Friday, November 21, 2014

How I Spent My Week - The Play By Play

I work in a district where Fridays are early release days.  Some of those Fridays are collaborative with team mates, others are spent planning, and some are devoted to meetings.  Last Friday, it was a meeting day.  Our principal asked us to make a pie graph of our school day.  We were to think about the amount of time for planning, meeting, prepping materials, instructing students, communicating with parents, and anything else that took up our time.  It was kind of eye opening.  Of course most of our time is with the kids, but the amount of time left to do the rest of the important work that needed to be done was next to nothing.  That led to the next pie graph... how we spend our home time.  She wanted us to think about how much time we spent working at home and what that implies about the balance, or lack of balance, in our lives.  We also read articles about the challenges of teaching, how unprepared we are to play the role of counselors and parents for some of these kids, and how that leads to so much stress on us.  The meeting was very helpful.  It really reminded me that we have a HUGE job in education and we need to take care of ourselves as much as these kids.  She challenged us to track our time and see how we spend it, then spend some time reflecting.  I decided to give it a shot.  So, here goes:

5:30 am. Wake up, shower, and get myself ready for the day.

6:30.  I head downstairs to day good-bye to my oldest before he goes off to catch the bus. I eat breakfast while I'm there and then pick up the family room and do a few dishes from the night before. I check my phone to see if I have any emails that need to be answered. There are two from parents in my class, so I respond to those quickly.

7:00. Time for the youngest to get up. After I wake her up, we chat for a minute and then I go find my shoes and jewelry.
We go downstairs together, when she's ready, and start packing lunches. I throw a load of laundry in, while I'm getting my lunch packed.

7:35. Leave for work

7:55. Start the work day. Several people stop by to talk about specific students. One IEP meeting coming up, one student with special needs to discuss, and a group of students receiving learning support to think through. 

8:25. The bell rings and the kids are waiting.

11:25. My first group goes home. I realize that I haven't  had any water, but that's probably good because I didn't have time to use the bathroom anyway. Maybe this is why I have chronic kidney problems.

11:25-12:25. Planning time and lunch break. I usually eat in my classroom because it's my only uninterrupted time to get my work done. I prep a project, respond to 5 parent emails, 3 staff emails, and send another one out to parents. I also read through the math lessons for the week because we have new materials and, although I read it last week, it's confusing. 

12:25. The afternoon kindergarten class is waiting.

3:10. Walk the kids out to the bus and parents.

3:25. The last student is picked up. I'm supposed to have a 3:30 meeting, but ask to be excused from it because I'm double booked. So, I grab my bag and run out the door. I have a Kindergarten meeting across the district that begins at 4:00.

4:00. The meeting begins.  I wish I had some food. At least I finally have time to drink my water.  We are discussing the new report card that is tied to the Common Core State Standards. There is no grading scale that goes along with the report card, so we are trying to work things out so we're all on the same page.

5:30. Arrive home from work.  Hubby worked from home and has a roast cooking. I really, really, love him. I sit down to read the news online. My brain is tired, so I just sit instead.

5:45. Hubby decides the roast is going to need to cook until 7:30, so we need another dinner plan. Looks like CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE NIGHT. We heat up leftover pizza, chicken pot pie, and make some tuna fish... We share everything and it's a disgusting combination but my daughter says it's the greatest dinner ever.

6:45. Clean up is done and my hubby and daughter need to head out to basketball.  He's coaching the 4th grade girls.  My son says he'll help, so they all take off. I start hoping they are all done with homework because I realize I've never even asked.

6:50. Run down to a neighbor's house to talk her "off the ledge" after her remodel. Her house looks great and I tell her so.

7:15. Multi-tasking time. Get the roast out, bake cookies, and read book about math stations for school.

8:00. Kids are home. The youngest doesn't like being upstairs by herself at night, so I read my math book on the bed while she's in the bathroom.

8:30 snuggle with my girl and say good night

8:45 Continue reading my math book

9:45 Bedtime

5:00am. Wake up and head to the gym. It's been a while since I've been hanging out with the five AM crowd. I'm not a regular, but a friend and I have decided to  give it a try. I'm home by 6:00.

6:30. I'm part way done getting ready, but I head downstairs to say good-bye to my oldest before he goes off to catch the bus. I eat breakfast while I'm there and then go finish getting ready.

7:00 Wake up the youngest. Keep her moving!  She's always in slow motion in the morning and just needs someone to prod her along. I need to be out the door by 7:40, so reminders to keep moving are important.  I throw a load of laundry in the washing machine on my way out the door and try to tidy up the family room and kitchen a bit more.  I hate coming home to a messy house.

7:40 Take the youngest to a friend's house so they can walk to school together and then drive myself to work.

8:00 Arrive at work.  I love my short commute through the Snohomish Valley.  I spend a few minutes responding to parent emails and then the staff is called into the library for a short meeting. We are told that we need to be aware that a parent, who was upset by a situation in the lunch room has called the media and the news has been filming at our school.  This was a story that was certainly NOT newsworthy but caused such a tremendous amount of stress in my day and week.  More on that later.

8:25  The kids arrive.  It always makes me happy that they are SO excited to be at school each day.  I work through breaks and lunch because I have too much planning and prep and not enough time.  I don't have any planning time (Music, Library, or PE breaks) on Tuesdays because I teach half day kindergarten.  It makes for a very long day for me because there is no time to answer parent emails, prepare materials or lessons, or even just pick up the room.

3:10 Time for dismissal.  The kids are all picked up by 3:30 and I'm back in my classroom.  We are called back into the library.  Apparently, we've made the national news with our lunch room situation.  The father claims his son was denied lunch be the mean lunch lady.  The news report implies that he had no money, which was why he didn't get to eat.  Our school policy is that all children, regardless of the balance on their account will eat.  There will always be unlimited salad bar, fresh fruits and veggies, milk and juice.  The lunch ladies are fabulous and would never dream of forcing a child to go hungry.  The situation happened over a month ago, on a day when the kids were being dismissed to go home at 11:45.  I think someone wanted his 15 minutes of fame at the expense of our school.

4:00 I leave the classroom and head off to pick up 4 stinky teenage boys from basketball.  (Side note: All the way to my next stop, I'm just steaming about the fiasco this irate father has caused.  All day I heard teachers saying that this is the type of stuff that makes them want to quit their jobs  It's my turn for carpool.  The boys' middle school is on my way home, so it's fairly convenient.  They hop in the car by 4:25 and we start driving home.  Three out of the four boys have a second basketball team that they play for.  Practice begins for that team at 5:45, so they know they have to run home, eat, change, and get back in the car.  They are all talking about what kind of  food they might be able to scrounge up because, of course, they are starving. I mention that we have pulled pork for pulled pork sandwiches.  All I hear is groaning from the back seat.

5:00 Change of plans.  Instead of taking the boys home, I take them to their houses to change and bring them back to our house for dinner.  They all have fresh deodorant at least.  We heat up the pulled pork my husband made the night before, make a quick salad, pull out a few leftover side dishes, and serve the cookies from the night before.  It's the perfect dinner for starving boys.

My hubby and I talk about the day's events - the one at school.  He watched the news story and just stood shaking his head.  He told me not to read the comments because they were pretty nasty.  It's really sad that the school district can't even defend themselves because so much is confidential.  A parent can go out and make claims, but we can't say anything back.  The district made a statement that our policy is to feed all kids.  End of story.

5:30  The boys head out to basketball.  They are going right back to the same gym they just came home from, for another 2 hour practice.  I sit down on the couch for a minute and pull up my facebook feed.  The first thing that pops up is a post in my neighborhood facebook page.  It's a parent who saw the newscast and wanted to share how disgusted she was with my school.  I really had every intention of staying away from this mess.  I have one of the boys in my class, so the father is someone I deal with regularly.  The comments on my facebook page were incredibly hurtful.  SO MUCH JUDGEMENT from a one sided story.  At this point I was sobbing, hyperventilating, and I have never had so much pain in my heart - literally- in my life.  Mainly, I was upset that people believed this story and decided to go on a witch hunt, once again blaming those horrible teachers and school employees for harming children of the world.  I AM SO TIRED OF DEFENDING THE WORK I DO WITH CHILDREN EVERY DAY.  I treat these kids as if they are my own.  I give them food from my own lunch.  I sacrifice time with my own family to meet the needs of someone else's kids EVERY DAY, and this is the kind of thanks I get.  The sad thing is, there's always something.  Always some parent who is upset.  One parent is mad at me for sending out homework in kindergarten and another parent is mad at me for waiting until October before sending out homework.  Parents come into the school office to complain that I'm "confused" and that I should be teaching the AM class instead of the PM class on a particular Friday.  Well, no.  I'm not confused.  I go by the district calendar that all of the parents have as well.  ...sigh... It's always something, but this time it is just way too personal.  It's a slap in the face by people in my own neighborhood who don't even know the beginning of the story.  They only know that the media has spun this into a teacher bashing story, and they are buying it.  I write a comment.  It's a long comment, but I hope I get my point across.

5:50  My hubby comes home and I'm starting my school work.  I have a ton of paperwork, reading, and planning to do for my meeting and evaluation the next day.  I work until 9:20 and call it a day. I'm still in my work clothes.  I'm mentally exhausted.  I haven't gotten to spend time with my kids.  My hubby puts my daughter to bed.  I think I've spoken 10 words to her all day and I feel like a horrible mom.  

9:20  I try to go to bed, but my mind is still racing about the day.  We try to watch a tv show, but I keep interrupting it by crying and getting all upset again.  I hate KNOWING that I'm a good teacher and that I do a good job, but feel that I am constantly defending myself.  Between the media, lawmakers, and public opinion they have made teachers out to be lazy, good for nothing, "bad apples."

5:00am Wake up and get ready.  I have an early morning appointment.  I had to make my first appointment at 7:00 and my second at 9:00 so I wouldn't have to miss too much school.

7:00 Check in for the first appointment.  The first appointment goes fine, but the second one threw me into a tailspin.  I was still very upset from the day before, which didn't help things, but I've developed a fear of needles.  My appointment is with the Neurologist to talk about my upcoming injections into my neck, scalp, and temples for chronic migraines.  She wants to talk about my past two experiences and how I had breakdowns both times.  She also wants to talk about how stress plays a role in my migraines and health in general.  Oh, Dear GOD!  I break down again and don't stop crying until I walk out of there at 10:25.  I wonder why I'm stressed all the time.

10:25  At least I'm leaving with antibiotics and steroids for the sinus infection that never goes away, and I won't have to make another appointment for that.  I have to go back for injections in 2 weeks. She wanted me to take another day off of work so she could give me a sedative before injections but I really don't feel like I can take another day off.  I feel like I'm letting my students and parents down when I do that.  They put me in at a 7:00 AM appointment instead.  That's going to be a great day.  I'm a mess, but I need to get myself together.  My meeting with my principal is in an hour and I look like a disaster.  I stop at Starbucks to buy the poor lunch lady a hot cocoa.  I did read a few comments that I probably shouldn't have, but the public would like, "the teachers of those two sweet little boys and lunch lady taken out back to be beaten."  She needs a pick-me-up.

11:15 Arrive back at school, look over my notes, take the morning class to the bus, and go to my meeting.  I don't technically have to be back until 12:00, but this is the only time I can meet... during my lunch.  I'll eat sometime today.  My meeting goes well and I finish up by 12:15.  I have 10 minutes to get things ready before the kids come.  I still haven't eaten lunch.

12:25  Pick up the afternoon class.  I finally eat my soup from 1:40-1:45.  That was the lunch break.

3:10 Take the kids out to be picked up.

3:30 I'm back in the classroom.  We have a meeting from 3:30-4:30 tonight.  Luckily my part is over sooner and I'm headed out the door by 4:20.

4:45 Arrive home and start making dinner.  It's taco night.  Why do tacos seem like a quick meal, but always take longer than expected?  My son's math tutor is there and he's working hard to bring his grade up.

6:00 We are done with dinner and I beg the kids to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes.  I still have work to do and I really want to have a little time to get it all done. I work on a few math things for school and then finish up some projects for LeapFrog.  The kids do their homework at the same time and I try not to be annoyed when they have questions, but I really need to get my work done too.  Thankfully, my hubby does a little laundry and clean up while I'm working.  Otherwise, that laundry from two days before would still be sitting in the washing machine.

8:00  My daughter needs to go upstairs to take a shower, so I take the computer with me and sit on the bed finishing my work while she's in the bathroom.

8:30 Time to tuck in the littlest one.  Then it's time to tackle the "math talk" and what we are going to do to bring that grade up.  He's on the verge of losing his spot on the basketball team because of academics.  He's doing great in his other classes, but math continues to be a struggle.  

9:30 Bedtime.  It's been a long, long, long week.

I had every intention of keeping track of my time and how I spent my days for a full week, but I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  I know I need to work less and play more.  I know I need to let my school work go a bit and spend time with my family.  It's been a tough week and not all weeks are quite this hard.  Thursday and Friday are better.  We went out to dinner on Thursday night and ran a few errands.  I laughed at m daughter trying to carry 40 pounds of dog food and got to help my son pick out a shirt and tie for his "game day" outfit.  I spent too much money on books for the classroom, but they are awesome books that go along with the curriculum and no one else is going to buy them for me.  I had the chance to finish up a few more LeapFrog projects and submit my invoice.  The extra pay is nice, I'll say that.

I wonder how I would feel if I did this project on a different week?  All weeks feel this crazy and busy, but I usually don't cry my way through the week.  This was was busy and also very emotional.  I know I need to do something about my stress level, but I don't know what.  Thanksgiving is next week, and I'm really looking forward to time with family.  I do love my job, teaching. I love working for LeapFrog. I'm missing my family now that I'm working full time again.  I miss Cookie Friday. I'm SUPER thankful for a supportive husband who picks up so much of my slack.  I love that it's the weekend and I'm planning to make a little time for fun and play.  I think my family deserves a fun mom instead of a mom who spends the week crying.

Happy Friday! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kid Sized Apple Pies

My Kid Sized Apple Pies are now posted on LeapFrog's Learning Path!  Talk about SUPER cute and yummy!  I really loved making these with the kids.  We used our apple corer, peeler, slicer which makes any  apple activity fun.  I'm in charge of a couple of pies on Thanksgiving, and I'm thinking my daughter might have to make these to bring to the party.

If you're interested in the recipe and how to use canning rings to bake them up, click over to LeapFrog's Learning Path.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jam and Cream Cheese Braid

Don't you just want to reach through your screen and take a bite? This is a recipe that my grandma always made on Christmas. It quickly became a favorite in our family. I mean, how can you go wrong with cream cheese filling? It was destined to be a favorite.

This recipe is really simple and it is made the night before you serve it. There is such joy in pulling something this beautiful out of the oven and knowing that the dishes are already done.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 Cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 Cups Bisquick (I told you it was simple!)
1 beaten egg
1 Tbsp sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Combine all ingredients to make the dough for the bread part of the braid. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until it is no longer sticky.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Roll the dough into a 14"x9" rectangle.

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Combine all ingredients. Spread the filling down the middle third of the dough. (For the record, my kids and hubby like it best when I leave out the lemon juice.)

Slice the outer edges of the dough in one inch strips.

Fold the strips over the filling at an angle.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Once the braid is out of the oven, it's time to top it with a little homemade raspberry jam.

It cooks for about 5 more minutes. Then it is the perfect golden brown, with the warm raspberry jam rolling down the sides.

I have the perfect tray for serving my jam and cheese braid. I've had this piece for years and I think this is the only thing I serve in it.

It's the perfect Sunday morning treat.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LeapTV Review

I was recently given a LeapTV to try out.  The product was provided to me by LeapFrog but the opinions here are all my own.

The LeapTV was sent pre-loaded with several games. Some of the games that were loaded into my LeapTV are normally sold separately, but they were included in ours so we could review them.  The LeapTV comes with 1 controller and I was sent a second controller so we could play partner games.  Kart Racing is always a favorite when played as a 2 player game.

Let me start with the good things.  I will start by telling you that this is SUPER cool.  Yes, we have other gaming systems in the house, but those were made for adults and just sell kid games to go along with them.  The LeapTV was designed just for kids.  It's made for kids 3-8.  Not only is it made for kids, but it is also the PERFECT learning tool/gaming cross!  Kids combine activity and movement with educational curriculum.  So, your child might be playing the Spiderman game and all of a sudden they have to find all of the capital letters in order to gain more power, or find the capital letter A that is facing the right direction.  The cool thing about LeapFrog technology is that it is self-leveling.  So, your child might start out at a standard kindergarten level, but then if they breeze through things, the game will level up to a "just right" academic level.  In the same way, if your child is getting lots of answers wrong, it will level itself down to a more comfortable level.  Let me tell you, "just right levels" make this teacher very happy.  I was also thrilled with the kindergarten level skills I was seeing.  They were things that we are currently working on in the kindergarten clasroom!

The LeapTv has three different ways to play.  It uses body motion with a camera that senses movement, the regular controller which you play with the A and B button and the little joystick movement button, or you can convert the controller to a pointer and you kind of use it like a magic wand.  

The games that you can purchase are of high interest to kids.  They have games like Spiderman, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Sophia the First, a LeapFrog Sports game, and LeapFrog Dance.  We loved the sports games the best.

Now for the negative stuff.  We wished that the controller had another "notch" so you could open it up a bit more, for larger hands.  There were a couple of sport games that would pause and wouldn't let us get out of that spot.  We ended up turning off that machine and turning it back on, and then just skipping that particular activity.  There were plenty of other activities, so it wasn't a big deal.  We also had trouble with lighting at first.  We started playing with the windows open and the bright light behind us made it hard for the sensor to read.  My 13 year old was the first one to say, "Well, duh... you're supposed to close the blinds when you play video games so the sensor doesn't have to work so hard."  Well, apparently that was a DUH moment that I would have understood if I spent any amount of time on the x-box."  Oh, and it actually mentions that in the directions but I missed that part.  That was a mom-error I guess. Looking at the big picture, the negatives were really very minor and not a big deal.  

One thing I noticed in playing this system was the lack of frustration.  I remember when we first bought our Wii, X-Box, and Playstation (no, we don't have all of those anymore), and the frustration my kids had.  I remember my husband coming to rescue many times because we couldn't get Franklin to the picnic or couldn't get Dora to fly where she was supposed to go.  Those gaming systems were HARD for little people.  The thing I love about LeapTV is that it's made just for kids.  When something is made for kids and it's just the right level, the frustration is gone and it's all about pure learning fun!

If you are looking for a gaming system for the 3-8 year old crowd, look no further than LeapTV.  It is absolutely awesome.  I've told people that it's the best thing LeapFrog has come out with since The Letter Factory DVD.  If you know me, you know how much I love The Letter Factory.  I love that this combines easy to play games that kids love with LEARNING!  I also love the self leveling that comes with LeapFrog products.  It's pretty cool!  

Happy gaming and learning!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Back From Dallas and Ready To Tell You All About It

I'm back from Dallas!  I have lots to share about the conference itself, but I think I'll do that on my Literacy Blog.  I'm not sure everyone wants hear about the current trends in early childhood, songs to engage young children, or about the authors I heard speak.  If you're interested in seeing a few cool photos of Dallas, you're in the right place.

This is the hotel  I stayed at.  It was in the historic district and I thought it was really cool.  The sign said it was built in 1925.  It had old doors and door knobs, which I love.  The elevator made a really old sounding ding at each floor. 

The city was beautiful and filled with lights.

I was kind of in love with the buildings.  This one was the building I looked at when I walked out the front door of the hotel.

These next two pictures are the views from my hotel room.  Yes, that's blue sky and sunshine out there too!  This Seattle native couldn't have been happier.

Just down the street from my hotel was this building.  Recognize it?  Look one floor down from the top, all the way to the right.  See how that window looks like it's open and there are a few boxes in the window?  That's the window that Lee Harvey Oswald stood in.

 This is the old School Book Depository.

I had to really hurry to be able to see the building and museum.  My last class ended at 4:30 on Thursday and they let the last visitor in at 5:15.  I ran back to my hotel, changed my shoes, dropped off my bag, and hustled down the street.  Luckily, my hotel was only about 2 blocks away.  The lady at the front desk told me to go to the 7th floor first because it was the only floor I could take pictures on and it was getting dark.  

When I got to the 7th floor, it was completely empty.  The only person there was the security guard.  He told me I was really lucky because normally there would be 50-150 in that room with me. It was kind of eerie.  The only sound I could hear was my shoes, as I was walking. I stood in the corner window and saw the same view that Lee Harvey Oswald did.  Honestly, I got a little choked up.  I don't know if it was seeing the same view or the eerie silence, but it got to me a bit.  I wasn't even born when it happened, but it felt overwhelming to be in a spot where such an historic event took place.  

As you look out the window, down toward the road, you can see that car driving along.  That is just about the exact spot where John F. Kennedy was when he was shot and killed.

Really, the only thing in this room is the view and two large pictures. I went to the 6 floor, where the shooting took place, and went through the guided tour of the museum.  I wish I could have taken pictures there too, but that's not allowed.

Here's the view, looking down the other street, so you can see how close my hotel is.  It's the smaller white building on the left.

As you walk down the sidewalk in the spot Kennedy was shot, you can see two X's.  They mark the spots  on the road where he was hit.

I guess I always thought that exact spot would be turned into a tribute area or something, but it shocked me that it was just a road with 2 white X's.

This is a view from across the street.  The far grassy area is the "grassy knoll" that you always hear about.

I can't even begin to tell you what a cool trip this was.  Being asked to help present at the NAEYC conference was overwhelmingly awesome.  Staying in an historic building with an amazing amount of history right down the street just pushed the trip's level of awesomeness over the top.

Thanks, LeapFrog, for the opportunity of a lifetime!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dallas Bound!!

Not too much longer and I'm off to Dallas!  A few weeks ago, my friends at LeapFrog contacted me and asked if I could sit on a panel of educators at the NAEYC conference. Those of you in education or with young kids at home may recognize NAEYC. It's the National Association of Educators of Young Children.  I happily agreed to go, as it's a DREAM to be able to even attend the conference!

Well, one thing led to another, and soon after finding out I was able to go, I found myself not only slated to sit on a panel and share information, but now present content. Wow!! So, now I'm not just attending an AMAZING conference, but presenting at the conference!  (Yes, I bought myself a pretty new outfit!)

I had to laugh a little when I received my itinerary because it included info about my driver.  MY DRIVER! I was planning on printing out my coupon for parking and driving myself to SeaTac, but LeapFrog has other plans which involve a town car and driver. Seriously, how do I get so lucky?

My driver, flight, hotel, dinner, and conference fees have all been paid by LeapFrog. This is such an amazing opportunity for this (two thumbs pointing toward me) teacher. I did have to use all of my personal days and an unpaid day, but it's a small price to pay, considering the opportunity and the cost that has already been covered. 

I will bring my fancy-pants camera and let you know how it goes, friends! I found out that the hotel is very close to the spot JFK was shot and that there is a museum there. I'm hoping I get a chance to see the museum while I'm there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Three Best Photos - 8th Grade Photography Continued

My son is wrapping up his 8th grade photography class and one of his assignments was to choose his 3 favorites from the quarter-long class.  It was really interesting to watch as he scrolled through the photos he has taken in the past few weeks.  He talked about why liked certain photos and how it was hard to pick "favorites".  In the end, these are the 3 he picked.

This one was from the gym at his middle school,.

Here's one from our yard on a rainy fall morning.  He's been really having fun with perspective photos.

Finally, here is one from the football field at his school  This was one of the first pictures he took and it's been a long standing favorite.

It's been really fun for me to have him taking this class.  He's been totally interested in learning more about photography and constantly looking up new information online or watching YouTube videos about different techniques and equipment.  Unfortunately, he thinks he needs a fancy-pants camera now. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Um.. Who Is This Kid?

Who are you, and what have you done with my son?

Maybe he wanted something.  Or maybe he caused some trouble around the 'hood on Halloween night.  

We spent our Halloween night with a handful of teenagers hanging out at our house, a few kiddos out trick-or-treating with their dads, and a few kids staying for a sleepover.  We woke up in the morning, made a SUPER fast breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and then threw the dishes in the sink and ran out to soccer.  You can imagine the mess of serving breakfast to a group of 2 adults and 5 kids, but we had no time to deal with it.  We drove up to soccer, took team pictures, cheered on the team, grabbed some lunch on the way home, and didn't get home until well into the afternoon.  When we walked in the door, this is what I saw!

I didn't know if I should cry, hug him, or look for the intruder who must have been threatening my son in some way.  Counters clear, dishes done, and the remnants of breakfast put away.

Not only was the kitchen clean, but the family room where the boys had slept was cleaned up and vacuumed.  No candy wrappers.  No sleeping bags.  No stinky-boy socks.  Just a sweet little puppy watching his boy work.

Then, the next day, after helping me in the kitchen again, he found a recipe for roasted cauliflower that he whipped up for our family party. 

Seriously, friends, I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall.  He's a teenager and this is not the norm for us, so I'm a little worried about the backlash from this.  I don't know what it will be, but I can assure you that it's coming.  I'm afraid.  Very, very afraid.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A New Shelf

A few months ago my son tossed a kitchen towel toward the couch and inadvertently broke a table in the family room.  For the record, the table was on its last leg anyway... literally.  I bought the little table for $8.00 at Goodwill and used it as an outdoor table.  When the weather turned rainy, I brought it into the house but didn't really know where to put it.  My daughter liked the way the table top spun and played with it a bit too much, leading to cracking.  I propped it in the corner and tried to make it pretty, while telling the kids to not put anything on the table because I had it balanced just right.

Onto the story about how a kitchen towel broke the table:

We had laundry waiting to be folded on the couch, including a few kitchen towels.  My son tossed a towel over to the couch and it hit the little lamp on the coffee table.  When the lamp moved, the table became off balanced causing it to fall, which then pulled the cords for the other lamps nearby and knocked those lamps off our taller shelves too.

Now that you know the story of How a Kitchen Towel Broke My Table, I can show you my pretty new shelf in the corner of my family room.

I looked all over the place for a medium sized table that had additional storage.  I was really looking for things like industrial carts that had a rustic feel, but all of those were too expensive.  A couple nights ago, we were at TJMaxx, killing a little time before a movie, and I spotted this little shelf.  It was just what I was looking for.  I wanted something a little taller, so I'd get better lighting from my lamp in the corner.  I also wanted something wood-toned but not matchy-matchy pieces.

I really wanted a place to store more "stuff" in my family room.  This shelf has room for a basket and blanket at the bottom, books and pretty jars, a few picture albums, a picture, and my new lamp that I bought with my birthday money.

I'm liking my pretty new corner in the family room!  It looks like it belongs there.

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake

Dear Sally Blake,

I've never met you before but I eat your pumpkin cake every year.  Somewhere along the road of life, you met my sister, fed her some of your yummy pumpkin cake, and she wrote down the recipe.  Eventually, I tried that pumpkin cake and thought it was worth adding to my recipe book.

Sally, I made your pumpkin cake for my family last week, like I do every year at about this time, and they fell in love all over again.  They tell me I should make it more often, even when it's not pumpkin season.  They tell me it's the best treat I could make on cold fall evening.

Thanks, Sally Blake, wherever you are.

Happy Fall,

And here's Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake Recipe:

4 eggs
1 3/4 Cup sugar
1 Cup oil
1 16ox can of pumpkin
2 Cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Combine wet ingredients.  Then fold in dry ingredients. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 pan and bake for 30-45 minutes.  Sally's recipe says to bake it for 30 minutes, but I've always needed 45 with my oven.  Remove from oven when the cake springs back when you touch the middle. Cool completely.

Frosting Recipe:

3 oz of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup of butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
a tiny bit of milk

Frost the cake with your cream cheese frosting and enjoy!  Thanks again, Sally Blake.  We love your pumpkin cake!

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