On being more positive

I’ve always thought that I was a fairly positive person. I try to be optimistic (I can’t stand someone who’s always negative) and look on the bright side of things, speak only kindly about others and be uplifting in my conversations with other. I was even shouted out for being a positive person by my peers this week!


…and then this happened today…

I was talking to a friend and said something along the lines of, “Well, that sucks for them!” and sorta chuckled. They looked me straight in the eye and said, “Why do you have to say that? Why can’t you just be happy for yourself and not be down on them?”

I laughed it off and gave them a hard time for calling me out on my negative attitude, but when I started thinking about it, I was showing the same negative attitude and contempt that I really can’t stand. After thinking further about it, I realized that lately I’ve been having a negative attitude towards a lot of things but have been harboring it in my heart. That immediately brought Luke 6:45 to my mind, which says, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I also like the way The Message says it: “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”

So when it comes down to it, I have a heart condition in which I have waaayyy too much negativity and I need to bleed it out. I need to pluck to off like a wormy apple. I’m really glad that my friend called me on it today, because otherwise I would’ve continued allowing it to fester like a wound that sits right underneath the skin.

This week and every week from now on, I’m really going to focus on being more positive and not harboring negativity in my heart. It’s just not worth it. 

…and this is from one of my favorite songs…I had to find a way to work it in here. It kinds fits.

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This is pure randomness…you are warned.

It’s been well over a month since I’ve last posted something and that’s just way too long. So in the interest of filling the void, I’ll write something…but be forewarned…this will probably be boring and a complete waste of your time. If that doesn’t faze you, by all means, please continue.

This past month has been one of change and readjusting to my crazy normalcy. With being off work for 4 months, I got really used to being at home with my girls and I actually started really enjoying that whole “stay-at-home-mom-thing” that I’d always told myself I’d never be good at. I’m not gonna lie…I was good at it and loved every minute of it, which made going back to work that much harder.

…and that leads me to…

Work.

Oh yes…..work.

…me after a long week and happy to be going home to my family.

…me after a long week and happy to be going home to my family.

I love my job. No, honestly…I really do! That’s probably at the heart of my whole “mommy-guilt-complex” because I love my job so much but also want to be at home and feel guilty when I’m not and instead enjoying being at work….I think you get the point so I’ll digress. Where was I…oh yea, work…loving my job…students. I love my students. They are totally amazing and I love the class that I teach. Having gone to school to teach English and having most of my experience in that field, making the great migration from teaching ELA to Computer Science is akin to a quantum leap (maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but what less would you expect, seriously?). I’m not only teaching in a totally different field, but I’ve changed my pedagogical model to a Flipped Mastery class (there’ll definitely be more on that later…trust me, it’s super exciting!). I’m just crazy excited to be flipping my class…it’s something I wanted to try in Texas but just never got the chance until now. It’s so awesome to work for a school that not only embraces my wild ideas, but also empowers me to try them!

In the midst of getting back into the swing of things, I’ve had to remind myself the importance of spending quality time with my family. Much like the song “Fly like an Eagle” tells us, time really is slipping into the future. (now I know why I’ve had this song stuck in my head for days…) We can so easily let it slip through our tightly clenched fists and before we know it, we’ve wasted precious moments. I’ve had to learn to let go of making the perfect lesson plan and having my classroom perfectly set up every day before I go home. It’s fine. My students will still learn. There are some things that can just wait. What is important for me in this moment is making sure my family gets me…all of me. My family deserves nothing less than that.

So maybe this post was a bit random, but that’s my life right now…a bit random. Now that summer is over and my marathons of watching Australia’s Next Top Model, Top Chef, and Dr. Who are over (priorities, right? Come on…I had a lot of time on my hands nursing my newborn) I’m focused and ready to go. I’m ready to be that mommy-teacher-mentor-wife-do-it-all-woman. I know that sometimes—no—a lot of the time—I make mistakes and don’t prioritize correctly, but I’m a work in progress and I’m learning along the way. I’m ready for new adventures ahead and learning on the go. I am ready for another year of awesomeness in the classroom and at home. I’m ready for it all. I’m ready.

Bring.It.On. Hoo-ahh!

Crazy Crockpot Lady

Untitled designIn an effort to balance family and work, I’ve started using my crockpot a lot. Now, when I say a lot…I mean ALOT. I’ve slowly metamorphosed into one of those crazy crockpot ladies that spend hours looking for bargains on ingredients and then stockpiling them. Then, after amassing 20 pounds of chicken, pork and beef, assorted veggies and other ingredients, I spend a whole Saturday preparing freezer meals (labeling baggies and filling then with pure deliciousness) and then stuffing them into my tiny apartment freezer like a jigsaw puzzle or overcrowded storage unit.

I love it! :P

I prepped a whole month’s worth of meals before having our second daughter and it was more than worth the time and effort. Now, with the beginning of the school year lurking in the not-to-distant-future, I’ll be doing it all over again with some lessons learned and new things to try!

So, for those of you wondering, here are my 20 Top Hits of this crazy lady’s crockpot/freezer foodie routine. Click on links for the recipes I use for guidance (I rarely follow any recipe verbatim).

These first ones I prep at the beginning of the month and freezeI then take one out when I need it. I usually cook them from frozen instead of thawing and then cooking.

This site provides excellent instructions on the bagging/prepping process.

1. Plain Shredded Chicken can be thawed in less than an hour and is great for soups, salads, sandwiches or tacos. I just use onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to season it instead of all the veggies and stuff.

2. Flavored Shredded Chicken can be used for everything mentioned in #1, but tastes how you want it to. Follow the above directions, but add taco seasoning or whatever your heart desires when you put the chicken in the crockpot!

3. Taco meat. Cook up a couple pounds of taco meat (use ground turkey or half ground turkey and half beef for a healthier alternative) and let cool before bagging.

4. Mini-meatloafs. Cook up 2-3 muffin tins-full and freeze when cool. Pull out as many as you need for a meal.

5. Breads. I make several loafs of banana bread at a time or will make them into muffins and then freeze them. So, whenever we want banana bread, I pull one out the freezer the morning before and we have yummy bread!

6. Marinated Pork Steaks. Put enough pork steaks into a gallon ziplock bag for one meal (I always include a 1-2 extra for lunch the next day) and pour in about 1 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup orange juice, onion and garlic powder, a few squirts of lemon juice. For a meal, thaw them and cook in a pan or serve win a stir fry. Tasty! You could also use a bottled marinade from the store.

7. Marinated chicken breasts. Use the same marinade as above or you can buy any bottled marinade at grocery store.

8. Hamburger patties. I make about 12 patties out of 1/2 gr. turkey and 1/2 ground angus. I then layer then in a gallon Baggie between parchment paper.

9. German Lentil Stew. Don’t add the spaetzle (noodles) into the soup before freezing it. Make those fresh the day of or leave them out completely. Egg noodles or rice are also tasty sides.

10. Frozen veggies. I do this when bell peppers or avocados are on sale.

11. General Tso Chicken

12. Frozen fruit for smoothies. I buy bananas and let them ripen for a few days. I then cut each banana into 8 chunks (4 chunks= 1/2 banana) and tray freeze them for one hour before bagging them. I do the same for strawberries when they are on a crazy-sale.

13. Frozen pizza dough. Make up about 6-10 batches of pizza dough (my recipe makes dough for 1 pizza which is why I have to multiply it so much). After it is ready, divide it into single pizza servings and bag. Freeze flat.

14. Frozen cookie dough. Make your favorite cookie dough and roll into logs. Wrap logs in parchment paper or plastic wrap and bag. Freeze. To use, slice and place on pan and bake as usual.

These next few recipes are so simple that they don’t need to be prepped ahead of time or just taste better when done the morning you are making it.

15. Crockpot Carnitas. Better than Chipotle and waaaay cheaper. Use to make burritos or burrito bowls. I use the leftovers in salads or quesadillas.

16. Korean Beef Tacos. Simply one of the BEST things that has ever come out of my crockpot. I make all the sides from both blogs. Also, I use whatever beef roast is cheapest. I don’t worry about the short ribs.

17. Chile Colorado Burritos.

18. Salsa Verde Beef Tacos 

19. BBQ Chicken. Put in 4-5 chicken breasts in the crockpot and enough BBQ sauce to cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred and toss more sauce on top if needed. Eat as sandwiches or on top of a loaded baked potato (YUM!).

20. Balsamic Roast Beef Dip Sandwiches

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The “Why?” Syndrome and a Parent’s Response

Why SyndromeAdmit it. You hate it when your kids ask “Why?” over and over and over again. It grates on your nerves and the questions NEVER come at a convenient time. I mean, come on! Once is enough! Kids will ask why. We.can’t.escape.from.it.

When my toddler starting asking “why?” to everything, I jokingly started calling it the “Why-Syndrome” because she couldn’t stop!

This is what a typical conversation sounded like:

Me: “Sofie, please go get your shoes on.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Because we are going to the store and we wear shoes to the store.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “We need groceries and you have to wear shoes because the floors are dirty.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “We need groceries to eat.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Sofie, please just go get your shoes on…”

Sofie: “Ok, Mami.”

 After about a week of this, that same exact conversation sounded like this:

Me: “Sofie, please go get your shoes on.”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “Sofie, just go get your shoes on and STOP ASKING ME WHY!!!”

Sofie: “Why?”

Me: “GO!!!”

Sofie: (((crying)))

 

We’ve all faced this phase in our kids’ lives and your reaction to it will shape your relationship with your child. Do you see them as a curious child in search of answers to a complex world of wonder and amazement or do you see them as an annoying little bee buzzing around your ear? This stage is extremely important in the development of their ability to gather information about the world around them. At this time, you are their primary mode of “information gathering”.

I quickly realized that every time I shut Sofie down when her string of “Why’s” started, I was chipping away at her love of questioning and her amazing curiosity. I started pondering why she was asking “why?” and as soon as I realized her motives weren’t to annoy the heck out of me, my attitude totally changed.

Here are a few things that helped me understand my daughter more and made dealing with the “Why-Syndrome” much easier:

1. Understand the meaning behind the “why”.

We need to understand the meaning behind the “why” and then we can answer it appropriately. A child does not ask “why” to challenge your authority or to make your life difficult. They are simply gathering more information and knowledge about the world around them. As they get older, teach them other ways of gathering information besides asking you such as using skills of observation, analysis, interviewing, and even searching online. Your job as a parent will soon transition from answering “why?” all the time to teaching good problem-solving skills. Then it will be your turn to constantly ask them “why?”!

2. Use “why” conversations as teachable moments.

“Why?” conversations teach our children important lessons about life. You do have the ability to change the course of the conversation by saying, “Did you know that…” and teach them something new. Stop responding with “because I said so” or “that’s just the way it is“. This only teaches them that you have no time for them or that they aren’t important enough to deserve your attention.

3. There is a time to stop “why” conversations.

There is room for telling them that you don’t have time right then to answer the “why” question. Just make sure you lead by example and don’t use “attitude” with them. Simply say, “Those are great questions. Why don’t we discuss them as soon as we get into the car?” Appropriate time and place is a valuable lesson for kids to learn. Just make sure that you really do answer their questions when you say you would!

 

Our children are precious and we want the best for them. We so often get caught up in the selfishness of thinking that the world revolves around us. It doesn’t. The world revolves whether we are in it or not, but you can make sure that your child’s revolving world is full of wonderment, curiosity, and the constant desire to learn more.

 

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High Altitude Banana Bread

While watching the Switzerland-Argentina World Cup game today, I decided to make banana bread to celebrate having a clean house and my dad and brothers arriving tomorrow. I figured that having fresh yummy baked banana bread for them would be pretty nice indeed.

Banana Bread

My favorite recipe I’ve found is this one from Simply Recipes. It’s the most simple and tasty I’ve ever had. Still, there are several changes I always find myself making, which are reflected in the recipe I’ve written up for ya’ll!


 

High Altitude Banana Bread

Prep time: 5 minutes

Baking time: 1 hour (loaf)  OR 25 minutes (muffins)

Yield:

2 medium sized loaves (4×8 inch loaf pan) OR

1 loaf and 12 muffins** OR

24 muffins

Ingredients:

7-8 ripe bananas, smashed (these can be previously frozen, just make sure they’re well thawed)

2/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but smells great!)

3 cups all-purpose flour

Optional:

semi-sweet chocolate chips

chopped nuts

dried fruit


Directions:

For this recipe, you only need 1 mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. No need for anything fancy but good ol’ muscle power!

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). If you have a little kid hanging around the house, get them in on the action!

IMG_7585With a wooden spoon, mix melted butter into the smashed bananas. If your bananas were previously frozen (like mine usually are), then make sure they are room temperature. If not, they will cause the butter to solidify again and your bread may not bake properly. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Next, mix in the baking soda and salt. Finally, stir in the flour 1 cup at a time. If you are using any of the optional ingredients, stir them in at this time.

 

This is what the mixture should look like at this point.

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Pour into a buttered/sprayed pan or lined muffin pan in making muffins. Bake according to the appropriate time. 
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Cool for at least 15-30 minutes before slicing.

 

**The “1 loaf and 12 muffins” option is my favorite because I freeze the muffins after they’ve cooled and take them out to eat whenever we want. They last much longer this way. If making muffins, use cupcake liners or spray the muffin tin well.

 

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Thrifted T-shirt to…?

I picked this men’s XL shirt up at the thrift shop down the road a while back and have been contemplating what to do with it…a dress for Sofie, t-shirt rug, revamped shirt for me? I’ve been wanting a peplum top for quite some time, but none at any store (that I can afford) have any that fit well and are semi-casual. Hopefully in a few days I can have my first tutorial up for my (hopefully) successful peplum top!

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To be a Working-Mom or not to be…that is the question.

As long as I’ve been a mom, I’ve been a working mom. The only times I’ve had the privilege of being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) is during my summers while I’m not teaching. Lately, there’s been a buzz about being a SAHM vs. a Working Mom across social media. People are blogging about it, tweeting about it, posting and reposting about it on Facebook. The Huffington Post has posted articles about the supposed “war” between SAHMs and Working Moms and scientists and social scientists alike are doing studies about the effects of a mother’s career on their children’s future. It’s definitely a hot topic right now.

Like I said above, I’ve always worked. When my husband and I married, we decided that one of us would always stay home with our kids. I always thought it’d be me, but when I became pregnant with our first and I had a steady teaching job, it was only wise for my husband to stay home instead of me. It was definitely difficult returning to work after only 2 months, but I really loved my work and enjoyed being there. So often I felt guilty for wanting to return to work. I guess working moms will always experience some sort of guilt…being away from our kids is never an easy choice. I just felt really lucky to have a husband that was ok with being a SAHD.

Since having our second daughter in March, I’ve been off of work and I’ve really fallen in love with being home with my girls. I never thought I would enjoy it this much. I’ve seriously thought about not returning to work several times and we’ve even tried figuring out if it would be possible. When discussions are done and we’ve looked over our budget, we always come to the same conclusion…I will return to work.

Here are my main reasons why I’m choosing to stay a Working Mom:

1. Job Stability. I hold the most stable job right now. As far as income and medical insurance goes, my job provides the most stability for our family. In this economy, stability is something that many people don’t have and we recognize how blessed we are.

2. My husband is an amazing stay-at-home-dad. Society is warming up to the idea of SAHDs, but it’s still far rarer than one would think. My husband can’t go to “toddler time” at the library without all the other mommies making a big deal about how cute it is that he’s there. I love that my daughter get to grow up with their Papi at home. Girls need a strong male role model in their lives and they have one that adores them to pieces.

3. I want to be an example to my daughters. I admire SAHMs. I think they are the unsung heroes of our society. I admire moms who choose to stay home even though they could choose to go into the workforce and be leading CEOs and politicians or teachers, or policewomen or doctors and professors or whatever they want. With this being said, my family is in a unique position that my daughters do have a father that can stay home and a mother that can go work. I want my daughters to know that they have choices. If they choose to get married and have kids, they can choose to stay home or work. I don’t want them to think they have to conform to society’s expectations whether it be by choosing a “female friendly” career or whatever. Our family tends to bend gender stereotypes when it comes to who is “supposed” to do what around the house and I want my daughters to do what they are passionate about regardless of what they’re “expected” to do. Besides, it’ll only benefit them in the future. Research shows that dads who do housework have more ambitious daughters.

4. Purpose. I work in schools that serve under-served youth. I see this as a mission and part of my purpose. Being able to do this work and be a mom is an honor. Some days I feel like I have 150 children and I want to pull my hair out, but most of the time I just feel incredibly blessed.

So, for now, I’ll continue to work, and quite honestly, I think I always will. That’s one reason I’ve decided to be a career teacher instead of an administrator…I want to spend summers with my family. I admire mothers who make the hard decision to stay home and mothers who make the hard decision to work. The choice is never easy. We just need to make sure we cherish every precious moment, no matter what our profession be.

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Kids and Culture

…took the girls to Denver Art Museum last week to get a bit of “culture”…it was sooo much fun!

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Out and about with the kiddos

Sofie at The Denver Art MuseumI take my kids everywhere with me. I strap Lore in the Baby Bjorn and now that Sofie is older, she walks alongside me, usually holding my hand. Several friends and even pure strangers have remarked lately that they are amazed that I go out so often and to so many places with both my girls. I hear things like, “Don’t you have your hands full?” or “How do you manage?” or “I can’t believe that you’d go [insert location] with your kids!

We don’t see having a 3 1/2 year-old and a 3 month-old as a hinderance. We take them shopping, to museums, hiking, to restaurants, international traveling….actually, we take them everywhere. Not once have I declined going somewhere just because it would be an inconvenience taking my kids. I refuse to be one of those people who stay home because going with children would be too difficult.

How about you? What is your opinion on taking your kids places? Are there places that are off limits to kids…should people only take their kids to family-friendly places?

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Project-Based Learning vs. Projects

Doing Projects versus Project Based Learning

I’ve been an ELA teacher for 4 years but I get bored easily…so last year, I approached my principal and asked to teach social studies or reading and instead, she asked me to help start a technology program at our school with Jonathan Best, the 8th grade writing teacher. I gladly accepted and have never regretted it. I love teaching a technology class for 2 main reasons:

  1. Teaching a technology class keeps boredom at bay because I have to stay on my toes and keep up with what’s new and how to teach it. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is staying ahead of my students when it comes to what’s new and cool. Also, a technology class has built-in student investment…every child that walks through my classroom door excitedly asks to know what we’re learning that day.
  2. I teach in one of the lowest income schools in Denver. When you put the latest technology into kids’ hands and tell then that their future is what they make of it, you’re not lying. There is massive technology gap that keeps low-income kids from succeeding in the business world and I’m aiming to put a dent in that. This year my students have gone from barely knowing how to turn on a computer and typing an average of 10 WPM to being able to successfully make movies, create and deliver excellent presentations, type over 40 WPM, code using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, use the internet for academic research and so many other practical skills that they need.

I use project-based learning throughout the year, but sometimes get caught up in the “project” part rather than having the kids learning and answering BIG QUESTIONS themselves. This article is the best one I’ve read that helps differentiate PBL and mere projects. If you or someone you know would benefit from reading this article, PLEASE pass it along because it has cleared up probably about 2 years of misconceptions for me.

12 Ways to Know if You’re in a Project-Based Learning Environment or Merely Having Kids Create Projects in Your Classroom.

Update:

I’ve barely published this post and a tech-teacher friend has already given me another website that is awesome!

https://challengebasedlearning.org

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