  During take-offs and particularly long plane rides, we play movies on our mini iPad. Often we use, flashcard apps, drawing apps, and interactive e-books as back up just to be sure we have multiple ways to keep our son busy. Being two years old, his attention span can be shorter, so he is often ready to move on to something new and quickly.

4. Have traditional non-electronic items available for entertainment- stickers, colored pens, crayons and drawing pads can be amazing lifesavers during long waits at an airport or a restaurant. I scour the Dollar Store and stock up on sticker pads before trips, so I can keep my son busy with them anywhere we go.  Best of all, these items don’t take up much room in my bags.

5.  Be prepared for accidents- during my first plane trips ALONE with my son and some accidents, I discovered that it was best to change him right before the next flight during layovers to ensure he wouldn’t have an accident.  However, as he’s gotten older, even a quick diaper change doesn’t always do the trick or our layover is just too short and we have to rush off to our next flight and I end up dreading a diaper accident and wet lap. I’ve started using nighttime diapers instead of his regular diapers.  Huggies Overnites work like a charm, and I can breathe easy knowing my son can stay accident-free until we reach our destination. Extra clothes are also useful to have on hand.  In my PB [pre-baby] days, I once had a flight cancellation and ended up having to spend the night at a hotel.  I had packed enough in my carry-on to work with and survive the unexpected, so now I just make sure to do the same for my little guy.

Every moment watching my son grow has been so precious and it’s just another level of amazing when I get to see him experiencing something new when we’re on a trip.  I hope to keep learning to be a more travel-savvy mom as the years continue.  Adventure is out there!

Start of a New School Year

A new school year is here again, and I don’t know where my summer went.  This year it’s especially difficult to get back to work because I won’t get to spend entire days with my little boy- no more reading times at the library or lazy afternoons in the pool. Therefore, I decided to cheer myself up and get excited about a new school year by stocking up on  some great back-to-school items…

1) My Erin Condren lesson planner- though quite pricey, I love the plastic sheet protectors, extra notes pages, and monthly calendar pages.

2) I have always been a sucker for fun writing tools- this year I found scented highlighters and scented pencil erasers- I feel like a kid again 🙂

3) While we were visiting Disney World this summer, my husband bought me Alice in Wonderland souvenirs- a tin of tea and matching mug.  I’ll definitely be decompressing with my new favorite tea and mug at the end of some hectic school days.

Though it’s hard ending another amazing summer with my little guy, we have lots of after-school fun we can look forward to. Got my school bag packed and ready for the first day tomorrow. A nice cup of tea will be calling my name at night when I’m exhausted.

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10 Things I Should Do this Summer

I get it every year, beginning with the first day of summer vacation…this “phantom anxiety” that I should be doing something for school- getting up at my usual 5:40 a.m. to get ready for the school day, grading and not lying around relaxing and watching a movie, planning lessons for the next day. It’s this feeling of anxiousness that I feel for about a week until I finally start letting go and really relaxing. This week, the same week as my last day of school,  I came across a post on the We are Teachers blog which listed ten things every teacher should do this summer. I have made a promise with myself that by the end of the summer I will have checked off each item. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

2. Read a book that’s just for grown-ups. Currently reading Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride, thank you very much. 

3.  If you have your own kids, let them plan one wandering, wild, carefree day. The kind that’s hard to have when there are piles of papers to grade. My son and I just spent the afternoon at the park yesterday- we played on swings, fed ducks, and kicked a ball around. Definitely wish I had more days like this with him during the school year but I loved our carefree day.  More to come this summer!

4. Whether or not you have kids, plan one of those carefree days for yourself! Today, I am having a movie day for myself- The Fault in Our Stars.  Can’t Wait!

Below is the link to the blog post that inspired me 🙂

http://www.weareteachers.com/community/blogs/weareteachersblog/blog-wat/2013/06/04/10-things-every-teacher-should-try-this-summer

 

Interesting Incident over Christmas Break

“Heeey, how come Little Guy’s elf is still here? He was supposed to go back to the North Pole already.” It was January 2 when my niece had walked into the room while I was changing my son’s diaper. Her head was cocked to one side and her hand was on her hip. She was clearly perplexed by the fact that my son’s Elf on the Shelf had not left his shelf to report back to Santa for the final time this year.

I froze. Thank God I was facing the wall, so my niece wouldn’t see the terrified look on my face. I hadn’t followed Christmas protocol this year and hid the elf away on Christmas Eve since my son is a baby. “He doesn’t even understand right now. What’s the point?” I thought to myself. I had simply bought the doll and sat him on the baby’s bookshelf, planning to officially kick off the tradition as soon as he was old enough to understand the elf story. I didn’t, however, plan on my niece and nephew walking into their cousin’s room well after Christmas and noticing the elf! I felt like the winner of the Ultimate Bad Aunt of the Year Award as I struggled to think up a story and QUICK! “Play it cool,” I told myself as I calmly turned to face my little interrogator and her big brother, who had happened to enter the room at just that moment.

“Nope, this is the elf’s first year with Little Guy, so he’s been assigned to stick around a little longer since he knows it’s LG’s first Christmas.”

My niece looked back at the elf, thinking over my story, and my nephew seemed to be doing the same as his eyebrows came closer together and he fumbled with one of my son’s toys. They were five and eight years old, wiser in years than my son and totally familiar with all things Elf on the Shelf (his reappearing in different places every day, the special elf dust-glitter you spread if you accidentally touch the elf, etc). I rattled on, trying to keep them from finding a contradiction…

“Oh, yes. You know how LG really doesn’t get into much mischief right now, so his elf has a different sort of job this year. It’s simply to watch out for him and report to Santa that LG’s getting big and drinking all his milk. The elf will watch over him and keep him company until our Christmas break is over and Little Guy returns to daycare.”

A moment of silence, and then my nephew spoke, “Yeah, LG can’t do as much as us… He doesn’t do much to get in trouble.” He seemed to be buying my story, which certainly clinched the chance that my niece would believe the story as well. I was almost in the clear, praying that my carelessness wouldn’t ruin the elf magic for my niece and nephew.

Finally, some help arrived as their mom, my sister-in-law, walked in and backed my story, “You know? The elves know how special first Christmases are, so they like to stay with the babies longer and care for them. They wait until the next year to start their mischief and hide in different spots.” The kids looked at each other, and then my niece looked at me. “I got a tatoo today,” she said, and she rolled up her sleeve to reveal a small Hello Kitty temporary tattoo on her right forearm. I leaned in close with my baby in my arms and pretended to marvel at the tattoo, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief… Crisis averted.

The next day, I stowed the Elf on the Shelf book and the elf doll in its original box and placed it in the basement where we keep our Christmas decorations. Next year, Ace, my son’s elf, definitely goes back to Santa on Christmas Eve.

I Carry It in My Heart: A Memorized Poem is Part of You Forever

      After reading an NPR article, “A Memorized Poem ‘Lives with You Forever,’ So Choose Carefully,” regarding the U.K.’s Poetry By Heart competition, I started to think about the poems I had to memorize in school and which ones have actually stayed with me even today, years after grade school.  One poem that always resurfaces in my memory is “The Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall.
     One year in grade school my class was assigned to recite two poems- one poem was chosen by the teacher and the other poem was the individual student’s choice. Waiting for the right one to simply catch my eye or draw me in, I spent a couple of days perusing poetry books from our school library until I came upon “The Ballad of Birmingham”, a poem based on the bombing of the church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. The image of the mother searching frantically for her daughter in the rubble and finding her child’s shoe was the part of the poem that really affected me; my heart broke for that mother and what she must have been feeling. This poem really hit a nerve with me, and I felt compelled to share it with the class. I just wanted to ask my classmates Isn’t that awful how this poor mother lost her daughter?  Don’t you feel her sadness and despair as she lifts the shoe out of the rubble? To this day, I remember how that poem made me feel, I remember the need I had within me to share it with others. 
     The author of the article, Camila Domonoske, wrote Jean Sprackland [helped assemble 130 eligible poems to recite for the competition] says that a poem known by heart becomes a part of you, and “it’s something that lives with you forever.” For some, that might stay true even if you lose a few of the words. Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Sprackland!  Though I can’t recite the words by heart any longer, the images in the poem “Ballad of Birmingham” and the sorrow I felt when I first encountered the poem years ago still linger and creep into my mind from time to time.  How wondrous that a poet’s words can strike in such a manner, the way those words can anchor themselves in one’s heart and live there forever.

Spring Break: How It’s Going So Far

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my spring break agenda as a post for the the March Challenge.  Thankfully, spring break has finally arrived. Today is Day 4 of my break, and I’m in the mood to reflect on how it’s going so far with my agenda.

  • Sleeping in late-  I haven’t slept in until 11 or anything crazy like that, but I’ll take sleeping in until 7:30/8 a.m.; this week it feels really nice knowing that instead of being at school, about to start the day, I can linger in my nice and cozy bed.

  • Enjoying a leisurely morning at Starbucks-a nice mocha and good book will suit me just fine. This is one thing I always wish I could do every time I rush in on a school morning to get the coffee I need to start my dayYESSSS!!! I’ve definitely been looking forward to a day when I could start off my week by just sitting in a Starbucks, sipping my mocha and reading my book.  Checked this off my list yesterday!  It was a lovely way to spend my midmorning.  Must do again this week.

 

  • Window shopping/browsing the Internet to collect more decor ideas for my new homemy husband and I finalized our choices for sofa fabrics on Sunday and we made a purchase 🙂 
  • Taking a day trip to Chicago- strolling through Millenium Park or go visiting the Art Institutenot sure we’ll make it to Chicago this week 😦 I still have my birthday weekend to look forward to, though!  See you in a few weeks, Chi-town!
  • Catching up on movies that  I had planned to see at the movie theater but which are now on DVD (The Descendants, My Week with Marilyn, The Iron Lady, and Puss in Boots– the latter was actually recommended by my student)I’ve watched American Teacher already.  Today I rented The Descendants and My Week with Marilyn.  I took War Horse off my list as I always read the books before watching the films.
  • Taking lunch-time walks with my dog, especially if the weather stays as warm and delightful as it has beenI’ve been doing my walks with Cubby since Sunday.  Today we’re walking after dinner, just hope it doesn’t rain…
  • Catching up on laundry and cleaning around the house– I let the mess get out of control sometimes- I’ve done a few loads of laundry so far.  I’ve got half the pile tackled, so I’m proud of that.
  • Scrapbooking- I usually don’t get back to scrapbooking until the summer, but I’m almost done with my wedding scrapbook (I’ve been working on it for two years)I just remembered this one today.  Definitely want to do a couple pages for my wedding book this week, but have yet to get started again.
  • Visiting with teacher friends and catch upI’ve planned my two lunch dates and I’m so looking forward to seeing my friends soon!  I’m even trying out  a new place with one of my friends, so that will be fun too.
  • Resting and replenishing the energy I will need to get back to work once spring break is over Though there’s really no way to avoid grading during any time of the school year, I’m doing piecemeal grading, only one assignment for one class a day. This way, I can definitely get my resting and replenishing time in during the week.  

After reflecting on the things I’ve wanted to do during spring break, I cannot believe I left out reading!  I’ve been doing plenty of reading, but I guess I didn’t add it to my list, because like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, reading is synonymous with breathing to me.  I’m halfway through my Nicholas Sparks book, and I’m debating between three books for my next read: Rules of Civility, War Horse or Hunger Games. I think War Horse is next, but we’ll see…

Also, I love to watch morning shows and eat breakfast (never have time for breakfast on school days) whenever I have a break or day off. I did that this morning, and it was glorious.  It was also nice being home when the Rachael Ray show was on, since I’m still finishing things up at school when her show begins.  I might start DVR-ing her show from now on.  I like it 🙂