Monday, July 27, 2015

Mason Jar Monday

Today was my first day ALONE this summer!

My kids began their one week of day camp. Why one week you ask?  Well, it turns out that one week of day camp for two kids costs approximately half a mortgage payment. Read that again and then weep for me. Read it another time and weep again. So. Much. Money.

Anyway, because the kids are away, I decided to indulge in the one thing I love to do that I just don't have the time to- cooking. I didn't really learn to cook until I was in my 20s, but I find it to be the most therapeutic activity I could undertake- and Lord knows I need some down time in my life right about now. To be fair, I cook every day in order to feed my family but I would say that a lot of what I do in the kitchen is out of necessity and not for pleasure. So I took today to finally try out some recipes that I have been obsessing over on my Pinterest page- and they all involve mason jars!

Hence, #MasonJarMonday





Mason Jar Greek Feta Salad

This salad was a concoction of a bunch of ingredients in my fridge and is the thing I'm most excited to eat (tomorrow at work, if I can wait until lunchtime).

What to do:
I assembled the following ingredients in a mason jar, exactly in this order! (Warning...the measurements are very specific;)

1 tbsp Greek Feta Salad Dressing

2 huge scoops cooked quinoa (about 1/4 cup)

2/3 cup Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad (if you don't have an already assembled salad, simply layer fresh corn, avocado and tomatoes with a squirt of lime juice)

Handful fresh feta cheese, cut into bite sized pieces

Mixed greens (smush in as much as you can in the top of the jar)


How to eat:
Place the lid tightly on your mason jar and place the jar in the fridge.
When you're ready to eat, dump the entire mason jar into a bowl and go at it. The quinoa will be well seasoned by the dressing, the lettuce will continue to be crisp, and the feta will be perfection.

Ever made a mason jar salad before? If so, give me your favourite concoction! I'm always looking for new mason jar combos!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Why your kid isn't reading (and what you can do about it)

For my son's first year of school, we decided to spare no expense, throw caution (or hundreds of dollars) to the wind, and send him to private school. I wanted his first experience in school to be nothing short of spectacular- I wanted him to be in a learning rich environment, where teachers were engaging and interactive, where his growing brain could be nurtured and filled, and where reading- above all else- would be a top priority. 

Well, the school was fantastic, the teachers were top-notch, and my son's precious mind was filled with amazing things...but he didn't learn to read.

In fact, when we switched him to a local public school for Senior Kindergarten, he was reading at a Level B (keep in mind that each school/school board uses a different method of tracking reading levels but in my son's school Level A is the lowest reading level- students are expected to be at Level E by the end of Senior Kindergarten) ... and he didn't seem to be improving. 

By the time we had our first Parent/Teacher interview, my concerns regarding my son's lack of reading skills were confirmed. He was very bright, inquisitive, engaged and energetic...but he just wasn't catching onto reading as fast as his teacher hoped. So what was going wrong?? Me. I was going wrong. I assumed that because he was a bright kid, he would pick up on reading with limited practice at home. I assumed that he would be a fantastic reader just because he was at school. AND I WAS SO WRONG!!!!
So I began my mission to help my son become a reader. And I'll let you in on a few of the tips and tricks I picked up!

But before you read any further keep in mind a few things: a) I am a trained teacher so the advice I'm giving comes from a combination of my parental experience and professional experience; b) All children learn to read at their own pace and comparing your child to another won't be helpful at all; c) If problems persist, ask for help! There's no shame in asking your child's teacher or special education assistant to guidance- that's what they're there for! 

1) Find out what they want to read and get it
Here's the thing- if your child isn't interested in what you're putting in front of them, they won't read it. End of story. Yes, as they get older they will have to read things they aren't interested in, but when they are young and don't have the maturity necessary to understand a "must do" versus a "want to do", giving them reading material that is fun, engaging and interesting is needed.

My son was really into dinosaurs, so we loaded him up with dinosaur books. Just piles of them. He would flip through and look at the pictures (remember: the words don't have to make sense yet- we just want them engaged). We would take him to the library and let him choose his own reading material- I never said no. He chose Power Rangers and Pokemon and Geronimo Stilton and Captain Underpants...and we read them all. If they choose it and they want to read it, say yes. Put it beside their bed so they can pick it up whenever it's convenient for them. 

Alternatively, use some online reading sites to encourage reading. I love Raz Kids and so does my son!

Tip: Don't worry about the level of reading at this point- just engage them with material they want to look and they want to hear about!
Tip: Owning books is amazing- if you can afford it, buy your child a few books to keep- BUT spend most of your time using the library! Free resources are the best resources:) 

2) Read to them all the time
Got 5 minutes? Read a book. Waiting for dinner to cook? Read a book. Falling asleep? Read a book!
My point is that reading needs to be seen as an ANYTIME option in your household. It needs to take priority at all times of day. And the best part is that reading doesn't need to be a long, drawn out activity. It generally takes between 5-15 minutes for you (as a parent) to read a book to your child. But by taking those 5-15 minutes, you have shown your child that reading is a) important and b) a fun activity. 
If you suggest: Hey! Why don't we read for a minute!  And you're met with a NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO- Don't get upset and freak out (like I do all. the.time!).  Instead,  ask your child to let you know when they're interested in reading and pick up a book then.  Let them feel some control over the process of reading and they'll start to become more interested. 

Tip: Reading isn't just for bedtime. Try your best to make reading a daily, regular bedtime activity but sneak it in during the day as often as you can!

3) Phonics matters
There are so many schools of thought on phonics, but it seems that study after study support what most teachers already know- Phonics Matters! 
So if your child is struggling with reading, go right back to the basics: letter sounds! There are a plethora of online resources to help you teach your child with phonics- apps for your phone, tablet and programs for your desktop - but I really like the idea of sitting down with a pencil and paper, writing the letter and getting your child to repeat the sound! It's simple, but it works! Don't frustrate your child by doing the whole alphabet day after day- choose 3-4 letters to work on each week. Slow and steady wins the race.
No child with be a successful reader without the right foundation, so don't be discouraged if you have to go back right to the beginning with them - remember that you are building a successful reader by equipping them with the right tools and that is so important.

Tip: Reading Rockets has some great information and resources for parents who are helping their child learn to read successfully!

4) Don't make reading a REWARD or a PUNISHMENT
Admittedly, I have been known to yell THERE WILL BE NO TELEVISION UNTIL YOU HAVE READ A BOOK! OR I have whispered 'If you finish this writing assignment, I'll buy you a new book'. 
But here's the thing: we can't expect our kids to want to read if we use it as either a reward or a punishment. Reading should just be a thing we do- not a thing we force- and it should be part of our daily life.  
If picking up a book and reading to a parent or being read to by a parent is becoming a regular fight in your house, turn reading into a daily game. Don't force books! Read signs at the grocery store or while you're on the road. Read magazines instead of books (Owl, National Geographic for Kids, and Chickadee are all great options). Write your child an easy-to-read note and leave it beside their dinner plate or tape it to the bathroom mirror. Read the back of the cereal box. 

Tip: There are a few times that rewarding a child with a new book is a great incentive to read more, but make sure that you are not consistently tying new reading material to completing (or not completing) other tasks!

5) Practice Unbelieveable Patience
Encouraging and reading to and with a reader that doesn't want to read is so frustrating. SO SO SO FRUSTRATING!!!!!!! I get that more than you know! My son is the most stubborn child in the world (he is a red head after all!) and he would throw the biggest hissy fits over simply being asked to read one word- I mean, it may have even been his name and nothing else! 
So, from one impatient parent to another I implore you to reach into your back pocket and pull out every single ounce of patience you can muster. Grab it and hold onto it. Keep your reading sessions short. Limit it to one short book, or one page, or a handful of words. Encourage, encourage, encourage! Tell them they're doing great when they read only ONE word correctly. Try your best not to let them see your frustration (I have been known to yell into a pillow post-reading session) because it will rub off on them. 

Tip: Don't give up easily. It can takes weeks and weeks or months and months of regular reading practice (and reading to your child!) to develop reading as a habit. It can takes months and months or weeks and weeks of practicing patience to actually develop patience. Be kind to yourself and your child!

Got a tip for parents who are struggling with their child's reading? Share it below!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Time of the Month" Brownies

Hi! Miss me?

It seems this six year old blog has gotten awfully dusty. I suppose life got in the way and instead of documenting it, I decided to live it. I got a new job, I continued to edit and write (albeit significantly less than previous years, thanks that new job), my husband has been busy kicking butt and taking names at work, we somehow managed to end up with a child who is going to enter GRADE ONE and another who is going to enter JUNIOR KINDERGARTEN!!!! this September, and I am in the midst of making overwhelming life decisions that shouldn't be nearly as difficult as they are. Phew.

But I must admit, I've missed the outlet that blogging gives me. I miss writing just to write. Just to share. Just to put my voice into the universe, no matter how many or few ears it hits.

And so, I have decided to return to my space and offer up the most amazing recipe I have managed to create entirely by accident. It's my "time of the month" brownies.

Now, I don't know about you, but that time of the month is absolutely h-e-l-l for me. I am super moody, bloated up beyond belief and cannot eat enough; seriously (to steal a line from my fav Amy Schumer) I cannot fit enough food in my dumb mouth. Specifically, chocolate.

In a fit of desperation this month, I raided my pantry, found some cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate chips, decided I needed to pour all of them down my throat and somehow managed to create the best brownie recipe ever (there were a few more steps in that story, but you get the picture).

They are chewy, moist, chocolately, and just perfectly crunchy on the top. The sprinkle of sea salt at the end is probably the best choice this hormonal girl ever made.


And without further ado, I'd love to share the recipe with you.

You'll need:
1 cup butter, melted (measure one cup of butter and THEN melt it)
3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
Sea salt (to sprinkle atop after baking)

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Combine melted butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl on low. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time.

Slowly mix in flour, cocoa powder, and salt on low until completely mixed. Mix in chocolate chips by hand. Spread batter evenly in greased baking pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven, immediately sprinkle with sea salt, and cool pan before cutting and devouring (you probably didn't need that last part of the instructions, but just in case...).

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Sunday in Picture

This is old. I found it in my drafts, along with 50 other posts that I never pushed publish on.
Drafts are a weird thing. A lot of what I wrote was great but it didn't feel like something I should publish. A lot of what I wrote was also crappy. That's how writing goes, you know?

Anyway, this is a few years old. It's definitely not an interesting post by any means, but I'm reminded of what it was like to have a baby... and a 2 year old. And man, I am reminded that I do not wish to go back to that time AT ALL!

Anyone else HATE the baby phase? I will take a 3 and 5 year old over two babies any day of the week!

***

Sunday is generally a lazy day, reserved for church, take out and family time. However, as the 20 month old has taken to acting like a caged MMA fighter when we try to drop him off at Sunday School, Sundays have become lazier than ever.

A typical Sunday now includes:










Saturday, February 7, 2015

Plus Sized MODEL Not a Plus Sized HUMAN

There has been a lot of buzz about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue including a "plus sized model" in their pages this year.

Here she is:
Sports Illustrated’s Newest Model, Robyn Lawley. Credit: James Macari/Sports Illustrated

Her name is Robyn Lawley and she is beautiful! She a has a body that most women could only dream of having (reminds me of Kate Upton, right?), and she is a size that is a bit more realistic than most swimsuit models.

So what's the stink about?

Well, at size 12, she is considered a plus sized MODEL.  Of course she is.  The normal size for a model is between 5'9" and 5'10" and a size 2 (although I'm guessing they love a size 0 even more). Even "curvy" Victoria Secret models come no where close to a size 12.

But let's face it, much like the television and movie industry, the modelling industry is built on illusion. Those clothes being trotted down the runway? You will likely never wear them. That crazy hair and over-the-top makeup? You won't be leaving your house looking like that any time soon. It's fun, make-believe and fantasy- like little girls or boys playing dress up. THE MODELLING INDUSTRY IS NOT REALITY.

And so, in that fake world, being a size 12 is considered "plus sized". But remember that context is key.

In the world in which we live- the everyday world where we work, parent, and just try to survive- size 12 is considered the norm. In fact, the average women is estimated to be 5'4" and 155 pounds (which is about a size 8/10). So, in the context of our everyday living, Robyn Lawley is perfection. But in the context of the modelling world she is "plus"; she is larger than is normal.

Does it suck that those considered to be amongst the most beautiful in the land are often smaller than seems humanly possible? I guess. Listen, I'm 5'5" and wear a size 4/6. I'm smaller in size than the "average" person and yet I am no where close to meeting model (or television) standards. But I also understand that no matter how hard I tried, I could never reach those standards. And I also understand that I am not MEANT to meet those standards, because they are an illusion, a false reality, a make-believe fantasy.

For some reason we seem set on making all things into a controversy, when there is very little controversy here. For some reason we as a society have decided that any time we use the word "plus" we are equating that with "less than" or "wrong" or indicates that people find someone who is "plus" disgusting or ugly. But it doesn't mean that- not at all!!  It simply means that Robyn is, for better or worse, larger than the fantastical illusion of the modelling industry standard.

Should the industry be providing more and more examples or "healthy" (i.e.: strong, fit) female bodies? Sure! It is always great to see more attainable figures in the fashion and modelling industry- something that is slightly better than the average but not completely and utterly unattainable.

But should we get our knickers in a knot because an industry built on impossible-to-attain standards considers a size 12 to be plus sized? Absolutely not.

Robyn Lawley is gorgeous, fit, healthy, and an absolutely regular (or even smaller!) size HUMAN- let's celebrate and encourage that- but she is not a "normal" sized MODEL.

And let's just leave it at that.