back to school 2016

School has been in session for about a month now, so I thought I should finally get around to blogging about it.  Blogging has obviously taken a bit of a hiatus recently.  I’ve missed it but have had little motivation to blog, if that makes sense.  I miss writing, I miss sharing tidbits of our lives, and I miss being held accountable for living a healthy(ish) lifestyle to post about.  Last night I decided was as good of a time as any to get started again.  Right when I opened up wordpress, it felt as though I never “left.”  I’m excited to start blogging on a somewhat regular basis again.  I’m not exactly sure what that will look like, but more than once every month or so, for sure.

(Over the weekend I blogged about a sweet and salty fall trail mix that I did for Brach’s, in case you missed it.)

Let’s talk about back to school 2016.  Summer flew by, as always, and the new school year approached quickly.  William is almost two and a half now.  Little man on the first day of school:

first day of school aug16

How is he already acting embarrassed of his momma taking first day of school photos?  Baby, this is just the beginning, so you better get used to it!  We actually took a photo the first few days of school, and you’ll see he was all smiles for those.  William is thriving at school!  He has been at this same place since he was a baby, so he’s definitely familiar which is a good thing for him.  He’s been with most of the kids in his class for a couple of years, too.  It puts me at ease knowing he is at a place where he is so well taken care of and learning everyday.  It’s even more fun now that William is talking so much, since he can tell me specifics about his day!

The beginning of my school year is going well, too.

first day of school 2016

I’m teaching fourth grade for the fourth year in a row and am at the same school I’ve been at for eight years.  I love love love the school and my team.  Nichole, Kristen, and I are just missing Maggie who is still on maternity leave.  It’s hard going back to work after having summer off, but there’s nobody else I’d rather spend it with than these gals!  And my darlings this school year are pretty great, as well.  The beginning of the school year is always so refreshing and I really enjoy getting to know my students and building the community in our classroom.

William has turned into a real little boy.

school aug16

When I call him a baby, he tells, “Not baby, Mommy.  I’m a big boy!”  Oh, be still my heart.

Most days, he’ll smile for a photo for me before walking into school.  Some days he even requests that I go in the picture with him.

smile aug16

I’ll never say no to that!

William went through a phase where he was bringing his sunglasses into school.  Later, I found out he was literally wearing them all day long.  Silly baby.

sunglasses aug16

He’s just so darn cute!

Life is good for me and William.  We’re crazy busy now that school is back in session, but we’re finding our balance and getting into our routine once again.  And we’re happy.

smile sept16

We’re so happy.  Because life is good.

What’s been going on with YOU? I’ve missed hearing from all of you!

24 Life Lessons

Every school year, I have my students come up with life lessons.  It aligns with our reading curriculum when we teach the theme of a story.  It coincides perfectly as the theme is the life lesson, big idea, or important message.  It’s what you want to share with the world that can resonate with anybody and everybody.  I have several different quotations hanging up around my room that we talk about at the beginning of the year.  It’s a starting off point for our discussion on imploring them to be leaders and create their own life lessons.  Every school year, I’m amazed at what they come up with.  Even though they are just nine and ten years old, they are wise beyond their years.  We can all learn from them.

Previous years’ life lessons include 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

24 life lessons

24 Life Lessons as Told by Fourth Graders

  • A clean mind resembles a clean heart.
  • Aim for the sun. Even if you miss, you’ll swim through the clouds.
  • A mistake is your first step to trying.
  • If something is hard, never give up, and try your best.
  • Shoot for the sun to succeed.
  • If someone tells you that you can’t do something, don’t believe them.
  • Never give up, even if you’re stuck on something.
  • Work hard even though nobody is looking at your work.
  • When life is hard, shoot for the stars.
  • Friendship, peace, and love, it’s what everyone needs.
  • When someone breaks you down, get back up and stand even taller.
  • Don’t promise someone something you can’t keep.
  • Follow your dreams. No matter what.
  • Once you get it in your mind, you can do it.
  • Keep trying. You hard work will pay off!
  • If you believe that you’re good enough, then you can do anything.
  • The stars should be your goal, but if you miss, another will give you a new goal.
  • Be yourself, you might not like someone else’s personality.
  • You can be a star in your own way. Don’t let anyone bring you down.
  • If you keep learning, you keep rolling.
  • Do your best on the test of life.
  • Kittens feel the love.  How about you?
  • The more friends, the bigger the tree.
  • Kindness is the key to friendship.

life lessons

If you could tell the world just one thing, what would it be?

back to school

It’s that time of year again – back to school.  Last week, I was back for a couple of days just for teacher meetings, but today the kids come for Meet the Teacher.  I still have a ton to do in my classroom, so here’s to hoping I’m crazy productive today!

This was a good summer.  Summer is always good, but it was especially fun with William since he is old enough and mobile enough to do lots of things now.  Summer was so good, and I’m sad that it’s coming to an end.  We’ll still have our evenings and weekends, but it’s definitely not the same as having every single day open.  There’s something to be said about routine, but I’m not yet feeling it.  (Probably because I’m nowhere near settling into a routine yet.)

Last year, it was fairly simple to get ready in the morning because William wasn’t yet mobile.  I could put him in a bouncer or exersaucer or let him play with toys on the ground while I got ready.  This year?  No way is that happening.  Little man is into everything.  Not to mention, lately he wants to be held all the time.  I love snuggling my little (not so little) baby, but when I’m trying to make myself presentable for work, it can definitely be a challenge!

splash pad aug15

One last splash pad visit before returning to work!

I’m trying to do as much as I can the night before.  I packed William’s lunch which is a legit lunch now instead of all milk.  Not only is it a real lunch, but it’s breakfast and snacks, too.  I always send a lot of food because I don’t want him to go hungry haha. Also, he eats more when he’s not with me because when he’s with me, he’d rather nurse all day, so it’s hard for me to know exactly what to send for him.  Tomorrow’s food includes blueberries, raspberries, and bananas, sweet potatoes and spinach kale bites (from Trader Joe’s – I want to try to make my own next time!), a peanut butter sandwich, and a apricot pumpkin peach pouch.  And I might scramble him an egg tomorrow just to be safe.  I put all his food in glass baby jars because I hate plastic.  Eventually, I’ll need to get an aluminum or glass bento box or something.  That would probably be easier than the few jars I send.

Yesterday I ordered William labels from which I’m pretty excited about.  They slip over bottles, sippy cups, or a thermos.  I just bought William a Foogos thermos for his water and I have a glass Green Sprouts straw cup for his milk.  Sending him to school is so weird now because he seems SO much older.  The toddler room is vastly different than the baby room.  William does love school which I’m very grateful for.  I get pictures throughout the day which warms my heart.


eat. sleep. ball.  STUD! 🙂

In the morning when I’m trying to get ready, I have toys in every room we go in.  When I try to do my hair, I stand on one leg and the other leg is keeping the toilet shut (new favorite thing for William to do – ugh!).  He’s occupied by playing with the toys in the bathtub by standing outside of it, or actually sitting in the tub (no water).  He has toys in my room when I get dressed and toys in the third bedroom where I do my makeup.  Yes, we have toys all over our house!

Other ways I try to prep for going back to sleep is food for myself.  Yesterday (finally!), I baked a bunch of chicken to have on hand for lunches and dinners.  It really makes life so much easier when you do the smallest amount of prep.  Tonight I made a jar of overnight oats, too, just to speed up the morning even more.  I got everything ready that I could for tomorrow.

I know it will take a little while for us to find our routine again. The two days that William went to school last week, he was so exhausted when I picked him up.  I know it’s because he had so much fun and was super busy all day, but that means our time at home is a bit more limited.  It’s also because he only takes one (long!) nap at school.  When he’s with me all day, he still takes two.  That will even out eventually, but for now it leaves me with a tired baby at the end of the day!

Alright, I think that’s all for my jumbled rambles today.  I’m heading to bed myself in hopes for a good night of sleep before my new students come.  Wish me luck!


sure will miss this little cutie!

What helps you get into a routine for work?

Who would you #ShareACoke with?

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareAtSchnucks #CollectiveBias

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week.  I love love love my co-workers, so I decided to pick up a small token of appreciation while at my favorite local grocery store, Schnucks – #ShareAtSchnucks.

soda aisle

I think the #ShareACoke is a brilliant marketing tool as Coke products feature 1,000 proper names, fun terms like “Grad” and “BFF”, and emoticons; there’s something for everyone in this year’s “Share a Coke.”  I grabbed an eight-pack of mini Coke Zeros (the minis are stinkin’ adorable!) with the most fitting names for my team:

share a coke

My team of fourth grade teachers is simply amazing.  We get along extremely well, are incredibly productive, do what’s best for kids, and truly love each other.  We do.  Some may call us the “Dream Team.”  For real.  So the smiley faces, “love,” and “VIP” cans were most fitting.

VIP coke

With the end of the school year just around the corner, we’ve been ordering lunch out more than usual.  Last week we ordered out twice…. which we never do.  Once from Dave and Tony’s.  We all love their build your own salads with the veggie burger.  A VIP Coke Zero on the side to remind them just how very important they are.

coke jimmy johns

And the day after, we ordered from Jimmy John’s.  The Beach Club on wheat with no mayo is my favorite.  I love it and I love my coworkers.

My other teammates had the same idea last week, too.  They brought in treats for us to enjoy which complimented the surprise mini Coke Zeros quite nicely.


We’re always on the same page.  And we know the way to each other’s hearts.  Through our stomachs, clearly.

Does the #ShareACoke campaign have your name on any of the cans or bottles? Click HERE to see.  Who would YOU share a Coke with?

How to Get Children to Eat Beans

How do you get children to eat beans?  Better yet, how do you get children to eat beans for breakfast?  Seriously!  I did it, and I’ll share the secret with you.  Are you ready?


For real.

Children are very easily influenced, for better or for worse.  I see it with my students and I see it with my niece and nephew all the time.  Let me explain how to positively influence kids (aka trick ’em), so they eat beans for breakfast.

I told my class of fourth graders that I had a special Valentine’s Day treat for them, but I wanted to take a survey on which flavor they liked better: strawberry or chocolate.  Right away, they already started thinking about their flavor preference. They weren’t thinking about if they would like the food or not.  Because of how I had phrased the question, they were assuming they would like the food, and would have to decide which flavor they liked the best.

So they tasted the strawberry…

poweros strawberry

And then the chocolate…

poweros chocolate

The marked their vote on our SMARTboard, and kept cheering for “their flavor” to “win.”  (Strawberry won.  My fav, too!  Smart kids.)  After the voting, I spilled the beans.  (<– see what I did there? haha)  I told them that the cereal was made with BEANS!  Navy, lentil, and garbanzo beans, to be exact.

BEANS FOR BREAKFAST?!  Beans for breakfast, friends.

You see, Love Grown Foods is very passionate about educating kids how to properly fuel their bodies with healthy foods.  They focus on:

  • Why breakfast is so important;
  • Why you should be able to pronounce every ingredient in your food;
  • Why whole grains, fiber, and good fats are essential to a healthy diet

They even have some great printables to “exercise your brain!”  Earlier in the week, students completed the Love Grown Foods word search.  Later in the day, we did the crossword puzzle together.  It prompted a discussion on many topics related to healthy eating, and it echoed what I tell them all the time: Breakfast is the most important meal.

Fast forward to yesterday, the day where we passed out Valentines.  As a Love Grown Foods LOVE Ambassador, I reached out to Maddy, the founder of LGF, and asked if they could help me distribute a different kind of Valentine this year.  Instead of the typical chocolate or candy (the kids get enough of that from their peers), the each received a special box of LOVE.

lgf poweros

LGF also sent “beans for breakfast” pins which my students thought were the coolest things ever.  And because I’m a teacher, I gave them heart-themed pencils.

That is how you get kids to eat beans for breakfast!

Big thanks to Love Grown Foods for spreading LOVE to my students!

How did you decorate your box to collect Valentine’s Day cards in school?  My mom is very creative and always helped us making elaborate containers!

18 Life Lessons

Last year towards the beginning of the school year, I did a community building activity with my fourth graders on life lessons.  I have several quotations hanging up around my classroom (thanks to Pinterest!), and we read and discuss their meaning.  Every morning, one student reads a quote of the day to spark conversation and deep thinking. Words are powerful and I try to instill that in my students.

I asked them to come up with their own quotation, their own life lesson.  If they could tell the world one thing, what would it be?  What’s their big message?  This fits into our curriculum, as well, because it’s similar to determining the theme at the end of a fiction text.  Theme is the author’s message, the big idea, or the life lesson that can be applied to everyone.  Last year, the students came up with such insightful quotations and it was such an interesting activity, that I just had to do it again this year.  (Read last year’s: 24 Life Lessons.)  Here is the 2014 version with this year’s class:

life lessons

Life Lessons as Told by Fourth Graders:

  • Be nice and good things will happen to you.
  • Great ambition is great passion with great character.
  • Say something – not, “I’m giving up on this.”
  • You don’t need to be perfect – just be yourself!
  • Keep trying.  Never give up.  Do your best.  Never say you can’t.  Don’t let people boss you around.  Be who you are, don’t change who you are to fit in; people will like you the way you are.
  • Life is a book.  Turn the page and you will start a new chapter. You won’t know what happens until you read it.
  • Never give up and never surrender.
  • Life is like stairs – you have ups and downs.
  • You never know what you can do unless you try. Try! Then try harder! You know you can do it!
  • Tell the truth and never life.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up to bullies.
  • Try. Try.  Do your best.
  • Think about success and not failing.
  • Life is like a two-way street. One is good, one is bad, but don’t wonder what if.
  • Be in charge of you; don’t boss people around.
  • Think before you say it.
  • Your imagination can get you anywhere, so never stop imagining all of the possibilities in the world.
  • The world needs you to lead a variety of tasks and open more possibilities.

Pretty awesome, right?! Once again, I’m impressed with how wise these young children are.  I have them come up with several different quotations and then they pick their favorite to “publish.”  They type their quote on the computer, play with the font, and get to make it all fancy.   Then, we paste it on a piece of colored construction paper and laminate it.  We have a whole wall full of these life lessons!  I love it because they begin to understand how powerful words can be, and I think they feel empowered taking part in coming up with these important life lessons.

If you could tell the world just one thing, what would it be?

back to school

This post is sponsored by Pure Protein. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Well… I survived my first day back to school (work).  I’ve been back for a couple days now which means I’ve been without William for a couple days.  Very very very very very sad.  But we’re surviving.  And look how cute William looked on his first day of school:

first day of school

Stud.  I made sure to get lots of snuggles when I picked him up, and all evening long.

I know he’s in a good place with loving people; itz just hard to leave him.  And I hate pumping at work.  Hate it.  I’m so busy trying to get ready for the new school year, that stopping to pump three times a day is really driving me nuts.  I’ll continue to do it because breastfeeding is important to me, but I don’t like it.

Another change I’m getting used to is not being able to graze all day.  When I was home all summer, I was a total grazer, snacking here and there all day long.  My hunger is still out of control since I’m breastfeeding, so grazing works well for me.  Being back at school, I don’t have the time I’m used to, so I need to be smart about packing snacks I can eat quickly.  One particular snack I’ve been loving are Pure Protein Bars.

pure protein bars

Power Your Purpose

Pure Protein® makes it easy to fuel your inner athlete with the perfect combination of high protein and great taste! Pure Protein® bars are an excellent choice for pre and post workouts or any time of day for a protein boost. Our high quality protein bars were made to:

  • Help Maintain Overall Health
  • Support Lean Muscle and Strength
  • Help Fuel Your Body

Our goal is to provide you with convenient and delicious protein products, giving you the strength to achieve your goals!

The bars really satiate my hunger, as well as my sweet tooth as they have pretty rockin’ flavors.  I’m using the bars to fuel my body while at school, but I’ve been sharing the love, too.  My brother Jason, a workout fiend, loves the chocolate salted caramel.  Not only does he eat the bars pre and post workout, he enjoys them as desserts, too!  My friend Diana’s favorite flavor is peanut butter, and my grandma’s is dark chocolate coconut.  Obviously everyone has different tastes, but we all agree on one thing: they taste great!  My favorite is probably the coconut!

pure protein bars1

Pure Protein also has different flavors including Greek Yogurt Strawberry (I want to try this one!), Chewy Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Deluxe, Chocolate Peanut Caramel (another tasty sounding flavor!), and Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch.  Lots of good options!

St. Louis friends, I have a wonderful back to school event for you!  Megan & Erin have teamed up with DSW in St. Peters (St. Louis area) to host a back-to-school event and shoe drive to collect new & gently-used shoes for a local charity on Saturday August, 16th from 10am to Noon.  The first 50 attendees get a bonus gift card, plus there will be giveaways, crafts, story time, a dress-up photo booth and more to celebrate the addition of a kids department (baby on up!) at DSW!  Please RSVP here and bring the whole family!


Sounds like the perfect opportunity to get William some sweet new kicks!  And baby shoes are possibly some of the cutest things ever!

Speaking of the cutest things ever… check out my happy little dude:

william 4 months

photo by Stephanie Cotta Photography

He gets those muscular arms from eating Pure Protein bars.  Obviously.

Are you getting ready to go back to school?

going back to work

Itz August 1st, summer is almost over, and I’m going back to work next week.


We’re both feeling a bit….

william sad 3.5 months

Yeah.  That.

Needless to say, I’m dreading going back to work.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my job, I love my school, I love my co-workers, I love my students.  I know I’m lucky to have a job, and a great one at that.  But I love my baby more and the thought of leaving him for eight hours five days a week breaks my heart.

I know that he will be in good hands.  The best actually.  My mom will have him one day, my mother-in-law one day, and “school” the other three.  Itz a place that Jonny and I both really love and know he will be safe, stimulated, and loved on constantly.

little dude

I just have so many worries.  I’m worried I’m going to miss lots of his “firsts.”  He’s growing and changing by the day. With me being away from him so long, I’m bound to miss something.  I’ve loved spending every minute of every day with him for the last three and a half months.

I’m worried about my milk supply and I know worrying is certainly going to do nothing.  I’m worried about pumping enough at school.  I’m worried about my body adjusting to this new schedule.  I’m worried about getting myself ready and getting to school on time.  Usually we play in the morning, but now I’ll need to figure out a new routine to be able to get myself together quickly, as well as him.  We usually walk in the mornings, but I doubt that is going to happen, at least not in the beginning until I figure out how to make it work. Maybe I’ll start doing quick yet effective at-home workouts since long, leisurely walks probably won’t be happening during the week.

I’ll miss exclusively breastfeeding him and snuggling throughout the day.  I’ll miss weighing him each week after I nurse in the group.  I’ll miss having playdates throughout the week with other cutie pie babies.  I’ll miss singing, dancing, and reading with him during the day.

I’m just going to miss my sweet little baby so much.  I know people make it work all the time, and I’m certainly not the first momma to return to work, but this is a huge first for me, and one I’m feeling super anxious about.  I just love him and don’t want to leave him.

william 3.5 months

How can I leave this sweet guy?! Advice?!

Sorry for the whiny post. Birth story coming Monday…

School Baby Shower

On Friday morning, my wonderful teammates threw us an amazing baby shower at school.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I work at an exceptional school where I feel so lucky each and everyday. Itz literally a second family; that’s how close everyone is.  My co-workers have become my friends, and many of them have been supporting me since the start of our journey in beginning our family.  And they’re really good at incorporating “itz” in everything!

shower invite

top of the baby shower invitation

Jonny, my sister Stephanie and her two kids Jacob and Audrey joined us at the shower.  Stephanie kept saying she couldn’t believe how nice everything was from the food to the decorations to the gifts to my co-workers.  People really go above and beyond.  There were several candid photos taken, but here is one posed of all of us after loading up Jonny’s car before they had to leave.

steph jonny

Jonny and I received so many wonderful gifts.  Some of our big items that we got included our Pack n Play, Rock n Play, diaper changing pad and cover, sink insert for baths, and many adorable onesies and outfits.  We were showered with love, for sure, and are so very grateful for everyone’s generosity.


Being surrounded by love and preparing for Baby Itz is most definitely marvelous.  Linking up to Healthy Diva’s Marvelous in my Monday today! #MIMM

Random fact: One of my teammates, Nichole, is who I’ve been teaching with for five years. We taught third grade together and both looped up to fourth grade together. She is six weeks ahead of me during this pregnancy. We joke that we are “pregnancy twins” as we have had several similarities (mostly being super easy pregnancies!). Nichole did not find out the gender of her baby, but literally just had her baby over the weekend!  I wanted to throw out a big CONGRATULATIONS to her and her  family! And she had a boy (which I totally predicted). 😉 Baby Leo – how cute is that?!

Centerpieces were simple, yet oh so cute and very practical!  They were several diapers bound together by pretty ribbon with a couple of fun bath toys on top.

shower decorations

There were light blue tablecloths with gray and blue paper products which matches our nursery colors.  And you know we love to eat, so there was plenty of delicious food!  It was a breakfast baby shower and the food included bagels, donuts, egg casseroles, yogurt, granola, fruit, and of course, cake!

baby shower cake

The cake actually said Baby Itz’s name, but I’m not posting that on here yet.

All in all, it was an absolutely lovely shower!  Thank you team, co-workers, friends. You made us feel incredibly special and truly helped us prepare for Baby Itz with the many wonderful gifts, support, and love! I’m going to share one last picture of a really funny hashtag onesie that is just perfect.

hashtag onesie

Hilarious, right? #ilovehashtags #babyitzwilltoo

What’s the cutest or funniest onesie you’ve ever seen? We have gotten so many adorable onesies, itz hard to choose!  

24 Life Lessons

Last week, Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean posted Advice for the World which was inspired by Cori at Olive to Run with an activity she did with her students called What Would You Say?  Cori asked her students, “Imagine that I handed you a microphone; when you speak into it, the whole world can understand and hear you at the same time.  You can make 3 statements. What would you say?”  She was amazed at the wisdom they come up with and shared many of their thoughts on her blog.

I thought this activity would be perfect and so interesting for my fourth grade students.  It ties into our curriculum, too, as in Reader’s Workshop we often discuss the theme of books.  Upon finishing a fiction book, we ask ourselves, “What is the life lesson?  What is the message the author wants to share with the world?”  Instead of thinking of the individual characters and their actions, we apply the book to a larger setting and think about what we can take away from it.  I was able to relate theme to this activity.

24 life lessons

Thanks to Pinterest, I have several inspirational quotes hanging up around the classroom.  I prefaced the lesson during a class meeting and asked the children to choose one of the quotations and to discuss it among themselves.  Then, I brought in theme and told them these quotes were like lessons for the world.  When I told them it was their turn, they excitedly scampered to their desks, opened their writer’s notebooks, and began recording their life lessons they wanted to share with the world.

We came back together as a class and each child shared their favorite.  I was so impressed that I had the students share a second life lesson.  You guys, my students are geniuses.  Seriously, I was amazed!  They ended up typing and decorating them before we laminated them and have them hanging around the room.  Check it out:

24 Life Lessons as Told by Fourth Graders

  • You need to keep trying to succeed and to succeed you need to try.
  • Try your hardest.
  • Be yourself!
  • It’s okay if you don’t get 100% on your test.  The important thing is you need to try.
  • Something is better than nothing.
  • The more you dream, the more dreams can come true.
  • Even if you aren’t a star, you are in the sunlight.
  • Never stop believing, and never, ever give up!
  • If you want to do something – believe!
  • Never give up.
  • Nobody’s perfect!
  • The sky is the limit and be who you want to be.
  • Try your best!
  • If you want to kill a wolf, find out what its pack can do back to you and see if you want to do it now.
  • Never say never on what you are doing.
  • Accept responsibilities in your life! You are one who takes you where you want to go, nobody else!
  • Stand up and be a good friend.
  • The sky is the limit!
  • Never say you can’t do something because you can always find out how to do things, if you just try.
  • Be a family to all countries.
  • Be yourself because you are special!
  • Be creative.
  • You win you win, you lose you win.
  • Always help each other!

They’re wise beyond their years.  It takes some people their entire lives to learn these lessons and these are words straight from nine-year-olds mouths!  They must have a stellar teacher… 😉  Hehe just kidding, they really are super smart!

What would you tell the world?