Monday, June 29, 2015

Whole 30: Week 1...I think I can, I think I can

Today marks a whole week of Whole30!

First Whole30 Shopping Trip

By day 3 I wanted to quit. I had a dull headache for two days straight, I was exhausted, I wasn't hungry for any of the healthy food we had spent $$$ for at Costco, and I just wanted a box of Honey Nut Cheerios!!! My husband started with his "This really isn't this hard" pep talk...then saw my deep distress and had more compassion. (Yes, I whipped out the "I've spent all day cooking and washing dishes for this challenge" guilt trip.)

When my friend asked, on our Whole30 Facebook group, "How's everyone feeling?" I was honest.


She directed me to the Whole30 timeline.

whole 30 timeline

How did they know!?!? That pretty much sums up my week one.

All I'm thinking is the results had better by worth it!

Before I scare you off from every trying this challenge.. wait! There is a silver lining.

For one, I feel super proud of the fact that I've made it a whole week. I feel empowered. I want to take care of the body God has given me. (We only get one!) This might be the only way to develop a taste for healthy food. It's amazing how some things taste sweeter than they ever used to because I'm not constantly eating junk. Like coconut water for instance. I've even learned to drink black coffee! Something I've never been able to do before! I feel like this challenge may be the only way for me to ditch the junk food cravings - go cold turkey!

Secondly, I've put that spice rack to good use. I'm starting to learn what herbs and spices enhance flavors. I'm not a great cook. (I'm an excellent baker!) This challenge is helping me learn how to make delicious food with good for you ingredients. I used to rely on premade sauce packets for flavorings.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from week 1:

White Chicken Chili

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It's easy, delicious, and best of all you can make enough to last for two meals! Trust me, you will want to eat this soup two meals in a row! I plan to make it once a week! Click on the photo to get the recipe at MyLifeWellLoved.com.


Cashew "Alfredo" Dip

Puree Cashews in a Magic Bullet with hot water, fresh squeezed  lemon juice, salt/pepper, and a bit of Franks Buffalo Sauce. It tastes great over chicken but I found it was perfect as a dip for downing my raw veggies. (I modified a similar recipe a friend found online that also uses crushed spicy nacho Doritos...which of course I didn't use... that's were the Franks stepped in.)

  Watermelon Slush

Super easy!

All you do it cut watermelon, freeze slightly, blend (you can add coconut water), and then garnish!

Cherry Pie Filling

 I developed this recipe in a moment of sheer "I need dessert" desperation. (First moment of many.)

Pit fresh cherries and dates (about a 10:1 ratio). Chop the dates. Add coconut oil and cinnamon in the pan with the fruit. Cook over low heat until the cherries are cooked and the dates have softened into a "caramel"-like sauce. Top with chopped pecans. You're gonna like this one!

Tips from Week 1:

Develop a support team. This is true of any goal. If you involve others to keep you accountable, you are more likely to follow through. I'm doing this challenge with my husband and two other couples. We post favorite recipes daily on Facebook. If we all lived closer, we would make meals together and share them since preparation is time consuming.

Don't focus on what you can't eat. Decline that pity party invitation. I need to remind myself that some people would do anything to eat this food - to have a meal. Attitude changer!

Plan ahead! This is where it's at. For me, I try to make a lot of food at one time and then save it in the fridge for the rest of the day - or next couple of days. Otherwise you feel like you are constantly cooking.

Stay tuned for my post at the end of week 2. I hope to discover and share more delicious Whole30 meal and snack ideas.

Have you tried the Whole30 Challenge? I'd love to hear a favorite recipe or word of encouragement!
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Five for Friday: Lovin' Summer!

I'm finally back to doing a Five for Friday post!  I hope everyone is enjoying summer as much as I am!
Thanks, as always, to Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting this sweet Linky!

Here are my five randoms from this week...

Look what finally came in the mail!!!


I'm on chapter 3 and loving it! Guided Reading groups are in for a makeover this year! I would highly recommend this book. Jan Richardson offers strategies and resources to enhance your literacy instruction and maximize your effectiveness in helping readers succeed. It's one of those books where you find yourself highlighting way too much text... so you need a second color to underline the stuff you want to easily reference again later.

Here's my most recent teacher made creation. A Sound Sort Set!

I had been eyeing this set from Lakeshore Learning, but there were so many other things I wanted for $145.

I thought...girl, you can make this!

I saved all of the Colorations play-doh containers we used up this year (and those of other teachers) and added letters to the tops. In each can I've collected trinkets that start with each letter.
(Another teacher had graciously given me her sound sort trinkets that she kept in large Easter Eggs. I wanted containers that were less seasonal and easier to store.) I scoured through every junk drawer at home and at school to fill each container. (X and Q are a work in progress...)

I plan to use them for Guided Reading initial sound sorts at the beginning of the year.

Nothing feels as good as crossing off projects on your summer to do list!

I've been spending time this week downloading pictures we took from our trip to Chicago last week.

It was ahh-mazing!

We visited The Field Musesum to see Sue.

I snapped some awesome pictures at the Shedd Aquarium.

And I have seen Monet's beautiful waterlilies - the real deal - not in a text book- with my own two eyes! I basked in the beauty. (My hubs on the other hand said his favorite thing about the art museum was the exit. Har-har. No appreciation for fine art!)

We also tried some splendid restaurants at which we ate a lot...like A LOT! Which brings me to my 4th item...

...the Whole30 Challenge!

Click on the picture to learn about the Whole 30 Program

The friends we went on the trip with said we should all do the challenge to get "back on track".
I caved to peer pressure. (To read more about this new journey I'm on, check out my blog post here.)

This is a HUGE stretch for me! I love sugar just as much as any kid does. Maybe even more. It's bad. Really bad.

I plan to post at then end of each week about my Whole30 journey with some meal and snack ideas...if I make it that far! Have you tried the Whole30? I may need some encouragement from those of you who have.

So far this is my favorite recipe: Watermelon Slush.

It's just partially frozen watermelon that I blended in our Vitamix and added garnish to.
So refreshing!

Speaking of refreshing, my soul has been revitalized this summer by a Bible study I'm doing along with some fellow teachers from my school. It's become an annual event. We rotate hosting the study at each others houses.

 This year we are doing a Precepts study on the book of Philippians. What has really struck me in this study is that we are living in light of eternity. We have dual citizenship when we follow Christ. Earth is not our eternal home. When you see every circumstance as an opportunity to give God glory... and that everything is for Him...that is where you find true peace and joy.

We all cherish the extra time we have in the summer to really dig deep into God's Word.
I love that this study uses colored pencils to mark specific words. So colorful!
I'm looking forward to visiting the linkup to seeing what everyone else has been up to this week! Head on over yourslef. Better yet - link up and share five randoms from your week!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Teacher Bucket List

This is my first Tell all Tuesday hosted by My Day in K and Teach Talk Inspire. The topic is Teacher Bucket Lists! Summer is a great time to reflect over teaching goals and dreams. I look forward to reading what everyone else has to share!

This last month I crossed off one of my biggest career goals - getting my master's! Woohoo! I finished with a degree in curriculum and instruction and a literacy focus. Honestly, I'm still reveling in the feeling of accomplishment.

Here's what's next...

Boost my Technology Skills

It's amazing what you can do with technology nowadays. Education has changed dramatically! It's a goal of mine to constantly be finding new ways to integrate technology into the classroom to enhance learning. (Gotta stay one step ahead of those Kinders!)

Blogging falls into this category. I began blogging to share ideas and encouragement with other teachers. I have personally found blogs to be one of the best forms of "professional development", if you will. I have gleaned so much from stellar teachers across the country through their personal blogs. I'd like to give back in some way by sharing what I've learned on my teaching journey. At this point, I'm a novice (a "bless her heart for trying" novice). When I blog hop and see all of the beautiful headers, relevant posts, cutesy freebies... I feel like a kindergartener in calculus. "How did they...?" Gotta start somewhere! Right? Eventually, I'd like to start creating resourced for other teachers through TpT. I have so many ideas...just waiting for my techy skills to get up to speed through attending workshops and classes.

Become a Children's Author

It's always been a dream of mine to write and illustrate children's books. My dream retirement job is not some beach condo... but reading my books and doing related activities at libraries and classrooms across the country. Read-aloud time is my favorite part of our kindergarten day! My goal is to created fun, vibrant books that reinforce academic concepts. I want to create books that kids and teachers fall in love with!

Be a life-long learner! 

There are so many things I want learn about to become a more effective teacher: sensory processing, vision therapy, social skill development... my bucket list of learning is limitless!

Thanks for reading my Teaching Bucket List.

Head on over to My Day in K or Teach Talk Inspire to see what other teachers are saying and to link up with your own teaching bucket list!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Whole 30 Journey: Week 1

Summer is prime time for making life changes. You can direct your energy to one - not 1 million things, unlike the school year. I've put "get healthier" on every summer and new year's resolution for more years than I care to share. Well, now is the time. I've decided to try the Whole 30  Challenge (more like sucked into it with some friends that have already done it and what to do it again. I put up a fight. I threw a tantrum over giving up my "fancy" coffees. I even offered to do my own version: "The Half-Hearted 30".)

I need accountability people. I see this more as a challenge than fulfilling a goal. (It's like when you're a kid and your mom says "I bet you can't..." and you're like "Oh, yeah lady! Watch me!")

I plan to post at the end of each week in this Whole 30 challenge. Maybe, my favorite recipe. Maybe, my biggest temptation. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect over the next 30 days. I'm hoping it will help me improve my eating habits... and fit back into several outfits my waistline has put on hold.

To give you an idea of my starting point....

I pinned this a long time ago. Couldn't have said it better myself.


So, in conclusion... if I can do this Whole 30 thing... you can definitely can do it! Stay tuned for my Week 1 summary....if I make it that long!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tips to a Kindergarten Teacher from a Kindergarten Teacher

I just finished my fourth year teaching kindergarten. For those of you who are teaching or have taught kindergarten you know it's a grade unique in so many ways. We experience joys and challenges that most other teachers don't. Thank you to Mary at Sharing Kindergarten for the link-up. Be sure to head on over to learn from some stellar kindergarten teachers!

Here are my 4 top tips for thriving in the kindergarten classroom:

By everything, I mean e-ver-y-thing! That's just half of it. Other half is practicing them. Over and over and over.... at the beginning of the year, and remember to review them throughout the year.

I have routines for:
checking mail,
getting book bins,
picking a play center,
cleaning up,
passing papers,
collecting papers,
sharpening pencils...
...you name it!

Young children thrive in a predicable environment. I feel that they find peace and security in consistency.You will notice that the more routines you have in place, the fewer student behavior issues you will experience. (Karen at Mrs. Jone's Class has a wonderful, comprehensive list of routines to download as a reference. Oh, and it's free!)

I even have routines for when I'm directly teaching. I establish different hand signals for my students to let me know, non-verbally, if they need get a tissue, use the restroom, get a drink, etc. I can continue my teaching by making eye contact with the student who is making a signal and nod yes to give them permission to leave. (Nothing kills a lesson when you call on someone and they just want to use the restroom. Now everyone is distracted and...what was the question again?)

When I first started teaching, I would often write down on the back of each week's  lesson plans what worked well and what I would change the next year. (Reflecting helps lessons learned the hard way to only happen once.)

Being a reflective teacher also applies to understanding your students. They are five. They may not be able to articulate how they are felling or have the skills needed to do everything you think they should be able to do.

When you don't understand why a student is acting a certain way, ask yourself:

Did I give clear directions?

Do they understand why this task is important?

Are there any skills they haven't already learned making this task difficult? (They could be doing a sloppy job cutting the art project to finish fast, or they may have never used a scissors before.)

Do they have a need that isn't being met? (Maybe they need a brain break to refocus.)

Are feeling well? (If a student is having a rough day, I may have them go to the office to have their temperature taken. It's surprising how often they are not feeling well but can't verbally express it to me. How they are acting, gives me a clue as to what they are feeling.)

Is there something going on here or at home that I am not aware of? (You might want to connect with the child's family through a quick phone call or email.)

A spoon full of fun makes learning sweet! Emotions strengthen memories. Tie learning to enjoyment. When we enjoy something stress is lessened and we are more likely to retain information. Find ways to make learning memorable and "disguise" learning as fun by playing educationally rich games.

Making "Fraction Pizza"

Along with this... you can give yourself permission to read books that may be educationally lacking but oh so FUN! Not every book you read aloud needs rich vocabulary or strong literary elements. Sometimes you read a book just to show that reading can be for enjoyment! I've highlighted some student favorite, humorous read-alouds here from this last year.

My first year teaching kindergarten, I questioned everything I did. I worried that I was giving my students too much play time and not enough "work" time. Not anymore! Play is their work. It's how they make sense of their learning and the world around them. Be confident in doing what you know is best for your students!

One of the most important skills they are learning during playtime is how to share and get along with others. Play time isn't a prep period for you (unfortunately), but it is prime time for teachable moments. They are constantly solving problems and employing creativity during playtime. I find ways to integrate literacy and math into play time as a bonus. I never go a day without playtime worked somewhere into our schedule - even if it's just for 15-20 minutes.

Student lead writing during play time. They even made menus at the art center.

The #1 time saving document I've created is a glorified curriculum road map for the school year. I created a two page pacing guide where I could quickly see at a glace the curriculum units I'd be covering each month. I highlighted themes, focus letters, sight words, special school events, Bible verses, field trips, even a list of potential dramatic play centers that integrated with our themes. Not only did it ensure I completed the curriculum by the time May rolled around, but it also helped me anticipate what concepts to start introducing before we got to it in the curriculum. For example, our math curriculum teaches about coins in Unit 7 (January), but I found that my students need to be exposed to one coin at a time much earlier in the year. I start by introducing the penny around October. By the time we get to our "Time and Money" Unit, they are ready to add coin values.

Stop by Sharing Kindergarten's link-up for more amazing Tips to a Kindergarten Teacher from a Kindergarten Teacher shared by other kinder bloggers.