Have you got a spare 15?

So, I have managed to find a spare 15 minutes almost every morning this past week.  It is fabulous!  I enjoy my coffee a bit, eat a bite or two of breakfast, I’m not hungry first thing in the morning, but know that I probably won’t have a chance to grab a bit until noon.  And one day, I even went to work early to get ahead of some tasks.

So, what am I doing differently?  First off, having the morning checklist for the kids is finally paying off.  They are becoming more self-sufficient with it and now I only have to remind them to check their list.  Some mornings they are a little competitive about it, but that’s ok.  A competitive spirit means they are motivated.

Secondly, preparing lunches the night before most definitely helps.  I LOVE Bentgo boxes, they are on sale today on Groupon.com for $19.99.  I just bought myself a Bentgo salad bowl, also on sale for $14.99.  (By the way, I am not an affiliate for Groupon, I just happened to notice these deals today and thought I would share.  I hold no responsibility for price changes or product availability.) 

And third, I stop stressing about everything and trying to do five things at once.  It’s not easy, I’m still practicing this.  But after reading an article about how we are actually less productive when we multi-task, I often have to stop and force myself to prioritize.  Which is the most important task to complete first?  Then I can focus and complete one thing at a time.   This has been very helpful in the morning when I realize that I’m packing lunch bags  and make breakfast at the same time.  Breakfast first.  Then, while the kids are happily eating, I can pack their lunch bags.  Then I can move on to getting them dressed and ready for school.

And when I find that extra 15 minutes in the morning, I can sit with my kids and have a few extra special moments with them.  And that makes it all worthwhile!

Oh my goodness!  Where did September go? It seems just yesterday that I was shopping for school supplies and now it’s October 1st!!!

So what has has happened for the past month?

My school has a new administrator and a new schedule with shorter class periods.  So the days literally fly by as I attempt to break projects into shorter steps and constantly keep one eye on the clock trying to not run over the time.  For a few weeks, I felt like there should be a revolving door on my classroom.  I’m getting adjusted and I do like see my classes every third day.  I feel like we are accomplishing more.

And we’ve had Meet n’ Greet nights for everyone’s schools.  This means an evening away from home, away from trying to establish new routines now that summer is over.  Luckily, my latest night was 8:30, but my kids are usually asleep between 7:30 and 8:00 and I hate to miss reading bedtime stories and cuddling with them.  That is our special time.

And weekends are spent doing the laundry, cleaning our home, running to the supermarket, going to birthday parties, trying to plan out the week for home and work, and still do my own artwork.  Whew!  No wonder I showed up to work the other day wearing my slippers….

And yet, amazingly (and this may be a one-time phenomenon), the other morning, I turned around and didn’t know what to do with myself.    Everyone had been fed, dressed, and brushed, lunches and homework packed and I found myself with an extra half hour before I had to leave for work.  After a few moments of wondering what I had forgotten to do,  I sat down and actually ate breakfast.

Could it be that I am finally getting my life organized?  We shall see…

Set the alarm…

Omg, am I the only one who is suddenly SOOOOO ready to go back to work?  Seriously, I love my kids, we had an awesome summer hanging out together.  However, they have REALLY tested my patience these last few days.  I don’t know… could it be that they know a transition is coming?  That our lives will go from being lazy-cuddle-in-bed-with-mom-while-dad-goes-off-to-work days to  you-have-five-minutes-to-finish-your-breakfast-and-get-dressed-for-school kind of days?  A friend mentioned that there is a full moon coming up.  Any teacher I know knows that full moons always affect kids in school.  I checked.  Full moon on Wednesday.  That must be it.

Either way, I had a glass of wine at dinner tonight.  Now, I’m wishing they would go to sleep early so that I can too.  This way I can get an early start tomorrow in order to get a parking spot at the high school for the district meeting for the teachers.  If you get there after 7:30, you won’t get a spot.  I’m not kidding.  Over three thousand teachers with their cars, vying for that last parking spot – it’s not pretty.  Ok, if I leave here at 6:50, I can get there by 7:10.  That should give me time to snag one of the few remaining… and then realize that I miss summer vacation and the kids….

We are on the same team

Ahhh, the smell of new school clothes is in the air.  School shopping is almost finished.  Teachers are heading back into their schools to set up their classrooms, feeling both excited and a little bit nervous about meeting their new class.  Kids are savoring their last days of vacation.  And parents are planning out schedules and routines to make sure the start of school goes smoothly.  As both a teacher and a mom, can I share a thought with you?

When it comes to your child, it is a team effort!

You love your child. You want what is best for your child.  So does your child’s teacher.  Together you can make this the best year for your child.  Together, as a team, you and the teacher can ensure that your child will have a successful school year.  Here are some ways that you can help the team succeed:

  1. Be friendly, but not overly friendly. It’s only polite to greet the teacher as you are dropping your child off in the morning. But you do not need to have a conversation as the class stands there, waiting to go into the building and start the day.  The same at the end of the day.  Teachers need to make sure that the students are being picked up by the right person.  To have a teacher distracted by having a conversation at dismissal time means that another child might wander off.  If you need to talk to your child’s teacher, then schedule an appointment or write a note and ask the teacher to call you.

  2. Be involved in your child’s school. Join the PTA, volunteer to help out at the school dance, the book fair, or school concert. An extra set of hands is always appreciated.  Go to Meet N’ Greet Night and Conference Nights.  If you can’t make it due to scheduling constraints, communicate this to your child’s teacher and set up another meeting time.  That being said, do not be late for your meetings or skip them altogether.  A teacher wants to see that a parent is involved in that child’s school career and nothing is more frustrating than having set aside time for that parent and then not have them show or even call.

  3. Show your appreciation. A kind word, a card during the holidays and at the end of the year with a simple “Thank you” helps people feel appreciated. Teachers spend the day working with 20-30 different personalities and learning styles, all while having to wait until lunchtime to use the bathroom.  Talk about patience! Throw in a $5.00 gift card to the local coffee shop and you’ve made that teacher feel like a million bucks.  My favorite gift was a painting that one of my students made outside of school.  It’s hanging in my home and I think of her every time I pass it.

  4. Keep communication lines open and respectful.  We love hearing that our kid had a great day in school.  No one wants to hear that their child had a difficult day, but it’s important to remember that the teacher is trying to keep you involved in your child’s school career.  You need to hear about both good days and bad days.  If you child did have an especially difficult day, talk to him/her at home about what happened during the day.  Discuss together how things might be handled differently next time, should the same situation arise again.                                                                                                                                                     On a different note, if something big happened that may affect your child’s behavior or state of mind in school, like a death in the family, write a note to the teacher.  Or call and ask to speak to the counselor in the school.  I have been teaching for over twenty years.  There have been many times when something has happened and no one in school is given a heads up.  Then the child either breaks down crying, or acts out, or is unable to focus in school.  This can go on for days.  It’s okay to tell your teacher.  The teacher can keep an extra close eye on your child and help if your child becomes upset or needs an extra break during the day.  Most schools also have psychologists, guidance counselors, and/or social workers, all who can make themselves available to help your child talk about whatever is affecting them.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help for your child.

  5. Make sure your child does the homework assigned, but don’t do the work for them. Sit with your child as she/he does her/his homework.  This way you can see what they are working on in school.  If your child is older, ask to see the homework when he/she has completed it.  Let him/her know that you are interested in what they are learning in school and will help them, if needed.  Don’t be surprised if the Common Core is confusing.   It teaches kids to solve problems in ways that are different from how we learned when we were kids.  First ask your child to teach you what they know.  Sometimes, by explaining it to someone else, they realize that they have forgotten a step.  If you need help to help your child, ask.   But also make sure, that your child has completed the assignment to the best of his/her ability.  And p.s. we can tell when you have done the work for them.  I gotta tell you, it drives me crazy when a project is handed in looking waaayyy above the skill level of that grade.  We can tell, people, we can tell.  And besides, your child is not learning anything if he/she is not doing the work for his/herself.

Like any team, respect, communication, and a positive outlook means success.  And success for your child is of the utmost importance.  Have a fabulous and exciting school year!!!

Just when I think I’ve got it together….

I’m driving to Jury Duty, and I’m cutting it close to the time we’re supposed to be there.  Three blocks from the Grand Concourse I get stuck in traffic and spill, nay, dribble (there, I admit it, I dribbled) coffee down my white sweater.  AARRGGHH!

I’ve got at least six of those little laundry stick things that take out stains and not one of them is in my purse.  Are…you…kidding…me?  I sigh as I realize that they are probably in the linen closet or another purse at home.

The only thing I can find it a little bottle of allergy eye drops and a used napkin on the back floor of the car from the kids, and as I creep forward in traffic I frantically squeeze half the bottle on the coffee stain and try to blot it with the napkin.  Did it work?

It did!  Mostly.  Sometimes, I am very lucky.

I’m doing laundry with the kids and realize that I forgot to put the laundry soap in one of the machines.  Now, we live in an apartment building and the machines in the laundry room are the type where the door locks after the cycle starts.  And now I just spent $1.75 on a load of laundry that is not even going to get clean.  Uuugghhh!

Then I get a spark of inspiration, pull open the little drawer meant for liquid soap and drop the pod in there.  After all, they are designed to dissolve when they get wet, right?  Ta da!!!!

And it actually worked!

Later, as we’re taking one of the loads out of the machine, I realize the clothes all look like there is lint on them.  A closer look and I discover that it is actually little gel crumbs.  I pull more laundry out and discover, not one but, two diapers in the machine.  Gross!  Then I hear my son giggling.  He thought he had played a good joke on me.

Needless to say, I had to wash the clothes again…

The Day After

So below is the view of the solar eclipse from New York.  About an hour before the eclipse occurred here (about 1:30 pm) it got really cloudy.  And we thought that we weren’t going to get to see this phenomenon at all.  We tried going to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, but it was super busy and there was a line down the stairs up the hill and down the street by the time we got there.  And the doors to the museum hadn’t even opened yet!  So, we turned around and went home.  Luckily, the balcony to our apartment in the Bronx has a southern exposure and so we put on the tv to live stream it and hung out on the balcony and watched with dismay as the clouds rolled in.

But not to worry, it turned out the because of the clouds, we got so see the really orange halo around the sun.  We did not get a total eclipse here in New York, so what we saw was a crescent shape. 

We also were not able to get an image using the Sun Art paper and the pin hole camera.  That’s ok.  I kinda figured we wouldn’t get an image, but it was worth a shot anyway.  We did get some cool pictures with the iPhone and it was a great learning experience for the kids.  Of course, the funny thing was that I was trying to talk to my kids about this for days and kept feeling like they weren’t listening.  But then, as we were waiting for the eclipse to happen, my son sat there and explained in detail, using his hands as the sun and the moon and explained to his grandparents what was going to happen.  Go Figure!!!!

As for the Sun Art paper, we will save it for one of our next nature walks and create images with found objects.

Solar Eclipse 2017

So, if you’re like me, you waited until the last minute to think about checking out the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st.  Now it is too late to get Solar Eclipse glasses for safe watching, so what do you do?

If you live in the New York area, you can visit the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.  They will have some activities starting at noon and at 1 pm you can watch a live stream of the eclipse from Oregon.

You can also check out NASA’s website for live streaming at home.

From what I’ve checked out, you can record the eclipse with your smart phone, you might get better results with some different camera apps.

We are going to try sun paper and a pin hole camera.  I’m not sure how well this will work, but getting the kids to experiment and explore is the main point of this exercise.  Even though we will not see a total eclipse in New York, this is still an important event and my kids, who are crazy about the solar system, will have some sort of recording of this day.

To make a pin hole camera you need a box, duct tape, a piece of aluminum foil ( about 2″ x 2″), a 2″ x 2″ inch piece of black paper, and a pin.  Cut a small hole in on one side of the box and tape the aluminum foil over the hole.  Carefully, with a pin, poke a hole in the foil.  Tape the black square of paper over the pinhole.  Tape the photo paper (or in this case, the sun paper, no promises on the results!) inside the box on the opposite side of the pinhole and close the box.  When ready, aim the pinhole at the object (in this case, the solar eclipse, without looking directly at the sun) and remove the black paper.  We are going to take several photos, and we will try several different exposure times starting with 30 seconds (30 seconds, 1 minute, 1 1/2 minutes, 2 minutes, etc.) and finishing with 4 minutes.  The great thing about sun paper is that you only need water to develop the image, no chemicals.  Perfect when working with kids.  We’ll keep you updated on the results.

Back to School Supplies

Back to School (wide-ruled) bundle

It has been a fabulous summer here in New York with perfect weather and not too many excessively hot days.  But most schools will begin in less than three weeks and it’s time to start getting ready to start a bright new school year.  Many kids have been working on summer packets and reading lists and now are looking to buy their school supplies for the coming year.  And Amazon makes it so easy to get most of your supplies in one click of the mouse with their Back-to-School Bundles and Back-to- School- Essential Bundles.

Back to School Essentials

Save yourself the aggravation of running from store to store to get everything on the list.  These bundles come with marble and spiral notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and index cards.  The Essentials Bundle also comes with scissors, glue, crayons, markers, and a pencil box. Grab your supply list and start checking everything off with one click of your mouse!   Then sit back, slather of the sunscreen and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Mother’s Helpers

I want to share five things that have helped me get our lives a bit more organized and a little less frazzled around here.  These are things that I find that I bring up again and again whenever we’re hanging out with friends and we’re talking about our kids.  Most of these items have been found on Amazon and you can click on either the picture or the underlined word to take you directly to the links provided for easy access.

  1. The Storage Cube This has replaced our coffee table and makes it SO easy to hide the mess quickly.  They are sturdy and have certainly stood up to being rolled around and played with by a 5-year-old.  We have these in gray, the fabric cleans easily and still looks nice after 7 months.  It can also be used as additional seating, even for adults.

2. The Timer.  We were at a friend’s house a few months ago and the kids noticed this large timer on the table.  Our friend explained that their daughter had a tendency to drag out dinner and  often they would end up sitting for over an hour, waiting for her to finish.  Once they incorporated the timer dinner was now a more reasonable 25-30 minutes and they had time for other family activities after dinner.  This gave me an idea, not for dinnertime, but for cleanup time.  And so we introduced the Time Timer to our kids.  Now, we use it not only for clean up time, but to monitor screen time and for taking turns with a favorite toy.   The kids now will set the timer themselves and the red  visual cue which shrinks as time counts down, can be seen from across the room.

3. The Chore Chart.  Our day gets so hectic sometimes that I  will forget to make sure the kids have done their tasks before we leave for school and work.  So I made these charts and used self-adhesive laminating sheets to cover them.  You can then use either a china marker or a dry-erase marker to check off each job and wipe off the sheet at the end of the day with a cloth.  SO EASY!  You can download my chore chart by clicking on the link below.

Chore Chart Template

4. Command Utility Hooks.  I wish I invented these!!!  I use them all over the house – to hang pictures, hats, even pots in the kitchen.  I hung the 5 lbs. ones by the door so the kids could hang their coats up as soon as they came in.  They hold two rain coats or one winter coat.  And now the kids can grab their own coats as we head out the door.  One more step towards their self-reliance, one less thing for mom to do, whoo hoo!

5.  The Rice Cooker.  As we are a blended family of several different cultures trying to teach our kids healthy eating habits, we eat rice and fish at least four nights a week.  This Zojirushi Rice Cooker makes it so easy to prepare dinner, it switches from cooking to keeping the rice warm automatically and cooks rice perfectly every time (even brown rice!).  And it has a steamer that you place on top to steam vegetables.  I recommend not adding the veggies until it clicks to the “Warm” setting and then let them steam for a few minutes, otherwise the veggies end up soggy.




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Montreal Road Trip

View of the city of Montreal from the top of Mont Royal. On a clear day, you can see all the way to New York!

Bonjour mes amis! Comment ça va?  We have returned from our trip to Montreal where we have a wonderful time, met wonderful people everywhere we went, and had terrific food. And I have to say, that for our first big road trip with the kids, things went fairly smoothly and no one got car sick, thanks to our Sea Band bracelets.

I thought I was being pretty clever when I decided to forego packing our stuff in luggage and instead used a clear Sterilite container with lid.  Omg! So easy.  I was able to pack the kids clothes, shoes, and raingear and still have room for my clothes.  We packed my husband’s clothes and gear in a smaller Sterilite container and, Voila!, we were good to go! The only other things we packed were the umbrella strollers, a cooler bag with water and snacks, and a storage cube that fit perfectly between the kids’ car seats in the back.

In the cube I packed some essentials and some things to help keep them entertained, like books, dvds (my kids love Home), first aid kit, water bottles, travel pillows, light blankets for each, old-school disposable cameras, coloring books with the markers that only work on those books, tissues, wipes, and fruit n’ yogurt snacks.  I had saved two cereal boxes and cut off the tops.  In one box, I put the books, in the other I put the tissues, wipes, and snacks.  This worked out great!  The kids could grab what they needed or wanted without yelling for my husband or me every five minutes.  Our trip went fairly smoothly, although I had to laugh when, after crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, my son asked “Are we in Canada yet?  Do you want to go to China tomorrow?”

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Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program 
designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by
linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.