Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 in the Rearview Mirror

2020 is coming to an end (is that a collective "Amen!" I hear?) and between the Covid and the politics it feels like this year was really 10 years smooshed into one. Let's recap, shall we?

a look back at 2020

Most popular post this year: You all really liked reading about how I DIY my own laundry detergent.

Least popular blog post: It's a tie between Daylight Savings Time and the Blog Redesign

Favorite books read this year: Probably Evvie Drake Starts Over and The Silent Patient.  I wrote a brief review about each of them back in August.

The Silent Patient book Evvie Drake Starts Over book

Things our grocery store was frequently out of besides toilet paper and cleaning supplies: Salmon, black beans (what was that about??), Christmas sprinkles, Christmas paper plates, yeast, flour, sugar, ice cream.

Biggest accomplishment: Surviving. We've had plenty of laughs and good times this year but I won't pretend like the anxiety didn't overwhelm at times.  

Biggest fail: I burned a pot of spaghetti. Yes, apparently, that's a thing that can happen. Who knew?

Things I did to help preserve democracy: Phone banked, donated to campaigns, made sure friends/family voted.

Things to look forward to in 2021 (in expected order of occurrence):  The inauguration.  Graduating.  Sitting inside a coffee shop.  Browsing a book store.  Taking a vacation (destination TBD).  Visiting long distance family.  

Netflix Binges: The Mindy Project, Schitt's Creek, The Office, Tiger King (That was this year? Feels like forever ago.), The Great British Baking Show, Man With A Plan. 

What are your reflections on the year? Did you find any great new books or tv shows?  Enjoy extra family time or nearly kill each other?  Did anyone else burn spaghetti? No? Just me. Okay then.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Gift Ideas for Teachers When You're E-Learning

 Whatever you call it: remote learning, e-learning, digital learning, is all the same.  Many students this year are e-learning due to either their parent's choice in an effort to keep them safe or the school having to go to remote learning because of rising Covid-19 cases.  

A common misconception is that teachers are doing nothing during e-learning.  The truth however, is that teachers are still working and probably harder than they had to when they were in the building!  Lesson videos have to be made, every student checked in with, paper packets made for students who don't have internet, assessments changed into digital format, classwork still needs graded, parents and students have constant questions, etc.

As we roll towards the winter holiday season, please don't forget your child's teacher.  Gift giving can be hard when you aren't going to SEE the person.  Ordinarily you could just tuck a gift in your child's backpack and send them on the bus.  But what do you do now when there's no way to get a gift to the teacher?

Here are some ideas for gifts you can give your child's teacher this Christmas that they will love and that honor the social distancing rules.

1. Target gift card. 

Is there a gift list that doesn't include a Target gift card? LOL  Everyone loves them. These can be very easily emailed to the teacher and I've always had luck with the recipients getting the email.  Bonus: There's no physical card to risk getting lost!

2. Teachers Pay Teachers gift card.  

This website allows teachers to get many things for free but there are also items that cost money.  Things are reasonably priced, many at $1-5.  Teachers can get extra games, activities, and lesson ideas from this site.  In fact, I don't know any teacher who doesn't use TpT at some point in the year.  A $5 gift card would go a long way and just like the Target cards, these are digital and simple to email.

Elearning gift ideas for teachers

3. Write a note telling them what you appreciate about them. 

Be specific: the funny video they sent your child when he was sick and they wanted to cheer him up?  How organized they have been through e-learning?  That they still found a way to honor your child's birthday while e-learning?  That they always have a smile on their face?  

Find some specifics and write them down.  Email it or write it by hand and snap a pic that you send.  This gift costs nothing but will mean the world to the teacher. Trust me.

4. Send their boss an email and CC the teacher.  

Let the principal know how much this teacher has done for the students.  It doesn't have to be long "Dear Principal Pat, I just wanted to say how much Jimmy has enjoyed being in Mrs. Great's class this year.  Even though we've had to distance learn, Mrs. Great has found ways to build a relationship with Jimmy.  He talks constantly about what book she is reading to them and is always eager to log in for his daily Zoom.  Signed, Parent."

Bonus tip: This is a nice way to acknowledge specials teachers too.  Gym, art, library, music---those teachers love your kids too!  

5. Coordinate some parents to create a book.

If you are able to contact the other parents, you could ask them to do #3 (write a little card/note about what they appreciate about the teacher) and snap a pic of their child with the card.  Parents will send you the photos and you can assemble them into a Google Slides presentation that you then share with the teacher.  The teacher will be able to print the pages and make themselves a book.  Alternatively you could make the book  yourself with an app like Shutterfly, though then you couldn't deliver the book to the teacher digitally.

Gift ideas for elearning teachers

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What to do the day you lose your job

Job loss.  Layoffs. Getting fired.  No matter the reason, losing your job is scary.  We've been through it before.  I remember being surprised at how BUSY we were even though neither of us had a full time job (I was a stay at home mom at the time)!  

If you're reading this, you've likely just found out your job has been cut.  I'm here to share with you the first things to do when you lose your job.

1. Don't beat yourself up.  

Layoffs happen. People get fired for reasons that are stupid.  Hold your head high and march forward.

2. Find out how to continue your health insurance.  

It's unfortunate in our country that our health care is tied to our employment but it's how things are for now.  You may be eligible for COBRA insurance.  Try your very best to not go without health insurance even when you are unemployed.

3. Look up the hours for your unemployment office.

If they are still open, call them.  Find out what you need to do to file.  This process takes awhile so you want to start filing for unemployment benefits ASAP. 
What to do the day you lose your job

4. Call the local WIC office

If you or your spouse have children under the age of 5 or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be eligible for WIC (Women Infants Children).  The eligibility is less strict than food stamps and you would have a good chance at being eligible. 

WIC doesn't provide all your food for the month but they do give things like milk, cheese, carrots, cereal, bread, some baby formula if you formula  feed, etc.  It can be a huge help to your finances.  Click here to see the eligibility requirements for WIC.

5. Visit your SNAP office

SNAP is the food stamp office.  You can find eligibility information on the USDA website here.  Like unemployment, filing for SNAP benefits is a process that requires you to gather various pieces of paperwork and submit an application.  Start by visiting or giving them a call to find out how to proceed.

6. Stop all non-necessary monthly bills

If you're paying monthly for HBO, a cleaning service, subscription boxes like ipsy, or any other kind of monthly bill that's not necessary...cancel it TODAY.  We don't have cable or satellite any more but when we did we preferred Dish Network because you were able to quit at any time without a penalty. 
You will need to keep internet and cell phone service if at all possible. It's extremely hard to job hunt without home internet.  Your local library is an option but for now I'd try to keep your home internet.  
Many people don't have a home phone and just have cell phones now.  Perhaps you can move to a cheaper plan or have one with less data.  Call and see if you can lower the monthly bill.

7. Sell stuff online

When my husband lost his job I immediately listed 3 or 4 things for sale in one of those Facebook sales groups.  I had photos taken and posted before he even got home that night.  It was just a few Longaberger baskets worth $75 or less but it was something.  If you've got a few things laying around that you know you don't need, go ahead and list them online for sale.

8. Organize your contacts

So you've lost your job and now you need a new one.  Make a list of some contacts you know who may work for competitors or at jobs in a similar field.  Plan on calling them today or tomorrow and letting them know you're in the market for something new and do they have any leads.

9. Update your resume

Some advice I got years ago was to keep your resume updated regularly.  Hopefully your resume is fairly up to date but regardless, pull that bad boy out and update it so that you can start attaching it to applications and applying for jobs.  There are free templates online if you need to start from scratch and I've also had success with the basic Microsoft Word resume templates available.  

Keep your resume to 1 page unless you have very technical job certifications and experiences.  As a general rule, those of us under 45 years old shouldn't have more than a 1 page resume.  Employers aren't going to read every little thing on there.  You just want them to look at it and think "YES, we need to interview this person!"  
- - - - - - - - - -
I hope doing these 9 things immediately after you lose your job will help you make it through and find your next opportunity!  Remember, keep your head high and don't take rejection personally.  When I was job searching, I read that it takes an average of 100 "no"s before you get a yes.  

Good luck!

Lost your job? Do these 9 things ASAP!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The #1 Trick That Gets People to RSVP!

You've spent money buying invitations or spent time hand making them yourself.  All the perfect party details are ready. You wait to hear back. *crickets*.  

When no one sends an RSVP, it puts the party host in a lurch. Do you plan goody bags for 5 kids or 25?!  Without an RSVP you can't be sure whether to tell the caterer 30 people or 100 people for the retirement party.

A few years ago I stumbled upon one trick that gets guaranteed RSVPs.  It's simple and effective.  I first tried it for one of my children's birthday parties and got RSVPs the day after mailing invitations and had nearly 100% of people reply, even the ones who couldn't come!

Knowing who was going to be at the party made it much easier to plan!
One trick to finally get those RSVPs

Are you ready to know the secret to getting RSVPs?

Offer a door prize for the first person to RSVP.  

That's it!  On the birthday invitation, or as a slip you include inside the envelope, let guests know "Door prize for the first person to RSVP!"  You could even offer it as "The first 2 people to RSVP will get a prize!"

What to offer as the RSVP prize?  

Anything you want!  It could be a gift card, a houseplant, locally made snacks, or a small candle for a grown-up party.  For a child's party you might give the first RSVP a pack of bubbles, or the $1 size giant box of movie candy, a gift card to a local store, playdoh play pack, etc.  

What you offer doesn't so much matter (and the guests won't even know until they show up to claim the prize) but just putting "Door prize for first person to RSVP!" on the invitations guarantees you'll hear back from most people and be able to plan your party accordingly.

I absolutely hate not getting RSVPs when I've worked hard to plan a party!  This rsvp trick has helped me be able to better plan for party day!  

Try it out and let me know if it works for you too!
One easy way to get people to rsvp to your invitation

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Feed Your Family of 4 on just $99 / week!

Meal planning and grocery budgeting.  The bane of everyone's existence. Groceries are the most flexible spending category when it comes to budgeting so it is the area we all work at being the most frugal in when trying to save money.  And yet. It seems so tedious sometimes. 

I've created a week's worth of meals that will feed your family for $99, including all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and a couple of snack items too.  Whether you're on a tight budget or just looking to tighten up the wallet a bit, hopefully this meal plan will give you a starting place!  
Budget meal plan and grocery list free printable

*Your costs may likely be lower than $99 for the week if you already have a few of the items on hand such as pancake mix and salad dressing.

*The estimated costs are based on my mid-west existence at stores like Kroger and Target.  If you live elsewhere or shop at pricier places, obviously, your expenses could vary.  

*Likewise, if you can get these items at an Aldi near you, you may spend EVEN LESS than $99 to feed your family of 4 this week!

Ready to meal plan and save money?  Here's what we have:

Inexpensive breakfast ideas

Oatmeal ($2 for a container that has 30 servings)
Banana (.25 each. $7 for the week)

Breakfast Costs: $9 total
Oatmeal- $2 for large container
Bananas- $7 (.25 each, x 28 bananas)

Inexpensive lunches

1- PBJ, celery sticks, pretzel sticks
2- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt
3- PBJ, hard boiled egg, yogurt
4- PBJ, yogurt, pretzel sticks, apple slices
5- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt pretzel sticks
6- PBJ, apple slices, celery sticks
7- PBJ, apple slices, yogurt, pretzel sticks

Lunch Costs: $23 total
Yogurt- 3 lg tubs at $2 each=$6
Pretzel sticks- $2 
2 loaves bread- $2
Jar PB- $2
Jar Jelly- $2
Bag of apples- $4
Eggs- $1 
Celery- $2
Strawberries- $2

Dinner ideas on a budget

1- Whole roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, frozen peas
2- Spaghetti with sauce, garlic bread, organic salad w/ dressing
3- Soup, grilled cheese
4- Baked potatoes, baked beans, frozen broccoli
5- Frozen pizza, green beans, baby carrots, fresh or canned peaches
6- Pancakes and scrambled eggs, fresh oranges
7- Tacos, frozen or canned corn

Dinner Costs: $52.50 total
Whole chicken- $5
Bag of potatoes- $3
Frozen peas- $1
Spaghetti- $1
Spaghetti Sauce- $2
Garlic bread- $2
Organic Salad- $3
Salad dressing- $2 (you may already have)
Soup (2 cans)- $2
Bread for grilled cheese -$1
American cheese slices-$2
Baked beans- $1.50
Frozen broccoli- $2
Frozen pizza- $4
Green beans- $1
Baby carrots- $1
Peaches- $2
Pancake mix- $2 (you may already have)
Scrambled eggs- $0 (use the remaining 8 eggs from the $1 eggs you bought for lunch)
Fresh oranges-$3 (about .75 each)
Ground beef- $3
Taco Kit- $3
Sour cream- $1
Tomatoes- $2
Taco cheese- $2
Frozen corn- $1

Now that meals are planned for, there are a few extras you may want.  Sure no one needs coffee but really?  Let's try to work it into the budget.  Along with creamer. If you're able to drink your coffee black, more power to you.  But I've gotta add some vanilla creamer.  Also included are string cheese and popcorn in case someone in the family needs a snack between meals.
Grocery list for families on a budget

Grocery Extras Total: $14.50
Milk- $3
Coffee- $4.50
Creamer- $2
Popcorn- $2
String cheese- $3

Grand total of all groceries for one week for a family of 4: $99!
Feed your family for $99 this week with this free printable menu and shopping list

Honestly when I started planning this post, I was just trying to be under $110.  And it came out even less than $100 to feed our family of 4!  Humbling (we can definitely be spending less than we have been!) and encouraging (holy smokes, we can really lower our food budget and free up money for other things!).

Monday, September 14, 2020

Do this 1 thing on Sunday to make the rest of your week easier!

1 simple hack to make your work week easier

Ahhh Sunday nights.  I love my job as a teacher but I still get that back-to-work anxiety setting in on Sunday nights about the upcoming work week.  You too, eh?  After having been a stay at home mom for about 12 years, I entered the workforce full time.  With 2 adults working full time and 2 children in school, mornings can turn stressful.  Yet, stress while getting ready in the mornings is NOT what I need!

About 1 year in to working full time, I discovered that doing 1 simple thing on Sundays made the entire rest of my week (and the mornings!) go much smoother.

It sounds like the simplest trick to getting ready for the week, I almost feel silly posting it.  Yet a lot of people I talk to DON'T do this!

Here it is:

On Sunday afternoons/evenings, I choose my clothes for the entire week and hang them in the closet in order (Monday-Friday).  The kids ALSO do this. 
I sit with my kids and have them choose their outfits for each day of the week.  Theirs go into a hanging divider in the closet.  I forget where I go theirs (the picture below is a closet divider from Amazon) but you can also find them at Target, Walmart, and sometimes even Aldi sells closet organizers!
The top shelf is their Monday outfit (including socks and underwear!), next is Tuesday, and so on.  

For the kids: The benefit of planning clothes for the week ahead eliminates any morning arguments ("But I don't want to wear the green shirt!") because the kids picked the outfits themselves.  This trick also wards off laundry panic ("You have to wash this for me so I can wear it tomorrow!!")l

For me: Planning and laying out my clothes for the week helps me see what I have available and make sure I have enough nice teacher outfits for the week ahead.  Often if I plan to wear a certain necklace, bracelet, or scarf with the outfit, I go ahead and add that on the hanger too.  It stops me from standing in front of a full closet with "nothing to wear" in the mornings!
Laundry mem
From Kayden Hines

For all of us: planning the outfits for the week ahead also allows us to plan for those special days without being frantic.  Oh, the school is doing spirit wear on Tuesday? Cool. We'll throw your logo shirt in the Tuesday divider.  You have to wear crazy socks on Friday?  Alright, neon orange and green socks are in your Friday spot.

If I have a conference on Thursday and need to dress up extra, then I can make sure Thursday's outfit includes a blazer. Staff is told to wear your school themed shirt for Monday? Check.

See?  It's so simple: plan your clothes and set them aside on Sunday.  Yet it prevents morning meltdowns, laundry panic, and work worries.

As we get into the grove of getting up and ready for school every day, this is really helping us and will help you too!  

Are you going to try it out?  Let me know how it works for you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What I Wish I Had Known As A 1st Time Mom

My oldest child is now 17.  One year left before he's a legal adult.  As cliche as it sounds, it truly does feel like just yesterday I was feeding him in the middle of the night, then potty training,  and then signing him up for Kindergarten.

That first year as a mom was hard.  Bless my heart, I had no idea what I was doing.  No first time mom knows what she's doing!  Here's what I wish I had known when I first became a mom:

  • Babies need fed, changed, and loved. You don't have to do it on a schedule just because your friend does.  Feed, change, love. That's it.

  • You WILL sleep again, but it will be a few years.  

  • You will also eventually be able to walk and stand without pain but it's going to be awhile. Also. You'll bleed for every second of those 6 weeks postpartum.  Your friend who felt the need to tell you that she only bled for 3?'re not going to be that lucky. 

  • You can shove ice inside baby diapers and wear it as a pad. This is both horrifying and wonderful. You're welcome.

  • Breastfeeding is great. Formula feeding is great. Do what works for you and your baby and tell everyone else to bug off.

  • The sacrifices that you're making for this baby right now?  The pain of those?  You won't regret them 17 years later.

  • Some poop stains will not come out. Throw away the outfit.

If you're a new mom: Hang in there!
If you're in the teen-trenches with me: *raises solidarity fist*

What I wish I'd known as a first time mom

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

3 Crucial Things New Special Ed Teachers Should Focus on (and 1 to avoid!)

Hello new special education teachers, welcome to the wild world of sped! If you are new to teaching children with disabilities, there are 3 crucial things you need to focus on in your first year of teaching.  And one to not worry about.
3 things new special education teachers should focus on

1. IEPs

This is a doozy. You have to follow them, write them, present them to parents, and progress monitor.  The first year can be overwhelming with how long it takes to write an IEP.  But don't panic.  It gets easier the more you do it and I can whip out high-quality IEPs in warp-speed these days.
Reach out to your mentor, other special ed teachers, and your principal for help on writing goals.  SLPs are a fantastic source of help as well!

2. Quality Instruction

Focus this year on delivering fabulous instruction.  Lessons don't have to be "cute" but they should be engaging and standards based.  If you don't get to visit other teacher's classrooms for support in the general education setting, or for observations, ASK to visit some.  It's great to see how other teachers manage the classroom and present information.
Find a professional development and ask your admin to send you.  Participate in Twitter chats.  Look for a free webinar.  Make your goal to deliver superb instruction.

3. Build Relationships

With staff: 
  • Don't gossip!  
  • Be friendly to everyone.  
  • Say 'thank you' every time the secretary or janitor does you a favor. These people are THE key to school.  We know teachers are underpaid.  School secretaries and janitors are paid even less! 
  • Participate in the staff events. Dinner night out, lunch time pitch-ins and secret pal swaps all let others get to know you and will help you form relationships.
  • Let others overhear you talking POSITIVELY about someone else "Did you see Mary's bulletin board? It's so clever!"  "I heard one of Mrs. Jones' students say the cutest thing..."

With parents: 
  • Send newsletters with updates on lessons you've taught, a resource (article from or local event happening). Always include your contact info. Never include photos of students due to privacy laws.

  • Send positive notes home with students frequently.  A ton. As much as you can.
    Sammy told a cute story.
    You're so glad to get to work with Tom. 
    Alice read 4 new sight words today! 
    Maria helped tidy the room. 
    Luis had a wonderful day!

  • Call all parents the first week of school.  "Just wanted to say how much I am enjoying getting to know Ayden.  He's got such a good sense of humor!"     "Tanya is just precious! I'm so glad to get to work with her this year."
With students:
  • Greet them by name.
  • Show an interest in them. Discuss the character on their t-shirt, ask about the Pokemon backpack when you see them in the hall.  Compliment their headband.  
  • Smile. A lot. 
  • Celebrate successes with them.  "Mr. Jones said you were so good at the recorder he had you helping other students! Man, that's awesome."     
    "You read more sight words today than ever before! A new high record!"
    "I saw you out there with the hoola hoop.  You go girl!"
  • Leave them positive notes on their desk. I like to leave one before I go home for the day so that they will discover it when they come in the morning "Hi Alice!  Hope you have a great day!"   

The one thing a new special ed teacher should not worry about:

A cute classroom.
Some of the best teachers have the ugliest classrooms.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with having an adorable classroom. However, cute classrooms don't make students learn more effectively.  A perfect double-border bulletin board with a punny saying has 0 effect on whether or not your students learn the difference between long  and short vowels.

And quite honestly, if you have students with emotional challenges, the cute decor you spent hours laminating can get ripped off the walls and destroyed in a matter of seconds.  

You can have a theme. You can hang cute stuff. But don't spend hours and hours on it right now.  Book bins can be labeled with hand-scrawled post it notes.  Even if your handwriting is meh.  

Sometimes the best teachers have the blandest rooms.  

Your hours are better spent on webinars, learning the curriculum, hanging out with the kids at recess if you have the chance, fine-tuning lesson plans, and observing other seasoned teachers.  Let's not forget, you're going to be busy writing IEPs too!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dear Mom, (A Letter From Your Child's Special Education Teacher)

As we head into a new school year, in the midst of a pandemic no less,  I wanted to share some thoughts with moms of children with disabilities.  When your child is a different learner than most, school can be a new challenge.  This open letter to moms of children with disabilities is from me, a special education teacher.  I hope it gives you peace and comfort at this time of year!

Dear Mom-of-a-child-with-a-disability,

Welcome to the new school year!  I know that this time of year is exciting and scary for you as your child heads back to school.  We're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic still, your child has a disability, and the world can be a beautiful, frustrating, place.  Even though I don't know you personally, there are some things I know about you.

  1. I know that this is scary territory for you.

  2. I know you wonder where they will end up in 5 or 10 years. 

  3. I know you are exhausted.  No matter whether your child has a learning disability, ADHD, emotional disability, Autism, etc... you. are. tired!

  4. I know you may have doctor and therapist appointments to keep up with, meltdowns at home (the child's.  Also, maybe your own), and of course, the homework battles.

  5. I know you may be grieving this diagnosis.  You grieve the life you thought you wanted and the life you have.  You grieve the hardship your child may experience.  You grieve that others don't really understand. Anger, denial, bargaining.  It's all part of grief and I've seen parents in all of those stages.

There are some things you should know about me and the staff at school:
  1. All of the staff at school are on Team YourKid.  Team Joey. Team Allie.  Team Rosa.  My colleagues and I want your child to be safe, healthy, and learning.  Everything we do revolves around that goal.

  2. When we have an IEP meeting with you, everyone sitting around that table is focused on YOUR child.  Yes, it can be daunting to walk into the office and have 6 professionals sitting there (I think my record is 10 staff members in one conference).  The entire world has stopped and we are JUST there for your child. 

  3. We know you are doing the best you possibly can!  

  4. We know you love your kid. 

  5. When your child starts to get frustrated in the classroom, I go and help.  If he needs a break, we go get a drink of water or play with play-doh.

  6. If your child has a full on meltdown? I'm not judging them. Or you.  Whatever your child did today---they weren't the first and they won't be the last!  I'm unfazed and will gently help them re-regulate themselves.

  7. I'm always trying to do better.  There are countless webinars, twitter chats, conferences, and articles about teaching students with disabilities.  I spend as much time as I can attending and reading so that I can do the very best job for your child. 

Mom, that's all I have for you today.  I hope you walk into this new year knowing we are on your side. Whatever this next wild school year brings, we're in it together!  

With Love,
Your Child's Special Education Teacher

An open letter from your child's special education teacher

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The 3 Books I Couldn't Stop Reading This Summer

I've read a lot this summer but 3 books really stand out as the best summer reads. These were the 3 that I devoured within 48 hours each.  These are the books that I just couldn't put down! 

**Amazon links are affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
3 books I couldn't put down

1. The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient
The Silent Patient has topped many best-seller lists and been the topic of book bloggers.  Indeed, The Silent Patient did not disappoint!  I was lucky enough to get it from my local library via the Libby app.  

I can't always read on my phone, preferring a physical book most times, but sometimes a book is SO good that I don't mind it being digital and can devour it nonetheless.

The Silent Patient had a few twists that knocked my socks of!  If you're looking for a suspense that will keep you guessing--this is the book for you!

2. Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
I read Evvie Drake Starts Over earlier in the summer and it's just so lovely and refreshing!  A charming story of a widowed woman and a washed out baseball star.  It's the rom-com of books. 

If you're needing a book to take your mind off the heaviness of the world, this will do it.  

3. The Garden of Small Beginnings

The Garden of Small Beginnings
My first time to read Abbi Waxman, I read this one while I waited for Other People's Houses to arrive in the mail. Like with The Silent Patient, I was able to get The Garden of Small Beginnings as a library loan on the Libby app. Yay for free!

Abbi Waxman has a delightful way of wording things and working humor into her novel.  Like Evvie Drake Starts Over, this book is a lighter take on the world that will give you an enjoyable break from whatever has you consumed at the moment.  

Some authors I reread and some I don't go back to but after having read The Garden of Small Beginnings, I know Abbi Waxman is an author I will follow and read everything she puts out!

My favorite books of the summer

Did you do much reading over the summer?  What's the best book you've read lately?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Do This 1 Thing No Matter How Tight Your Budget Is

Look, I know we are in the middle of a pandemic and for millions of Americans, times are tough financially.  People are job searching, redoing their budgets, and cutting corners.  2020 is not a year many of us will miss when it finally packs its bags and leaves.

Years ago when my husband and I got married, my dad passed down some advice for budgeting.  He said, (paraphrasing here because it was nearly 2 decades ago): "Always have some money that you each get that isn't accountable to the other one."

You need to have spending money each month that is YOURS.  

Budget tip even when money is tight

Here are the rules:
  • The amount is agreed upon ahead of time and each person gets the same amount. It might be a minuscule amount. That's fine. Write it in the budget. 

  • You get your spending money. You spend it on whatever you want.  

  • The other person does not get to complain about what you bought with your spending money.

  • If you want to spend it all at Starbucks. Fine.  

  • If you want to save up your spending money for awhile and buy something big? Fine.

Why do we need spending money in our budget?

If you don't budget spending money for both you and your partner, you will either a) overspend, b) underspend, or c) be resentful of your partner.  

If money is super tight and your spouse comes home with a $5 frappe from Starbucks, you might be ticked.  

But if it came out of their spending money, then you can't get mad---it was their money and furthermore, you have YOUR money so if you want a frappe too, you can get one!

Having your own spending money allows each person to feel free to purchase something without feeling guilty for taking money from another budget category.

How much should we budget for spending money?

It depends greatly on your budget.  Generally we now do $50 each, each month.  Sometimes we do less if a big expense is coming up.  In the early years of marriage when money was really tight, we started with $5 a month and worked up to $10.

Can we use a credit card for our spending money?

Uhh.  It should really be cash so that once it's gone, it. is. gone.  If you must use a card (or order online), be sure to write down what you spent and keep track of how much you have left.  Do NOT go into debt for spending money.  If you can't afford more than $3 that month, then you only get $3!  

Why should I listen to you?

My husband and I aren't financial advisors, we're just people who've been married for a long time, rarely argue about money (you can count our money arguments on one hand), have been poor, have been not-poor, and have no debt except our reasonable mortgage.  

Plus, technically this advice came from my dad and he's the smartest person I know.  ;) 
1 thing you have to do even when money is tight

Monday, July 20, 2020

25 Ways to Teach Sight Words

Sight words.  Words you can't "sound out."  They comprise most of what we read.  It is crucial that children learn to read sight words, but how can you do it in a meaningful and fun way?  

As a special education teacher at the elementary level, I've taught lots of sight words! Merely drilling flashcards is not going to cut it.  Don't get me wrong, flashcards are fine. Just don't try to teach sight words by using only flashcards.  Kids need a multi-sensory way to learn new words and I'm here to give you the 25 best ways to do that!  

25 multi-sensory ways to teach your child to read sight words
Ready?  Here we go!

1. Have the child use sidewalk chalk to write the word. Important: have them say each letter while they are writing it and then say the entire word. Example "t...h....e....the."  

2. Parent writes a few words on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.  Have your child use gross motor skills to get to each word. Example "Hop to 'was'!"   "Tiptoe to 'of'."  "Stand on your right leg on 'goes'."

3. Make a hopscotch board with sidewalk chalk and have your child spell and say the word they land on.

4. Post It Note Parking.  Write one sight word on each sticky note (5-8 total). Give your child a toy car.  Say "Park on....the."  Child drives the car to that sticky note.  "Park on....was."  Child drives the car to that sticky note.  

5. Spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet and have your child write the word with their finger. Bonus: The room will smell good!

6. Find a mud puddle (or make mud on a cookie sheet) and have your child write the word with their finger!  Messy and fun!

7. Use homemade dough (or Play-doh) and have your child roll out the down into a long 'worm' and then use the worm to shape the letters of each word.

8. Use homemade dough (here is my favorite recipe for homemade play-doh) and give your child clean alphabet stamps. Have them stamp the sight word into the dough.

9. Use letter beads and a pipe cleaner or string to build the words.

10. Hide sight words in Easter eggs and have your child go on an egg hunt. When they open the egg, have them read the word.
11. Have your child "sky write" the word. Point their finger and make their arm straight. Use their whole arm to make each letter. (Gross motor practice can help the brain remember!)

12. Carpet writing. Child uses their index finger to "write" the word on the carpet.

13. Magazine collage. Have child look through magazine and find as many of the target word as possible.  Cut them out and make a collage if desired.

14. Use abc stamps to stamp the words.

15. Use abc stickers (Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot often have big books of them for $1) to build the sight word.

16. Use a song to teach the sight word. Heidi Songs on Youtube has lots of great sight word songs. I've used "There" "His" and "She" frequently in my classroom!

17. Closed-eye writing. Have your child close their eyes and use their arm in the air to 'spell' the word while picturing it in their mind.

18. Get scented markers and let your child use those to write their words. (I like these fine tip Mr. Sketch markers!)

19. Wikki Stix are fun ways to build sight words!

20. Incorporate whole-body learning with having your child jump or hop each time they say a letter in the word.

21. Read your child a picture book. Have them snap every time they hear the sight word you are working on.

22. Play Tic Tac Toe but instead of using X's and O's, each player has a designated sight word that they write in the box.  They must say each letter and read the word each time they take a turn!

23. Play the game HeadBandz but instead of using the cards that go with it, use index cards of sight words.  Child has to say your name to get a point.

24. Here's another way to use a popular game!  Instead of using Don't Break the Ice to teach social skills, use it for sight words! Have a stack of sight word cards that your child is working on. Before they take their turn, they have to turn over and read one of the words.

25. Connect 4. You can put a little garage sale sticker dot on each piece and write a sight word on it. Players have to read their word before playing their piece.  OR if you don't want to alter the game pieces, simply set out a stack of sight word cards. Before each player takes a turn, they read a word card (just like above in #24)!

Sight words can be hard for children to learn! Here are 25 ways to help your child learn to read sight words: WITHOUT worksheets!