Category Archives: my son

Wildcard Wednesday: Blaze Pizza

Blaze PizzaI’ve been pretty diligent about this whole diet and exercise thing. I actually started it in August. Between August and October I managed to lose about 10 pounds, which while far from my goal, was a nice start. Then, I went on vacation to see my best friend, which meant a lot of eating out at our favorite places. Then I got back to work and had a lot of work to day and got myself stressed, which meant a bit more eating and less working out. While I only gained two pounds back, I was not keeping track of my calories and was hardly making it to the gym.

When my husband got a new job and a free membership to Life Time Fitness, I decided to check it out. I really liked it, especially since it has two amazing pools and childcare included in the membership cost. So, by mid-December, I was back in the gym. Of the 24 days of December that I was trying out/a member of the gym, I made it in 12 times, which I thought was pretty good.

About a week before the end of the year, I decided that exercise alone was not going to cut it, so I also cut back on calories. I logged back into My Fitness Pal and started tracking. I was giving this thing my all.

So far in the 17 days of January, I’ve been to the gym 13 times and I’ve yet to go over my 1400 calorie limit. I’m down four pounds and feeling pretty good about life.

As part of this new routine, I’ve been cooking a lot more, which is really important since I have total control over ingredients and therefore calories. However, every now and then I need a break from the kitchen.

This past weekend we were out running a bunch of errands and found ourselves a bit far from our house at lunch time. Looking around, I noticed a Blaze Pizza and decided it would be a great option for lunch. We’ve been to Blaze several times and really like it. If you’ve never been, it’s sort of the Subway of pizza joints. My kids love being able to custom build their own pizzas, even if it sometimes means some questionable combinations. When given the chance at unlimited toppings, my son goes a bit mad with power. My daughter sticks more to the basics: cheese pizza.

Aside from liking the actual taste of Blaze Pizza, I really like that I can control what goes on it and make sensible choices. As much as I like ooey-gooey, super fatty cheesy pepperoni pizza, I can also appreciate a healthier option. I also really love that Blaze has a great nutrition calculator so I can see what my toppings will cost me.

For my most recent Blaze creation, I started with the standard, fairly thin crust, which has 420 calories for the entire pizza. I added the red sauce, which is another 30 calories for the entire pizza. I topped it with goat cheese instead of the standard mozzarella. This adds only 100 calories instead of 220. I skipped meat to avoid extra fat and calories and instead loaded it with veggies. I stacked on spinach, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and roasted squash. All together, each piece had about 95 calories, so 3 pieces was not only filling, but also under 300 calories (and only 6 grams of fat). Not at all bad for lunch, right?

Most importantly, it tasted fantastic and since each pizza has 6 slices, I have another healthy lunch for tomorrow. Everyone in the family was satisfied and I didn’t have to spend any extra time on the Arc trainer (although I did).

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Teaching Tuesday: Snow days

We had our first official snow day this past Friday. Technically it was an ice day as there was hardly any snow on the ground, but there was a thick layer of ice covering the streets, making travel unsafe.

On Thursday everyone was abuzz over the possibility of a snow day. Although the forecast was calling for up to 3 inches of snow (which we did not get) and some major ice after our nearly 60 degree temps which melted all the streets and fields, I had little faith in the forecast. It seems like every time we hear we’ll get 3-6 inches of snow, we get an inch at best. Usually I watch as all the surrounding schools close, but mine is open.

For the past two years we haven’t had a single snow day. Heck, I’m not even sure we had any two hour delays last year. I kept telling my students not to get their hopes up, but just in case, I brought home all of the grading I needed to do.

Low and behold, when my husband’s alarm went off at 5:50, I decided to get up and check the weather. The view from my front door was a tiny dusting of snow, so I didn’t hold out much hope of a snow day. However, when I went to check my phone, there was the text plain as day: school was closed.

I promptly headed back to my bedroom, poked my head into my daughter’s room and told her it was a snow day, so she needed to go back to sleep, set my alarm for 7:30 and went back to sleep myself.

I got up at 7:30 and headed straight for the computer. Since every student in my district has either an iPad or Chromebook (depending on their grade), our school qualifies for Electronic Learning Days. On any e-Learning days, we have to have our lesson plans uploaded for our students by 8 am.

I’d already planned the activities the night before, but wasn’t about to go through the extra work of setting them up just in case we had school. Since I knew what all my kids needed to do, I made sure the e-Learning attendance tab was open on Canvas, created step by step instructions for the class period and then emailed all my students when their tasks were up.

Then, I opened my email tab on my phone and my desktop and helped my own children log into their devices so they could start their e-Learning day activities. I’ll admit that juggling my children’s questions with my student’s questions was a struggle…for about 5 minutes! Luckily my son was almost entirely self-sufficient (he’s 10) and my daughter’s teacher made her activities pretty easy to follow. There were a few moments of frustration for my children, but with a little help from me they got right back on track.

Every half hour or so I told my kids to take a break and go play, which stretched out their day. Still, even with those breaks, they were both done with their work  by lunch time and thrilled they got to spend the rest of the day playing in their jammies. They actually didn’t even get dressed until 4 pm when they decided they wanted to go outside and play in the snow and I made them put on real clothes under their snowsuits. We may not have had much snow, but it was cold and I wanted them as bundled as possible.

I managed to not only answer all student questions, but get all caught up with my grading. Well, as much as I could. Although our students all have to sign in for attendance, they don’t technically have to finish the work given to them until the next class day…just in case there are internet issues. Since school was cancelled on a Friday and we have MLK day off, my students don’t have to finish their work until today. About half of them took their sweet time.

Not that I’m upset. In fact, it basically meant I had 3 whole days with no grading since I was all caught up. It’s a nice feeling being all caught up. Not that it’ll last, but it’s nice for now!

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Free Reading Friday: Unbound

I pickedUnbound up Unbound by Ann E. Burg in part because I liked the cover and in part because it is a novel in verse. I’ve read several novels in verse over the last few months and I have really developed an appreciation for them. I love the fact that authors are able to not only articulate brilliant plots, but also create characters with amazing depth without the long rambling sentences and paragraphs of most novels.

Books like Unbound remind me that Shakespeare was right, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

The journey that Grace goes on to obtain her freedom is one of bravery and inspiration. Although fictional, Burg does a great job of making the reader feel the true peril of the lives of runaway slaves.

Although I have read several fictional and true slave narratives, Burg still managed to introduce me to new information. I knew about slaves escaping North with and without the help of the Underground Railroad, but I’d never heard about people escaping by going even deeper into the South. I had no idea there were runaway slaves who escaped by living in the Dismal Swamp. This is a fascinating bit of history I now want to know more about.

I wish Burg would have given the reader a bit more of a look into Grace’s life of freedom in the swamp, but the narrative is still complete without it. The point is that Grace and her family will still have to endure hardships, but at least they will be able to get through them together and on their own terms. Though they may not follow that famous North Star, they still find their freedom and their home.

Great read for young adults. I actually plan to recommend it to my students, but only after my son, who is 10, finishes it.

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Throwback Thursday: Christmas with my mom

For the first time in over 20 years, I celebrated Christmas with my mom. Well, not actual Christmas day. That was reserved for my husband, our children and me. But, I did spend a large portion of December 23rd with my mom and that’s the closest I’ve spent to Christmas with her since I was 14.

I won’t go into the particulars of our rocky relationship. It would take too long and I doubt anyone would be very interested in it. The short version goes like this: My mom and dad split up when I was 5. My mom remarried when I was 6 and moved us over 2,000 miles away to Southern California. I spent the summers and a few Christmases with my dad, but for the most part, I spent all of my time with my mom.

And that was fine until I hit middle school. Then, we just couldn’t get along. I was not some crazy rebellious child. Unless you count wanting to watch Growing Pains and Just the Ten of Us as some major act of rebellion. TV was not the only thing we could not agree one. She did not let me listen to music or hang out with friends or do much of anything that required me to leave the house out of her supervision.

Again, I was not a bad kid. I was in honors classes. I got good grades. I went to church on Wednesdays and Sundays. I said, “yes ma’am” to most requests. But I was miserably unhappy, so one summer when I went to visit my dad, I didn’t return.

For the most part, my life got much better. My mom and I didn’t talk for nearly 4 years, but eventually we got in contact and slowly we started rebuilding our relationship.

I actually visited my mom one December before I graduated from college. I was actually visiting good friends who had moved to San Diego and since she was only a few hours up the coast and my friends wanted to visit LA anyway, they dropped me off at my mom’s and I spent two days there. It was close to New Year’s Eve and I spent one full day at Disneyland with my sister. No Christmas presents were exchanged and I’m not even sure my mom still had her tree up, so I don’t really count it as a Christmas visit.

This year though, my mom came to visit my grandmother for the holidays. My grandmother is 97 and has a host of medical issues, but she is so stubborn and fiercely independent that she refuses to leave her house. My mom has started coming to visit a few times a year to help out. While it’s up to my kids and I to make the two hour trip to see her and my grandmother, over the last few years, at least my kids have kind of gotten to know their grandmother.

As an added bonus, this year my kids got to give my mom the gifts we got her and they got to open Christmas presents from her with her. It’s the first time they’ve ever done that. The visit actually went better and longer than I expected. Of course, this was due in large part to the fact that my mom asked us to take her to Walmart so she could run some errands for my grandma. If I ever needed proof that I love my grandma it was spending time in Walmart two days before Christmas. Mad house does not even begin to describe the chaos of the place. It was the stuff my nightmares are made of!

Still, we had a little gift exchange, ate some pizza and talked a bit. Not about anything serious or deep, but my kids got to tell my mom a bit about their lives and she got to hug them and tell them a bit about their cousins who live in North Carolina with her. After about four hours, my kids got pretty bored, which is not shocking considering there are no toys to play with and two adults they don’t know very well. It didn’t exactly feel like a Christmas celebration, but considering it’s taken over 20 years to get this far, I’m calling it a win.

The kids and I are going back up to see her and my grandma later this week. This time the visit will be a bit shorter and they’ll get to have a sleepover with their cousins, so all of our hearts might be more in it.

My biggest hope is that it doesn’t take another 20 years for us to come together at the holidays.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Brussel Bytes

Brussiel BytesAfter my workout I stopped in Fresh Thyme to get my daughter some of the vegetarian jerky she likes. It’s been over three weeks now and her desire to be a vegetarian does not seem to be wavering in the least. Her pediatrician is fine with this experiment as long as she gets enough protein and fruits and vegetables and doesn’t become a “carbotarian,” so I’m trying to get as many alternate meat choices as possible.

While I was looking at potential snack foods for her, I spotted one that peaked my interest: Brussel Bytes.

Unlike kale chips, which seem to be the new health food craze, I love Brussels sprouts. They are one of my favorite vegetables, whereas kale is something I only eat if forced to and even then not unless it is flavored into submission. I tried kale chips and could not stomach them. But Brussels sprout chips? That had me intrigued. And even though the ingredient list included kale (along with cashews, carrots, red pepper, coconut nectar and spices), I figured I’d risk it.

I grabbed the cheezy herb flavor, figuring even if I hated them it would be a fun experiment. But I didn’t hate them. Not at all. I actually really like them.

They are made from sprout “leaves” and coated with a a cheesy Italiany herb mix of basil, garlic, rosemary and salt. They have a great crunch to them and somehow remind me of spinach, my absolute favorite vegetable. They don’t have any of the bitterness that is often both Brussels sprouts and kale have, which is delightful.

Despite what the package claims, no chips will be moving over. They aren’t replacing potato chips in my heart and my brain has no illusions that I am actually eating chips. However, the entire package only has 160 calories, 4 grams of fat, 9 carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, so I don’t feel bad eating the entire bag in one sitting. They may not have tasted as good as a single serving of salt and vinegar chips, but I felt a heck of a lot better about myself after eating them.

I haven’t tried to entice my kids to eat them yet, but they both actually like sprouts, so there is a chance they’ll at least try them. They may even like them.

I definitely want to try chili pumpkin seed flavored ones I saw as well, so I guess another trip to Fresh Thyme will be in order soon.

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Teaching Tuesday: Thanksgiving break

My first teaching gig definitely spoiled me when it came to Thanksgiving. Since I worked at a university laboratory school, things worked just a little bit differently.

For those who aren’t in the know, let me explain what I mean by a laboratory school. No, we didn’t have the students penned up like lab animals, but yes, we did experiments on them. Sort of. Laboratory schools, which are few and far between these days, are linked to universities with particularly strong teacher’s colleges. They exist in part to help train would be teachers. They also exist to try out new ideas in education. It’s because of experiments in laboratory schools that different types of scheduling like block 4, block 8, trimesters, balanced calendar, etc exist. Laboratory schools also exist for professors and student to conduct educational research on a wide variety of educational topics.

Don’t worry, everyone who sends their children to laboratory schools does so voluntarily (in fact there is usually a high demand and limited space in them) and with complete knowledge of the experiments, research, etc that goes on in them.

There are tons of perks to both teaching at and attending a lab school. My students were easily able to audit college classes (at almost no cost to them, but only for high school credit), take college classes for credit (at a cost to them, but some of my students graduated from high school with enough credits to be college sophomores), they were able to attend lectures from experts in a variety of fields (I got to take my high school freshmen to hear Elie Wiesel speak before we read his book Night) and, we got extra vacation days.

While we did not get every day off that the university did, we got many off that our city school corporation kids did not. When there were snow days, if the university wasn’t in session or the university closed, we didn’t have to make them up. Also, unlike every other school corporation I’ve ever worked at, we got Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week off.

Although it may not seem like much, that one extra day off was so important. My husband’s family lives in North Carolina and instead of having to set off for a 9 hour drive after working a full work day (which put us in NC between 2-3 am), we could sleep in on Wed if we wanted and still be at his parent’s house by dinner time. Plus, we got to spend three full days visiting with both his family and friends. If we decided to visit my folks, who only lived 2 hours away, I had a full day to make sure all of my grading was done so that I could actually have four restful days off.

For the past 14 years I’ve taught in regular ol’ public schools and we’ve only gotten Thursday and Friday off. When our son was born 10 years ago, we made one final trip to visit my husband’s family for Thanksgiving. Despite leaving as soon as my work day was over, we rolled in way too late with a very cranky baby who had major trouble getting back on his schedule and vowed we’d never do it again. That was our last holiday visit to North Carolina.

My in-laws are both semi-retired (my MiL is self-employed), so when we couldn’t make the travel to them work, they decided to travel to us instead. While it is a lot easier when they come here, working a full day on Wednesday still makes the prep work for house guests and Thanksgiving dinner for 11 stressful and the “break” not much of a break.

Luckily this year my in-laws decided to stay at a hotel and take the entire family out for dinner, so I got a bit more of a break.

Still, I was thrilled to learn that my school just released our 2018-2019 calendar and for the first time, we will be getting Wed-Fri off. I’m not quite sure what this will mean, but it may mean a trip to NC to see my in-laws for the holiday, something my son doesn’t remember and my daughter has never experienced.

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Throwback Thursday: Cabbage Patch Kids

CPKI was a child of the Cabbage Patch generation. I still actually remember getting my very first one when I was 8, only months after they started appearing in stores. For those of you not alive during this time, they were nearly impossible to get. Stores sold out within minutes. My step-dad heard a rumor that a local department store was getting a shipment in and my mom made him drive immediately over. I don’t remember how long he was there for, but he came home with two dolls, one for me and one for my little sister (who was not even two at the time). Apparently when he went in to buy the dolls, he was directed to the back of the store in the layaway department. They hadn’t even bothered to put the dolls on the shelves in the aisle. Everyone got in a line and when you got to the front, you could get two dolls. The only choice the employees allowed customers to make was skin color, which at the time was either Caucasian or African American. No choice of gender, hair color, eye color…nothing.

Not that my sister or I really cared. She was too little and I was just thrilled to have the doll. Jennifer Lynn (as I would rename her) was the first in a rather long line of CPKs. I actually didn’t end up keeping her, but gave her to my best friend when my grandmother sent me another CPK for Easter. However, counting her (and the one that I accidentally left in the courtyard of our apartment building that was stolen), I had 15 Cabbage Patch Kids. Yes, that’s right, 15. I also had a CPK horse,a  Koosa (a “pet” of sorts for CPKs–mine was a cat) and an original Furskin bear (Boone).

Not only that, I had 6 different CPK pin ups. And I don’t even know how many small, posable figures I had.

My collection included a preemie, a cornsilk, an astronaut, two circus, a World Traveler from Holland, a set of twins, a baby,  and one with a pacifier. Any variation of CPK they made from about 1983-1988, I had. I loved those dolls.

I wasn’t the only one in my family to get in on the craze. My aunt bought a few too. I’d like to say they were for my cousin and I to play with, but in truth, she just liked collecting valuable toys. She also had about a million Beanie Babies at the height of their craze. My step-mom also bought a few and kept them in boxes. Not long after I stopped playing with dolls, my step-mom took them out of their boxes and let my younger cousin play with them a bit. When I went off for college, her CPKs went into a box and were stored in my old bedroom closet.

When my daughter was born, my step-mom pulled her dolls out of storage and gave them to her darling granddaughter. She also bought her her very first CPK, which was designed specifically for toddlers as the only part of the doll that is plastic is her face. She doesn’t even have a full plastic CPK head, just a face. My mom later bought her a regular CPK with only a tuft of blond hair on her head.

So, by the time my daughter was 2, she had 5 Cabbage Patch Kids, which definitely broke my record. She still loves all 5 of them and plays with them. However, I can see a big difference in her dolls, which are pretty darn ratty, and the ones I got when I was a bit older. Mine were in pristine condition because while I played with them, I mothered them as if they were real children. I was never one to take their hair down or take their clothes off. My daughter currently has one of the 1980’s dolls on her bed. The poor thing is completely naked AND her red hair, which used to be in pig tails, is one giant mess.

Not that I care. I’m just happy to see her loving the same toy that brought me so much joy when I was a child.

 

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