Monday, September 09, 2013

Row, row, row your boat

Since I have been unable to run lately with my foot injury, I have had to find other things to do that are non-impact.

Here are some of my favorites, including rowing, which can burn 500-800 calories per hour!

Backwards (2012) Poster
It's not Dawson's Creek, but watch this movie to get how cool rowing can be.


Whether your knees can't take another mile on the pavement or you're just bored out of your mind on the treadmill, there are many reasons to switch up your cardio routine. First and foremost, you'll get better results! The rowing machine provides the best total-body workout of any cardio machine. Why? Because the movement requires equal effort from both your lower and upper body, leading to more calories burned and greater gains in overall cardiovascular fitness. Plus, rowing doesn't put a lot of pressure on the joints so you have a much better chance of staying injury-free.




Swimming laps 

Friday, August 23, 2013

K to the z

For many new parents of kindergartners school can be overwhelming. Especially if it means all day every day school instead of half days like preschool.

When Ava started school in Ohio last year the half day every other day was a huge adjustment. And then when we moved and she had an intensive all day every day routine at her new school it was an adjustment for our family. Since she had been only going half days, she was behind in her new school and needed extra help.

After about two weeks of research I found some great resources. These ideas helped shift our teaching and educated me as a parent. I thought it would be helpful to share some of these ideas with you all!

Want to have your child thrive? 

Become informed about how to encourage and help your kids!

I have five awesome steps that we did (trial and error!) and Ava went from barely able to write a full sentence to winning the handwriting award her final week of school!

1. Become the most informed parent you can be even before your student enters the classroom. Our state (VA) has a curriculum link on their county website that lists the curriculum for the upcoming year.

This allows you as a parent to have a really great overview about what they will be learning.

And, you can make this fun and exciting! Our teacher also had a Website so on Monday we would review the letter or sight words of the week so she had some exposure prior to the lesson.

Also, enter the classroom and help out. Try to make connections at school and with other parents!

Word families are fun ways to help learn reading. 

We would do something fun like watching the Richmond Squirrels and then write all of the words that came to mind at the game. Ava would also write a 3-4 sentence report. The dot stickers are awesome. They help show that every word has a certain number of letters. 

Every 2-3 weeks we had some goals for Ava and Sophie to do. And they got to pick an activity to do. This was super cheap (20 for both for 2 hours!) 

One of our favorite stories is "Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded by Water."

This felt board I purchased at the teacher store has been so much fun. Reminds me of sunday school. 

Every word has a certain number of letters. Sophie has six letters in her name. The foam is very tactile and the dots represent how many letters are in her name.

Circle stickers are fun ways to write sight words. 

Back to school pics last year! 

2. Sight words and reading.
Sight words are the first words that many students use to begin reading. They are the best way to enable your child will thrive.

Here is a link to some fun sight word games you can purchase that incorporate sight words.

Sight words like "this" "little" and "look" will be a major part of your child's learning how to read. You may have a great teacher that explains this or not. But, you will do yourself a favor if you research how teachers are teaching students to read.

I took a whole weekend to do this and Website's like Mrs. Jump's are awesome. She has a free downloadable right now that uses your child's name in the "Wheels on the Bus" song. Ava and Sophie like singing with their names in the song.

Her story also is pretty cool! She earned more than a million dollars selling her classroom lessons!

The famous Mrs. Jump who was featured on CNN  for her lesson plans that earned more than a million dollars on

Here are some of the fun ways Ava memorized her sight words.
  • Sight words on balloons
  • Sight words on index cards
  • Sight word spelling bees 
  • Sight word egg find (take sight words and put in plastic eggs) 
  • Sight word sentences (Make a sentence out of the word of the week)
  • Nightly (!) sight word review
  • Point and tell - have Ava circle around the sight words on wall and pick a sight word to read 
3. Reading.
Read everything! We had Ava do grocery lists, poems, label drawings (known as guided drawing), read Sophia stories and read her stories. Experts also state that children are usually 2-3 levels above their reading level for listening to stories so we read chapter books. 

Show her your love of reading as well. Both Brandon and I love to read and really have a ton of books. Experts also say that the more books your child owns (not sure why it means owns and not library books) is an indicator of their success in school. So we try to make it fun to go to Barnes and Nobles and get their level readers

And label your child's lunch baggies and refer to their color by the same color sharpie! 

Here are some of the ideas I used. 

Add some key sight words she is working on that week and underline. 

  • Blue chips (print in blue) 
  • red apples (print in red)
  • Yellow peppers (print in yellow) 
As your child sees the color + word it starts to makes sense. There are two words and the first is always color and the second is the name of the food. That means there are two spaces or words that are used to describe the snack. 

4. Find an awesome teacher store and load up. This is a great way to get some fun products that incorporate reading, art and math. 

I really loved the color and number chart we purchased. And here are some of the other favorites. Both Ava and Sophie are able to use them. 

Magnetic Sight-Word...
Five-star rated, this toy allows Ava to see how a sentence is formed and its easy to use because it's color coded. 

Flip & Read Sight...
Also a five-star toy, the flip and sort sentence builder allows your student to use sight words to write letters. 

Lakeshore Magnetic Fishing Set
These fishing poles are so fun for all of my kids. They are worth every penny and help build hand/eye coordination. I thought about adding sight words on to the fishes. It's also fun in their water table. 

Alphabet Picture Stickers
ABC stickers that also look fun! 
5. Process and build.
Just like running a half marathon, your child's reading is built upon repetition and practice running their "miles". Build confidence in them by having them learn "I," "and," and other easy sight words and later they will be able to use these in a sentence. 

The Website has a great way to personalize your writing! I used it to help Sophie write her name. 

A habit of writing 

It will help your child to also write everyday. With Ava, we had her writing at least three to four sentences twice a day. It sounds like a lot and at first it was very tedious. However, it helped develop a habit of writing. 

As a journalism student my teacher also told us that journalists become great writers by habit. Many writers sit down and type away 100-200 words a day. 

A couple of times I videotaped Ava reading her book. She really liked hearing how the words sounded to someone else. 

Youtube it up

Super "E"  - Super cheesy and super catchy as it teaches about the silent "e." 

One word of advice? Have fun! Your kids will love learning and this will not be school. It will be fun! Teaching them things is a byproduct of your time and energy.

Next we will talk about building sentences with sight words! :) 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last few weekends in photos

We went blueberry picking with Ashleigh and her friends and came home with a ton of blueberries. Sophie requested blueberry pie so I used Martha's recipe for it. This recipe is the closest I could find to it -- I have her huge blue bible as I call it and that recipe subbed heavy cream for milk and did not include lemon. Not sure why. It also used just one TB of butter to dot, instead of two. 

Two Sundays ago we had the whole day to our family since we did church Sat. night. We had a great time with Ava and Soph's friend from gymnastics at our ACAC pool. 

Lighting up our foyer with this light I ordered at Shades of Light outlet! It takes an Edison light.  

We had bacon, red onion and fresh basil pizza on Friday that was so good. I used the Pioneer Woman's pizza crust recipe that is super simple and also added Pecorino Romano. So yum. I didn't have time to age it in the fridge (Cook's Country org. recommended this as the best way to proof dough). 

Ava and her french braid before gymnastics. 

Five minutes on the rowing machine after cardio before this. Whew. This was hard! 

We went to Urban Farmhouse this weekend after church. The kids ate all of my french toast! We really loved sitting on the patio since kids after church are famished and ready for nap. Loved the chill atmosphere and organic food. Brandon ordered the lox and bagels and said it was the best he ever had. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013


I haven't wrote anything lately very deep. I used to be a pretty deep writer it seems until kids came and stole my very brain cells from my head. The snot, dinners and constant need has almost come and stolen some parts of my ability to even put pen to paper. 

Our move and Ryder being a one year old who is walking and finding or making messes with sonar-like reflexes has taken my once ability to eloquently write to shreds. Which is similar to how my life feels like right now. A shredder has come and fragmented my life to little pieces of which God has total control. I am not in control anymore and that can be a trifle scary. 

These tedious days of diapers and messes; constant toys and sometimes loneliness are only a stage. A stage that lasts so short of of time, but almost feels like university again. All-nighters with a sick baby instead of a test. Diapers and clothes and classes that skew
the budget instead of clothes. 

And being away from home and having a whole new set of people around you in a strange part of the country. They say that having a baby is so precious and that you will always remember those years. I remember people saying that as we were in college as we were dirt poor and living on ramen noodles and CiCi's pizza. 

And it makes me wonder in hindsight if those years get better and better because we have the time to appreciate the little hugs with renewed and full hearts. Our hearts are not sapped from pouring out so constantly and full like a rushing river of thoughts, fears and worries. Our hearts have had time to renew and find strength in the quiet moments of life where our memories become sweeter. 

Our time with our best friends are not only at the end of the day when we are utterly spent and are "touched out" (a coin a friend once admitted to and I have to agree." 

If I had to remember things right now it would be Sophie's sweet way to saying chihuahua's (koala) or Ava's rapt attention at church and her singing and dancing on stage or Ryder pointing with his index finger at books as I read to him. It's so worth it because at the end of the day I am full. Full of joy of a job that is not easy or timely rewarded. 

That will take years to fully understand. 

“Joy is prayer - Joy is strength - Joy is love - Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. She gives most who gives with Joy.”
Mother Teresa  (1910-1997);

Friday, August 02, 2013


This girl is fried from the pool, sun and popsicle fun we had today. We were celebrating Ava being out of summer school to catch up and now we are ready for a month of no school.

I have been having physical therapy twice a week now for my foot and it's feeling better. I think the combo of the electric thing that they zap my foot with and the ice and exercises are helping. Oh, have you read this article from Runners Connect

It states that there are more benefits over a 12 week period of moderate training (thinking you could run one more lap or set) in both fitness and VO2 max rather than high intensity puking training. 

Pretty cool. Since I have been not running for 4 weeks now--I am cycling, swimming laps and lifting--maybe reading about running can help me not get so jealous of all of the runners that go past our home.

The kids are loving the summer. Sophie tried a dance class for the first time and loved it. She did the routine so well and loved tapping and ballet. Ava is enjoying her gymnastics and making lots of friends. She had a sleepover the other weekend with her little friend. Ryder is growing big! He loved to point with his index finger, dip his chicken nuggets or fries at Chick Fil A in ketchup and eats a ton. 

This weekend we are going to church Saturday night and the pool on Sunday. It will be awesome to relax for a whole day and just eat and suntan! :) 

We had a crazy busy and full month in July. Our families got the great chance to visit. We celebrated Sharon's bday and we got to see Livi, Andrew and my mom. 

July snapshots