Monday, July 28, 2014

The quest for a perfect chocolate smoothie...

I am on the quest for the perfect (or almost perfect) chocolate smoothie. Why? Because why not? Ok, that's not a real answer. I have been having fun trying new smoothies for breakfast or lunch and I wanted something packed with protein. I have been working on tracking my eating habits, and I noticed the two major areas where I consistently lack nutrients are in the protein and iron categories (this isn't a shock to me, with both pregnancies I became anemic and had to go on iron pills, so I am sure I was already behind before the pregnancies).

I did a lot of research on various types of chocolate smoothies. Most have the same basic ingredients: cocoa powder, honey, some creamy base (banana or avocado), and then a variety of other things to round out the flavors and nutrition content. I decided to start with a smoothie with the following ingredients: frozen banana, honey, vanilla, spinach, cocoa powder, peanut butter, and Greek yogurt (I think that was everything). I added some ice just to make it extra cold, and finished it off with some chia seeds. Overall, I liked the texture, but it was too banana-y for me. I felt overwhelmed by the banana flavor.

Today, I tried the following: cocoa powder, peanut butter, almond milk, 1/2 avocado, honey, vanilla, spinach, and Greek yogurt. This one was MUCH better. It was too peanut-y though, so next time less PB. I also got almond butter to try, so I might try that.

I am going to try a few other concoctions this week to see how they turn out. I like the high protein of this smoothie, plus, I feel like I am getting a sweet treat without being totally unhealthy! Both smoothies were definitely filling. The first one filled me through dinner!

If anyone has an ideas or contributions for chocolate smoothie recipes, please share!! I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Living a life offline

A few days ago I was scanning Facebook and came across a blog/article from Baby Center titled "Do we live in an 'anti-mother' culture?" I am not a huge fan of mommy wars posts because I believe they are perpetuated by mothers and steeped in our increasingly social media-centric culture. I think the only way mommy wars will stop is if female bloggers/tweeters/Facebook users (etc) stop worrying about being 'perfect' and just work for happy (and stop sizing themselves up against other moms). Anyway, the reason this article caught my eye is because it says this:
The rise of social media and the spread of technology has made the sharing of opinions much more accessible and while nobody wants to believe they are impressionable, a good deal of what we read is considered when we develop our own opinions. There is clearly a void where mothers and fathers used to have approval, help, and compassion from other parents.
Finally, someone acknowledged the role that social media plays in the perpetuation of these 'wars'! Recently, I decided to cut back on some of the social media outlets I read and subscribe to in an effort to disentangle myself from the web of negativity that this competition breeds. I try not to fall into the trap of comparison, but I know I do because the Internet is full of mom blogs, tweets, pins, etc...that are constantly telling me I should try this and do that and be this. I want to do and try and be for myself. I don't need other people telling me, showing me, how to raise my kids. 
That said, I don't think I can completely cut the ties to social media. Our society is too steeped in these forms of communication (and, increasingly, my profession is too tied to these forms of communication) to totally remove myself from the online world. As I grow as a person and a mother, I have come to realize that the best support I have on this parenting journey are the people that I have in my life-- my husband, my parents, my family, and my friends. The proverbial village isn't found across Internet wires, it's found in the real world, in my real life, with real people. 
So, here's to living a life offline, stopping the wars, and living life in the real village.
(And, yes, I realize the great irony of this post is that I am writing it online...I said I was cutting back (cutting things out), not giving it all up completely!)


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

17 Months!

At 17 months Jack loves...

1. ...doing the booty dance (long story, learned from Lily...).
2. ...trying, and trying, and trying to jump!
3. ...saying a very few words, his favorite being sit!
4. ...mango. He inhales it.
5. ...cheesing at everyone he sees (and waving, too).
6. ...his sister. He loves to imitate her.
7. ...using a fork and spoon (or, at least, trying to do so...).
8. ...blowing his nose and wiping his face.
9. ...wearing hats. Any hats.
10. ...and, of course, mama and dada!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To create an education blog or not...

When I started this blog my intent was to write about my kids. I used it to update friends and family about our goings on and about our family life. As I started writing more, I started touching on other topics-- crafts, food, etc...-- a bit of a variation on the original, but still related to family life. Recently, I started blogging more about education, another topic in which I am deeply involved. I have written a few education-related posts, and have discovered that I really enjoy writing about education. It forces me to research, and, more importantly, engages me in my vocation in a way moves beyond the classroom. I try not to dispense advice (about anything...because I am no expert in any field...), but, rather, to provide insights and experiences (both good and bad) about the things that I do and enjoy.

The reason I am rambling on about this is that I am considering branching my education posts off into their own blog. I am not quite sure that people (mostly family and friends) who want to read about my kids, also want to read about educational topics. Maybe they do, a lot of my readers are also teachers, but these topics are fairly different, and I am starting to think each deserves its own space.

So, everyone, thoughts?? Separate the blogs? Or just maintain one...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lily's Loves July 2014

This month Lily loves...

1. ...being an "awesome big sister!" (her words...)
2. ...baby pizzas (lunchable pizzas).
3. ...swimming!
4. ...doing everything all by herself.
5. ...having dance parties.
6. ...pretending to be a pirate, or princess, or snakes, or...
7. ...swaddling her teddy bear like a baby.
8. ...talking about going to the beach with grammy and grandpa.
9. ...playing with her friends.
10. ...and, of course, mommy and daddy!


Friday, July 18, 2014

"Are you happy?"

"Are you happy?"

In the world of Fahrenheit 451 happiness looks like television walls, seashell ear buds, and dangerously fast cars. It embodies the "pleasure" of burning, the "love" of "the family", and the thrill of danger. Mildred's happiness looks like tiny pills; Beatty's like flames. "Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag," is all the world really wants, achieved by the cleansing flames.

Fahrenheit 451 should, in this 21st century world, deeply disturb anyone who reads it. Bradbury's dystopian novel about the rise of technology, the eradication of books, and the death of knowledge and curiosity is a warning to us, a prophecy, about our own society and its destruction. 

Other dystopian novels--The Giver, or The Hunger Games--work in similar ways. In The Giver, the world is void of color and emotion. Don't feel pain, don't get upset, don't disrupt the status quo. And, definitely don't be an individual (this isn't hard because the construct of society won't let you be unique, everyone is essentially, the same). 

In The Hunger Games the people of the Capital believe they are high society. Pictures of sophistication they wear the latest fashion, have the most money, and eat the most food. They can afford to be lazy and live lives of excess. Really, though, they are mere caricatures of people, and their dyed hair, artificial skin tone, extravagant clothes, and outlandish lifestyle is all mockery. They don't see it because they live it, but the people outside the Capital, especially those in the most impoverished districts, they see it very clearly. 

Three very different novels all held together by one very strong thread--in our future happiness will fail to exist if we let "things"- technology, money, power, etc.- become more important than people. 

This morning, I was talking to Tom about cell phones. We were discussing a dinner we had been to where our dinner guest was on a cell phone for almost the entire meal. Neither of us said anything, unsure if it would be rude. Similarly, my students cannot seem to live without a phone in their hands. Texting, tweeting, snapchatting, technologies that did not exist 5, 10, 20 years ago, have captured the hearts and minds of 16-year-olds everywhere. 

This is my fear-- that happiness is no longer equated with human attachment (to love and to be loved); rather, it is equated the next quick fix. Tired of your cell phone? Get a newer, better, faster one. Tired of your job? Quit! There is always something better out there, right? Tired of your marriage? Get a divorce! Tired of your house? Just sell it and move! Do everything quickly. Do it now. Don't wait. Happiness is just over there, if you squint really hard. Just...see it...over there?

These writers, Bradbury in 1950, Lowry in the early 1990s, and Collins today, all knew, and know, what so many fail to realize: if we stop interacting on a human-to-human level; if we abandon natural human curiosity for the next quick fix; if we live a life denying our emotions (good or bad) that we will surely be the makers of our own destruction. 

And that is terrifying. And it should be terrifying.

It should be so frightening that people should want to do something about it. Reclaim the family, reclaim friendships, reclaim life. And yet, I see students sitting at long cafeteria tables with their friends staring at cell phones. I see fewer and fewer kids playing outside. I hear of more destruction.

Happiness isn't at the end of a cell signal. Look up from your phone. Look at your life. Reclaim it now before its too late.

"...We're going to build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them."

(The quotes are from Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Philadelphia

This past weekend I attended the 2014 National AP Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Tom also attended, so it was our first extended trip away from the kids. The conference itself was awesome! I attended 6 sessions, and while 2 sessions proved to miss the mark just a little, the other 4 were awesome.

The two sessions that I thought were the best was a session on AP boot camp and a session on using literature and poetry as evidence in an argument. The boot camp session leader was phenomenal! He was so engaging and enthusiastic and his passion for teaching was so evident. I learned a few tips and tricks to implementing an AP boot camp, and I think it is something I am going to try to do with my students. The basic idea is community and skill building prior to content learning, so that content learning will be "easier". I say "easier" because the skill building helps establish those things students need for content learning. I got some really awesome resources from the session, too, so that is always helpful.

The lit. and poetry as evidence in an argument was facilitated by Renee Shea and Robin Aufses who co-authored The Language of Composition (a text I use in my class). Needless to say, seeing these women was the English teacher equivalent of meeting a celebrity! Their session was awesome. I got a ton of ideas for using literature as evidence, and I think the information will really enhance my students' writing. I love to teach non-fiction and poetry in my AP class, but it is hard to integrate it with the non-fiction upon which the course so heavily relies. This session helped me figure out how to integrate those pieces, which will help break-up the use of non-fiction.

Beyond the sessions, I picked up 26 books! There was a hall filled with vendors who were pushing their books, and other AP related materials. Tom and I picked up some very expensive books, which is awesome (and just the cost of books was worth the trip!). I am excited to share these new materials with my colleagues!

In between the sessions, we went to dinner at Max Brenner with my colleagues who also attended the conference. Max Brenner was awesome! The food was delicious, but really, the restaurant is known for desserts. Tom and I shared a delicious s'mores sundae. I would definitely make the trip back for more delicious chocolate (and food!).

The second night we went to the Phillies game. The night was perfect-- not too hot--and there was a nice breeze. We got our cheese steak fix and had Crabfries (which is so Baltimore, but was trademarked by Chickie's and Pete's). They claim that the fries are a special blend of seasoning, but it tasted like Old Bay. Totally Maryland. The Phillies played the Nats, so there was so hometown pull, but ultimately, I didn't really care who won. The game was fun and very relaxing.

It was very nice to spend some time away from the kids, and to be able to sleep without being beckoned by a little voice multiple times throughout the night. The kids did a fairly good job being away from us for 2 days and nights. Lily did ask my mom if Tom and I still love her (seriously, Lily!?! break my heart a little more!). Other than that, they had fun with grandma and poppy and grammy and grandpa. And, of course, a HUGE thanks to our parents for watching the kids. We always appreciate the helping hands!

I am already hoping to attend next year's conference in Austin. I am also hoping to be a presenter, so fingers crossed as I work on my proposal!