Wednesday, August 31, 2011


The end of August also means the end of summer and garage sale season. One of my favorite garage sale finds this summer was this robe. I think baby robes are adorable, but I don't think it's worth spending $10 for one. I picked up this little gem for 50 cents.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Puppy Dog Tales

I'm pretty sure the nesting instinct is nature's way of telling you you'll never have time to clean your house again. My house exploded over the past couple of weeks, and  I was hoping to spend nap time today cleaning it. Liam had other plans, though. He was especially crabby today. He took two naps-- one was for 10 minutes in my arms, and the other was on our walk,  which I extended to an hour just for the sake of getting one quality nap.

So, Liam and I spent most of the day reading books and playing games in an effort to keep him happy. (I'm not complaining--it was far more fun than doing laundry and washing dishes.) One of the books we read was Snuggle Puppy. Boynton never fails me. She can take Liam from tears to giggles in a matter of seconds. (I have a video of him giggling as I read this book to him, but I was too lazy to upload it tonight.) We read it three times, and I think Liam would have kept on giggling if I would have read it again.

The second was Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey. I happen to think this book is pretty funny. It's about a dog named Halley who lives with the Tosis family. She has such bad breath, that they decide they need to get rid of her, so the kids try several things to take Halley's bad breath away. In the end, Halley knocks out some burglars with her bad breath and the Tosis family decides to keep her, because life without Halley wouldn't make any "scents." Liam still doesn't like anything that has much of a plot, and he was much more interested in looking at my Parents magazine as I said: "Boy." "Girl." "Baby." "Oh, look, Liam, there's a mommy. She's cleaning her counters. I bet her little boy is taking a nap." But I digress. I think Dog Breath is recommended for ages four to eight, and I think it would be very appropriate for kids that age. If you're into puns, I think you'd find it pretty funny, too.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reggae Lullabies

Just after writing my post about Liam's love of music, I discovered the Rockabye Baby giveaway over at Building Our Story. I decided it was fate and started entering almost daily. I was so excited when I found out I won on Monday night, and my excitement was renewed when this showed up in my mailbox yesterday. Last night, Liam fell asleep listening to lullaby versions of "No Woman, No Cry," "Buffalo Soldier," and "One Love." Amazing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 Years Already?

A few weeks ago,  I received a Facebook invitation to my 10-year high school reunion next Memorial Day. I half-heartedly clicked maybe, not wanting to be the only jerk who responded no to an event that’s more than nine months away and less than three hours from my house. It’s not that I don’t like the people I went to high school with nor do I think I'm way too cool for high school reunions, but there have been two things holding me back.

First of all, my fiancĂ© manages a lodge. Lodges are busy Memorial Day weekend. He can’t just nonchalantly pack up and take the weekend off in order to go to my high school reunion. I no longer have family in the area, so it would be pretty tough to take Liam with me. Who would watch him while I’m dancing the night away with my classmates? 

The second reason is pretty pathetic. Life certainly didn't turn out like I expected it to turn out when I walked across that stage nine years ago, and part of me is embarrassed to show up and tell everyone what I've been doing for the past nine years.  I live in a small town in a tiny house with a broken white picket fence. I have two naughty dogs that dig holes in my back yard and chew each others' collars off. I have a baby?!?!

Yet, as I sit here with my dogs below my feet, watching my beautiful baby boy nap, I realize I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I feel like I'm working at a job that's meaningful, and my students make me laugh (most of the time). In my off time, I get to write for fun and spend time with my baby who amazes me each day with the things he’s learned. My dogs brighten my day when they come running up to that broken picket fence with their crazy doggy grins. And I’m proud of my fiancĂ© for his ability to balance a hectic work schedule with being an amazing dad to our son.

My friends and I recently started reading The Elephant's Journey as part of the Kyle Girl Book Club (more on this to come). When I opened the book to start reading, I was greeted with the following quote from the Book of Itineraries: "In the end, we always arrive at the place where we are expected." I started to think about that. Perhaps this place in my life is where I was always expected.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blast from the Past: Back to School Edition

This week was the first day of school in our local district. (We go to school year round at the facility where I teach, so there weren't any first day of school jitters for me.) It made me think of this picture. It was taken when I was in first grade (1990), which was the first year my mom taught at the same school I was attending. When I look at this picture, I hope that Liam looks forward to the first day of school as much as I did in those early years. 

In related news, my sister texted me on Sunday in response to last week's post about preschool: "Holy cow! You really are a child of the eighties with your Mousercising! I had to look it up on YouTube to even know what it was." So, for those of you who aren't familiar, here's the video.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stuff Liam Loves: Baby Einstein Toys

Right after Liam was born, my mom bought him the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes toy. He loves it. I use the Bright Starts links to connect it to his play gym, and he'll lay there, staring at the lights and listening to the music as he plays. He also really likes the Baby Einstein Bendy Ball. It's made so he can grasp onto it, and the rattle inside seems to intrigue him.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

When I was in elementary school, we faithfully celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss with a rendition of The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, and when I became a middle school teacher, I occasionally used Dr. Seuss books like The Butter Battle Book or Oh, The Places You'll Go to teach theme. Sadly, I don't remember reading Oh, The Thinks You Can Think. 

Shortly after Liam was born, my sister came to visit, and she brought Liam this book. On the inside cover, she wrote the well-known Albert Einstein quote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

My sister is eight years younger than me, but I've always looked up to her. I admire her talent and creativity, and most of all, I admire her amazing imagination. I hope that Liam will one day understand the lesson my sister was trying to teach in giving him this book. I hope that he can think critically and form his own opinions about issues. I hope that he can be creative and imagine things beyond what we currently know and understand. Most importantly, I hope that he dreams big and never allows obstacles to stop him from achieving those dreams.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Perfect Saturday

Last night, my grandparents stopped through on their way to Wyoming, so we had dinner with them at the lodge.

Liam was pretty tuckered out by the end of the night (cue droopy eyelids), so he slept in this morning. Today was Crazy Days, which means two of my favorite things -- garage sales and great deals at the shops in town. Soft Boppy slipcover for a dollar. Melissa and Doug nesting blocks for 75 cents. Two Bumkins bibs for 50 cents (thanks How to Mommy for letting me know how awesome these are).  A sewing machine for 3 dollars.  I'd say it was a pretty good shopping trip.

Whoa, Mom. You stacked those blocks so high, I almost forgot how much I hate tummy time.
It was a beautiful day outside -- 70 degrees, no wind, no storm clouds in sight (yet). So we went for a hike.

And we tried out the swings.

Then we watched Gus and Ollie (our dogs) play in the back yard. 

And, yes, Liam did go through three wardrobe changes today. Now we're off to do some laundry.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Job Training in Preschool?

 I loved preschool. It was a place where I could Mousercise without inhibition, make cool crafts like the coffee filter graduation cap in the picture below, and see all of my friends who didn't go to my daycare. But, was it the place where I learned the skills necessary for job success?

All Things Considered recently ran a story entitled "Preschool: The Best Job-Training Program." As a job readiness teacher and a new mom, I was definitely intrigued.

The story detailed the work of James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist. He had studied the effects of job training programs on young, unskilled workers. It turns out the programs didn't really work, and in some cases, they had a negative impact. In trying to figure out why, they determined that it wasn't a curriculum flaw, but rather the fact that the students in these programs lacked the soft skills (self-control, curiosity, the ability to avoid getting frustrated) necessary to learn the information. No fear, though. These skills can be taught. However, it's best if they're taught at the preschool level.
Kiddie Kampus obviously worked for me.  A few nights before preschool graduation, I was playing Jem on my parents' car, using the antenna as a microphone, when I fell off onto our gravel driveway. It will forever be ingrained in my memory thanks to these wonderful pictures of me with the big scab right down the center of my nose.
This immediately reminded me of one of the chapters in Nurture Shock. In this chapter, they discuss a preschool curriculum called Tools of the Mind. Among other things, teachers using this curriculum encourage their students to map out their plan for play and to stick to the role designated in their plans, evaluate their own work, and play games, like Simon Says, which require restraint.

When I suggested that we move to a city with a Tools of the Mind preschool program, Craig just laughed.  In the meantime, I'm sure that many preschool programs contain some of the elements of this curriculum, and I can always incorporate some of the more effective portions of this curriculum at home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bonding Day

Our daycare provider, Mae, likes to call Craig's day off "bonding day." The past two weeks have been really busy for Craig, so today was his first day off in 14 days. I think Liam was grateful for bonding day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Daycare Dilemma

Before I became pregnant, I never really realized how difficult it is to find daycare. I started searching a few months before Liam was born. Everybody I called was either full or not taking babies. Two weeks before I had to go back to work, I desperately started calling people who I had already talked to before. I finally found somebody who was willing to take Liam, but not until mid-September. I had to return to work in mid-June. I still had no idea what I was going to do with him for the three months until that spot opened up. So I called Mae.

"Alright," she said. "I'll take him until you can find somebody else."

"I found somebody who is willing to take him in September," I proceeded nervously. "Will that be too long?"

"Well, we'll have to see how he does," she said.

While I felt a little better knowing I had somebody, I still wasn't completely at ease. It was pretty apparent to me that Mae wasn't all that excited about taking Liam.

The first day I went back to work, I left Liam at home with his daddy. He manages a local resort and can't take weekends off, so he usually takes Mondays or Tuesdays off to stay home with Liam. That night, Liam stayed up all night. As I stayed awake trying to comfort him, the thoughts began to race through my head. "What are you doing? Your kid obviously needs you at home. You can't send him to daycare tomorrow.  She's a complete stranger, and she doesn't even want him."

Slowly, I grew accustomed to taking Liam to Mae's. We soon discovered that he actually slept better when he'd been there all day. It's obvious the other kids like him, too. When I come to pick him up after work, I'm greeted with four-year-olds hollering to let Mae know that "Little One's Mom is here" and telling me, "I got to play with your baby today." When I walk into the living room, I usually find Mae holding him, talking to him, and he's usually cooing right back. "We're just telling fish stories," she says.

I didn't want to give her up. "Remember when we first started bringing Liam here, and you told me..." I started one day.

"Oh, it's okay. We'll keep him," she jumped in before I could even finish my sentence.

While I obviously wish I could stay home and spend more time with my baby, I'm happy to have Mae watching him. It makes returning to work that much easier.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lessons Still Being Learned

I don't  want this blog to be a place where I dwell on my mom's accident. However, today is the fourth anniversary of her accident, so I thought it was appropriate to share this story. | Lessons Still Being Learned 

It seems like only yesterday that I got a phone call from my neighbor letting me know that a tribal police officer was in our apartment building looking for me. I was living and teaching on the Pine Ridge Reservation at the time, and it was the day before inservice was supposed to start. I had been at a potluck at the school and had forgotten to bring my cellphone with me. She put the police officer on the phone, and he instructed me to call dispatch, who gave me a number to contact my Uncle Pat. Pat told me that my Mom and sister, Michaela, had been in a car accident and that my Mom was being airlifted to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls.

"I'll drive to Springs, so I can be with Michaela," I told him.

"I, uh, think you should be with your Mom," he said.

It was at that point that I knew it was bad.

My parents had recently moved back to our hometown, Wessington Springs, from a small town in the Panhandle of Nebraska. Kyle was between the two towns. Some of my parents' friends planned to meet me and take me to Sioux Falls. I was pretty shaken up, it had started to rain, and I think the last thing anybody wanted was for another accident to happen.

The following months and years have pretty much been a blur. In January of that year, doctors at the Transitional Care Unit at St. Mary's Hospital in Pierre, where my mom had been moved a few months after her accident, diagnosed my mom as being in a persistent vegitative state. By the end of March, though, she had made enough progress to be moved to a rehabilitation facility in Omaha where she relearned how to talk, eat, and do other basic tasks. During the course of the past four years, my Mom has never ceased to amaze me. She continues to seek out new challenges and conquer them.

Now, she's living in a nursing home in our home town. I know that there are times that she gets really frustrated with her situation, and I don't blame her. I couldn't imagine living in a place where most of the residents were nearly twice my age.  I hope she understands that she's truly been an inspiration for me, my family, the students she taught over the course of her nearly 20 years in education, people from our community, and people we've never even met.

I included a link to the story a regional news station did about my mom. The story focuses a lot on the importance of wearing your seat belt. This was a really important lesson I learned from our experience. (I was definitely the type who almost always wore my seat belt on long car rides, but I very rarely wore it on short trips to run errands, etc.) However, the lessons I've learned from this experience go well beyond wearing my seat belt. She's taught me to value my family and to remember to say "I love you," to keep fighting and to never give up, and to remember to take chances and seize each day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! A Review of Three Books by Boynton

I first discovered Susan Boynton in a list of kids' reading picks on the website for Oprah's book club. What can I say? Oprah picks good books.

The first Boynton book that I ordered was Hippos Go Berserk. I couldn't resist a counting book that featured hippos and that had the word "berserk" in the title. Liam likes the book even though he obviously doesn't "get" counting yet. It doesn't quite have the rhythm of the other two Boynton books we own, though. Once he's a toddler, I think he'll really enjoy it.

A few weeks after Liam was born, we discovered a copy of Moo Baa La La La at Goodwill. Liam loves this book. He'll giggle as I read it to him, and it really seems to keep his attention. I recently read that encouraging your baby to repeat consonant-vowel sounds like "ma," "da," and "ba" helps with language development, and I think that reading this book to Liam will be an enjoyable way to do that, as well.

Liam's favorite Boynton book by far is Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!. He'll giggle and roll onto his side when I read it to him. It's a book of opposites, and I'm pretty sure Liam "gets" opposites about as well as he "gets" counting, but this book really keeps his attention. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I enjoy the book, too, and he loves the silly faces I make when I read it to him. Sometimes, when he gets crabby, I'll say "Oh my oh my oh dinosaurs," and it instantly brings a smile to his face. I think it's a testament to how much he loves this book.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Baby Bargains!

Two of my goals since I've become a mom have been to cut the clutter in my house and to limit my online shopping. I thwarted my progress toward both of those goals with my most recent online purchase. Who can resist a pair of Hop on Pop Converse and an argyle polo shirt for a combined total of $21.00? Old Navy and Piperlime were having a huge sale this week, so I bought them. Unfortunately, Liam probably won't be able to wear either of these items for at least a year, but they're cute, right?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three Months

Last week, Liam turned three months old. So, today I decided to take a few pictures before he outgrows his 3-6 month clothes. The day started out like this.

He was tired and cranky, so I decided to give him a break and let him nap.

When he woke up, I discovered that I had let my camera battery go dead. So, I let him eat and rest a little more. Finally, he was willing to cooperate. Here's the final product.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shake a Leg

Each morning before we left for school, my mom would shout out, "Is everybody ready? Shake a leg," a quote from one of my younger sister's favorite books featuring Elmo. At twelve years old, I was way too cool for Elmo, and I would often just roll my eyes as we hurried out the door.

Recently, I was home visiting and was looking for a book to read to Liam. As I dug through the bookshelves, I found Shake a Leg, and it brought a smile to my face. A flood of memories crossed my mind, from giggling as she sang the "My name is Amber. I live in a hamper." song when I was a toddler to those times when I rolled my eyes at her as a preteen.

It made me realize how important it's going to be to build those memories with Liam, and no matter how often he rolls his eyes at me, 15 years down the road he'll probably appreciate the crazy things I do.

How this all started

From a very young age, I truly loved both reading and writing. I remember dictating a story about a princess and her donkey to my Mom, an English teacher, when I was three years old. When I started college, it was only natural that I pursue a journalism degree to continue to foster that love of writing. While I loved attending classes through the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at South Dakota State University, I longed to follow in my Mom's footsteps and become a teacher. For the last five years, I have been teaching. For the first two years, I worked as a middle school language arts teacher, and for the past three years, I have been working with at-risk youth as a career counselor.

Just before the start of my second school year as a teacher, my mom and sister were in a car accident, and my mom suffered from a traumatic brain injury. She is an amazing mom, grandma, and teacher. I often find myself reflecting on her style, hoping that I can come close to the standard she set for me.

I created this blog to share my reflections on motherhood and education, ideas that I've found to be helpful, as well as a few book reviews.