What’s up Wednesdsay

Two days in a row at the Y. Whoo hoo! I can do this, nice and slow — a pound a week is the goal.

Summer: We are counting the days already! Caroline counts weekends — 43 more days. I don’t — 32 days! Our schedule is filling up. In June, we’ll vacation on the Emerald Coast (that’s the panhandle of Florida — road trip!) Then we’ll do VBS with St. Luke’s on the Lake, one of the bigger Episcopal churches in the area and then just the girls will have VBS at Bethany Methodist with some friends. For July, we’ll go to the lake and to North Texas to see family, have our week of cousin camp, do an evening VBS with St. Julian’s (Narnia!). And the girls will do one week of dance/theater camp. I’m keeping the three weeks of August free for the list of summer things we want to do.

Caroline: All of the second graders at Caroline’s school are given the OLSAT test in the fall. Based on those scores, Caroline’s teacher recommended we have her tested for the Talented and Gifted program (TAG). She got it for Language Arts, which was honestly a surprise to me. I expected her to get in for math. She’s excited. She was also chosen for the Level II performance team at her dance school I’m pretty proud of that girl!

God Sighting: The VBS theme at St. Luke’s is Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth, and each day, the kids will share God sightings. Well, my VBS journey kicked off with a very clear God sighting. I saw the theme and knew the girls would love it — they love learning about other cultures, and this one is set in Athens. I registered the girls and felt I should email the director, since it isn’t our church, and introduce myself and offer to help. I explained that we had met once before and that I was with the new Episcopal church plant and were going to do an evening VBS with a Narnia theme and could help if she needed any volunteers (though, I said, I’m sure she was all squared away with that.) The next morning, I had an email that just made me smile. I was an answer to their prayer the day before, asking God to show them someone for the last station they had open — preschool games. AND they had just finished doing the Narnia program we are doing for VBS during Lent and offered me the use of the wardrobe they made for the program. It was thrilling to see God move so obviously and to be *told* about it. It’s easy to forget our prayers, so the timing was lovely.

In other news, I made a blogging plan of writing topics to keep me updating here regularly — Must-have Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, What’s Up Wednesdays, and Therapy Thursday. Stay tuned!

I know I’m just supposed to enjoy the moment…but planning ahead has always worked for me

In 17 months, both of my kids will be in school full-time. I let my teaching certificate lapse in 2009 when I had a newborn and had not done a lick of my required 30-hours per year of professional development. I think I can renew my inactive certificate with 150 hours of professional development, so I’m starting that now. If I complete ten hours a month, or about one course per week, between now and then, I can be up-to-date before Elizabeth starts kindergarten and spend some time that year subbing if I want. Then I can figure out what to do from there — teach full-time, continue sporadic freelancing, teach part-time, work at Sephora and spend my whole paycheck there…

Regardless, if you don’t actually know me — surprise! I’m a planner. So with 17 months until I have my days free, I need to make a plan. I have found lots of options for FREE online professional development and have already completed four hours. I plan to move into the paid online options when I exhaust the relevant and free online options, and then I can sign up for some actual seminars and conferences to finish off the 150 hours.

Back when I taught 8th grade in a 6-8 middle school, I ONLY wanted to teach 8th grade, so I took the 8-12 English-Language Arts TeXes for certification. Now, I wonder if I should add the 4-8 to may repertoire as I am not so afraid of 6th graders anymore. (As an 8th grade teacher, it was rare for a kid to cry in class, but it happened and when it did, it really bothered me. I’d just do that yell-whisper to the crying kid, usually a 13-year-old boy, to go to the bathroom and meet me in the hallway when he calmed down. I knew that the 6th grade teachers dealt with that a lot more and didn’t want to travel that road. Now, crying is part of my daily life, so I think I can handle it.)

Some great FREE online professional development I’ve found follows:

ATPE offers 41 hours of various courses online for FREE. I did one of their three-hour courses today.

Concept to Classroom has several free online courses.

The Library of Congress has many one-hour professional development courses.

My latest freelance client has some great options for professional development, too, with Common Sense Educators. I’ve completed one of their courses.

There are even more paid courses, and I’m sure there are more free ones, too. Hopefully the InterWebs have enough that I can get most of my credits done from home.

Best time for a pedicure

I get a professional pedicure about once a year, and the Wednesday or Thursday before Easter is the perfect time–nice feet for the Maundy Thursday foot washing, pretty toes for Easter sandals, and flip-flop ready for spring!

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So much to say

I went off of Facebook again this year for Lent, and I had made a list of blog topics and made mental notes during my day of things I wanted to write about — thinking since I wasn’t recording my every thought on Facebook that I’d put them on my blog. Instead, I just spent time alone with my thoughts sometimes and talked a whole lot more with friends and family (and strangers) as I went about my days. Facebook is such a part of our culture now. John kept me up to date on big news, and I made sure that close friends due to give birth during Lent knew to text me. And they did. 🙂

I wrapped up the school yearbook this week. Yay! Even thought I’ve been a yearbook person for pretty much my whole life — middle school yearbook staff (we just met in a teacher’s classroom once a week during PE to work on the book), high school yearbook staff, Aggieland staff, and middle school yearbook adviser, I learned so much this year. It is AMAZING how much technology has changed. Sure, it’s quite different than the cropping tools and red pencils we used in the middle and high school days, but even in the eight years since I did O. Henry’s yearbook, it has changed. So, since the first time is the learning run, I’m planning to do it again next year. I know, I know, I said I wouldn’t, but having it done and thinking of all I’d do differently next year inspired me for one more time. Of course, as soon as I submitted the book for publication, closed the online orders, and did NOT include a sales announcement in the weekly email (which has been announced every week this school year), I had a parent email asking if she had bought a yearbook (she had not) and wondering if she still could. Oh me, oh my! Seriously? I wrote her back and said “Sorry Charlie. I know you were just waiting for the one week that you didn’t read BUY YOUR YEARBOOK NOW. ORDERS WILL CLOSE SOON AND WE ARE VERY CLOSE TO SELLING OUT, WHICH MEANS ORDERS CAN CLOSE AT ANY MOMENT to see how to place your order, but it seems that isn’t going to work out for you this time.” (not my exact words.) I’m also on the PTA Officer nominating committee for next year. Most of the officers are coming back for a second term, which will be super duper, but we still one position filled…Anyone? Anyone?

Oh, no Diet Cokes during Lent (well, I had two — one each morning of Spring Break that I stayed up way too late with my SILs drinking wine and then woke up to ten kids under ten in my house. So much fun, seriously! Only thing I’d do differently next time is have everyone drink only from cups with lids. Live and learn.)

Presence strengthens it

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I had to snap a picture of Elizabeth’s fortune from lunch today. My first thought was my kids, and I saw it as a reminder how important it is to be present for them, to be with them. Then I thought of John and our getaway together recently but also just our day to day mundanities and was inspired to view that time as more important. And then I thought of my relationship with God, and how important that quiet time with Him is, even in the business of life, and my relationship with my Christian family, which made me appreciate and value our Sunday worship a bit more. LOVE. That’s why we’re on this third rock from the sun — to love.

Math Apps

Loading up the iPod Touches (and now the iPad) for long car trips was always daunting to me. With so many apps to choose from, I didn’t know where to start and chose some good ones and some not-so-good ones. Common Sense Media‘s app reviews are helpful, and I thought I’d share my favorite math apps for my girls (that I reviewed.)

PRESCHOOL MATH: Neither of my kids has been a big Sesame Street fan. Caroline, elmo loves 123s main imagesweet sleeper girl, was never awake early enough to watch it, and Elizabeth, who is up by 7 am, just isn’t interested. But as a parent, I think it’s great. And as annoying as I find Elmo, Elmo loves 123s for iPad is a great preschool math app. (Click the link to read the review I wrote for Common Sense Media.)

ELEMENTARY MATH: As part of Caroline’s daily homework, she has to practice her math facts for five minutes a day — addition, subtraction, multiplication. Hmathworkoutmainimageer teacher gave us some web sites of quizzes that we used early in the year, but since I discovered Math Workout, Caroline has been using that for her daily practice. It’s nothing flashy or gimmicky — just plain old timed math practice. Now, she’s not racing to play it in her free time or anything, but it is a handy app to have.

For fun, though, she enjoys Wild Kratts Creature Math. It combines taking care of the ecosystem, making sure each animal is fed and keeping the area frwildkrattscreaturemath mainimageee of litter, with math practice. I enjoyed playing it, too, as it’s a real challenge to keep each animal’s food supply steady — you know, the beavers eat a certain tree, and the wolves eat beavers, and the falcons need smaller birds, and the whole circle of life. My review has not been published yet, but you can read about the app at PBS KIDS.

We have a Spring Break road trip next week, and the girls will be well-occupied with their mobile devices.

Girl Time

John is out of town this weekend, and, while we miss him dearly and can’t wait for him to get back, the girls and I do enjoy a leisurely but busy schedule when he’s gone. I think it’s more leisurely because we don’t worry about being home at certain times or having meals prepared at certain times. I view weekends when he’s gone as times when we’ll have Chick Fil A or order pizza for dinner. Or maybe even both in the same day. I am too embarrassed to do that when I have another adult around, which is another why it’s really important, as I’ve said before, to have two parents in a household. But it’s hectic because we tend to go-go-go when he’s gone since we aren’t worried about being home and having things picked up and meals prepared at certain times. Again, not that John mandates that, it’s just what I think I should do for him.

Yesterday, Elizabeth had a friend over to play in the afternoon, and we picked Caroline up from dance at 5:00. Then we came home and they played a while until the pizza arrived around 6:00. We watched High School Musical 2 and ate dinner. Then they got in (my) bed with books and fell asleep while I did a little yearbook editing. I was asleep by 10, too, so Elizabeth’s 6 am wake-up wasn’t horrible. We were all out of bed by 7, and I made Caroline’s request — chocolate chip pancakes. Elizabeth wanted plain, though. I refrained, thinking I’d eat healthy today. (just wait.) I had a couple of bites of sausage. Then we did a few chores around the house (like changing the battery in the chirping smoke alarm) and headed to the Y for my workout. (doing great so far on the weight loss front!) I came home and quickly showered and dressed while they played, then we headed out for our day-of-fun. Schlotsky’s for lunch, library for book check-out (I had put the newest Captain Underpants on hold for Caroline and it was ready), Dr. Seuss’s birthday at Lakeshore, and and IMAX movie at the Bob Bullock.) We made it about ten minute early for the IMAX movie — just right. To find they changed the times March 1 (and I had looked at the schedule Feb 28) and the movie had started an hour earlier and the next wasn’t for three hours. No problemo. It was Explore UT day, so the museum admission was free, and I had tickets to see a movie at the Spirit of Texas Theater. We saw Texas Weather, which was super, and then walked through the museum. We had two hours, then, until show time, so we walked across the street to the Blanton, which was also participating in Explore UT with free admission. We had enough time for a sandwich in the cafe before we decided to get in line for the movie. We were first in line with another seven year old right behind us. The girls made fast friends, so we all sat together in the show, of course. It was beautifully hilarious to see, though my 3D glasses, all the little hands grabbing at the butterflies flying at us. We saw Flight of the Butterfly. Amazing! My wonderful friend Colette is a member of The Bob and gave me a inch of tickets last Easter for the girls. We’ve gone a few times and have so many tickets left. Such a treat!

I cherish the little conversations we have, in the car or just off hand. I learned today from Caroline that at least two girls in her class have cell phones that can text. “Who do they text?” I asked her. She didn’t know, and really didn’t seem to think it was a big deal that they had them and certainly wasn’t asking for one of her own. It came up because I didn’t take my phone to the Y that morning, and Caroline wondered what I’d do in an emergency. I told her that people didn’t have cell phones at all when I was a little girl and I thought we’d be fine for an hour without it. I went on (of course) to say that we can’t seem to live without our phones now, and that some kids even have phones! That’s when she mentioned her friends with phones. I’ve certainly thought about when I’d get the girls their own phones, and Megan has one for texting now, in fifth grade. I figured for middle school, for sure. I’m so glad Caroline is non-plussed that these girls have one and doesn’t see the need for one now. I hope we can hold that attitude for a few more years…or forever.

I have a bio! I’ve been reviewing apps for Common Sense Media since November, and I must say I love the work. It is fun. It pays well. I used the site as a parent to check on movies I wanted to watch with the kids and support the mission of informed media consumption. And I feel like my background is great for them, too — journalism degree and experience taught me concise and precise writing, graduate education program and teaching experience taught me about pedagogy, and motherhood taught me to be choosy about what my kids see, hear, and do.

Most of the reviews I’ve done have been for learning ratings, so not all are listed on my bio.

I do plan to post a few more blog entries in the coming weeks of a few of my favorite preschool and elementary level learning apps. There really are some amazing apps available.

Wine Country Getaway

As my dear husband left for a hunting trip a few weeks ago, I joked that he’d been away with his hunting partner more times in the past six months (couple of hunting trips and fishing trips) than he’d been away alone with me in eight years! We all decided then that we had to remedy that, so I asked my dad and Karen to come stay with the girls and I got to planning — a weekend in the Hill Country, touring wineries on the Texas Wine Trail.

I got us tickets for the wine trail’s Lover’s Trail weekend. We left Friday afternoon, checked into our B&B, A Place in Time, in Fredericksburg, and hit the kick-off event where we enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres, ten wine tastings, and dessert. Saturday, after a lovely breakfast at our B&B, we hit the trail again, after a stop at Chocolat and The Olive Oil Shop, and visited six of the thirty-two wineries on the trail — all within about fifteen miles of our B&B and probably about ten miles from each other.

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We started at William Chris Winery, the farthest from Fredericksburg on 290. (I think that would be farthest east, but I’m not all that great with directions.) I enjoyed their red, Emotion, and left my own lipstick imprint on a business card on their corkboard to possibly be included on their next Emotion label. We then headed back over to Woodrose Winery, where we had enjoyed the kick off reception the night before and to Pedernales Cellars where we enjoyed some King Cake paired with one of our tastings. If was a cold, wet day, so we didn’t linger, but on a pretty day, Woodrose or Pedernales would be great wineries to buy a glass or a flight and sit on the decks outside. After tasting several wines from three wineries before 1 in the afternoon, we needed lunch and went to The Pink Pig. It was cute, and the desserts looked divine. (we got a Key Lime pie to go and had it after dinner. It was delicious!) I ordered their house specialty — a pulled pork sandwich on fry break with slaw. It was just so-so. We waited a long time for it, and I just wasn’t thrilled by it. After lunch, we visited Torre di Pietra, Becker, Grape Creek, and Rancho Ponte Vinyards. Then, we headed back to our B&B for a nap before getting ready for dinner. Dinner was perfect! August E’s was very fancy, very nice, and gave us very little food — just what we needed on a romantic night out after indulging all day long! I had stuffed lobster tail and John had lamb. I took a picture of the “wine book” — it was truly a wine book of at least 100 pages, not a wine list. (I’m not uploading the pic because I shouldn’t have even taken it in such a nice restaurant and I embarrassed my husband, plus it was shiny and the image didn’t come out.)

Our B&B was a beautiful historic home in downtown Fredericksburg, and the breakfasts rank up with the best I’ve ever had! The bed was lovely and comfy, and everyone was wonderful. I’m just not sure about the whole bed and breakfast experience. John and I stayed in one with Caroline when she was two, but since we had a kid with us, we stayed in the carriage house — away from the main house. This time, we were in the main house which had three guest rooms/suites. It was kind of like staying at your grandma’s house while your little sister had a slumber party upstairs. Granted, the owner and manager both made sure the five ladies celebrating a weekend away knew to pipe down at 10, and the ladies did.

It was wonderful to get away and know that my girls were well-taken care of. We won’t wait eight years to get away alone again!