Back to School

My love for my college alma mater lives on even twelve years after I graduated.  Its natural beauty is what drew me to the school to begin with. The main entrance to my school is lined with trees on both sides. Fall is the best time because of the yellow and orange hues that embrace you as you drive in almost like you’ve become part of a painting.

In the center of campus there is a lake and benches where you can sit and reflect or relish in the warm sunlight in the spring. I always choose a spot where I can sit and watch the branches of a weeping willow dip down into the lake water. During my time in college, spending time in nature brought me peace and comfort, replenished me in the midst of chaotic college life. Somehow, spending time by the lake on a warm afternoon always made me feel better.

In colder weather, I always sought refuge in our library. That is where I found myself recently when I decided to spend my Teacher Record Day catching up on grading at one of my favorite places. Upon arriving, I quickly headed to the back of the library to look for a cozy spot close to a window, so I could occasionally admire the snowy view as I graded. Nestled in this quiet haven while working away and admiring the view outside brought back so many fond memories of my time as an actual student. Many times, I drive by my college and wish I could return to simpler times.

At least, living so close to my beloved alma mater, I know I can come back and do my work there as a teacher. The most amazing thing about this part of my life? Now, when I go back to my college for some grading session and a quick lunch in the student dining hall, I bump into former students who are now college students themselves.  Those are always sweet reunions and affirm that I have come full circle.



A Call Back To Writing

It has been about two years since I last participated in the Slice of Life Challenge.  For the past few years, I have felt this nagging feeling that I should be writing.  My writer’s notebook sits on the floor, wedged between my bed and nightstand, and the last time I wrote in it was November. Here and there I add a little to my notebook- short snippets. I’m reminded of that song from Moana …“See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me…”  when I think of writing. My eyes move to the last place I left my notebook, and I think of my favorite pen.



Why this call? What is it for? I still don’t know. That is why I’m here, though, trying to tend to that call again. I’m starting the challenge a week late.  But  I’m here.  “See the page where pen meets the line? It calls me.”

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

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.




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 🙂


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.