March 31, 2015

SOL 31: It's the Small Things

The Slice of Life Challenge officially ends today, and I'm still smiling!

I have to admit, that although this challenge was really hard for me on some days, I'm SO glad I participated!

And I'm proud of myself for sticking with it.

I'm actually still somewhat surprised that I didn't give up. I'm not quite sure what that says about me!

Congrats to all the other slicers who participated this month as well! I'm already looking forward to 2016!

Today, I want to take a moment to recognize what a difference the small things can make. I had to tutor today (yes... on spring break), which was my only task that necessitated leaving the house. Usually, I would just go in my yoga pants and a sweatshirt, but today, I took the time to put on a cute outfit and straighten my hair.

And that little bit of a difference, I feel, changed my entire day. I was more productive. In fact, I was so productive that this is the first moment I've sat down at the computer all day, despite the fact that I was home for like 22 out of 24 hours. I cleaned. I cooked (a damn good meal, if I do say so myself), I socialized more because I spent more time hanging out downstairs, and Joel and I even went for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner and without hesitation.

My mood was even better. I think because I feel better about myself when I look cuter.

Maybe I'll make myself cute again tomorrow! :)

March 30, 2015

Call for Help: Letters for Troops

A sweet friend and former colleague of mine is looking forward to welcoming home her husband and his troop from deployment. A bunch of the wives and girlfriends are getting together to create goodie bags to welcome them, but she wants to make sure those who are single and/or far from family get some love too.

It would mean SO MUCH to her (and me... and, of course, the troop) if your students would send cards/letters/pictures to include with the bags to remind them what it's all about.

There's a pretty quick turnaround on this, since she needs everything by Monday. So, these probably need to be in the mail by Thursday.

I know it's quick, but think of the impact of such a small gesture!

Maybe this can be done during recess or lunch? With a blogging club?

Please send letters to:

Kellianna Magallon
20222 Garland Street
Covington, LA 70435

Thank you for considering this! It's SUCH a meaningful activity, and I wish I had known about it sooner so I could participate with my students!

SOL 30: St. Baldricks 2015

Her face expresses the emotion of this moment better than any words.

On Friday afternoon, in the last two hours before spring break officially began, we piled all of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders into the gym for an assembly.

Normally, I would roll my eyes at such a suggestion. These kids have cabin fever like I've never seen before. For the past few weeks, they've all been acting like little carbonation bubbles waiting to burst at the first sight of freedom.

But this was no ordinary assembly. This was a celebration of charity, an acknowledgement of our tigers who worked hard to help those who need it most.

During the assembly, EIGHTEEN students, boys and girls alike, and four teachers shaved their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer. And they raised more than $15,000 doing so, with our top fundraiser bringing in more than $3,000 alone!

There were cheers.

There were tears.

And when those children with freshly shaved heads walked through our tunnel of high fives, their faces beamed with pride. Because they knew they did something that mattered.

I'm so proud to be a part of this community!

March 29, 2015

SOL 29: How Direct Marketing is Like Religion

This post may be a bit controversial, and I may offend some people. Let me start by saying that is NOT my intention.

But all this Direct Marketing stuff needs to S.T.O.P. on Facebook!

When I scroll through my newsfeed, I'm BOMBARDED by advertisements. Beach Body, Plexus, Scentsy, Silpada Designs, 31 Gifts, Pampered Chef, It Works, Tastefully Simple, Younique, Mary Kay, Avon, Jamberry... the list seems endless!

Between the DM ads and all the GoFundMe and charity fundraisers, it seems like the entire PURPOSE of social media is to ask for people's money.

Except that's not how I want it to be. I never advertise my TPT products on my personal FB page. I want to use social media to connect with my friends and acquaintances. You know... to talk about things and share our lives like we used to do in person BEFORE social media.

Am I alone in this?

Some days, like to today, it really feels like I am.

It's not like I don't understand why Direct Salespeople reach out to their "friends" on Facebook and other social media. I get it. I really do.

And it's not even that I can't see the value in some of these products. I have some fantastic products from some of these businesses. (Most have been bought out of pure guilt.)

But it's SUPER annoying when 90% of your posts are about business. Maybe because social networking is what I do when I'm trying NOT to think about work.

Not to mention, my mama taught me that it's rude to ask people for money.

I think the biggest offenders are those in the "health" industry. There are some FABULOUS people on my friends list who work for these companies, and I swear they post before & after shots of "customers" ten times a day!


If we want to buy your product, WE ALL KNOW who to ask!

Please don't make me hide you from my newsfeed. Because then I'll miss out on the 10% of your posts I DO CARE about. And I won't interact with you. And then I'll probably forget we're even friends.

I've done that before. With people I'm happy to forget.

Is shoving your business down people's throats ANY BETTER than shoving religion down someone's throat?

Hint: It's not!

I read a post once in which an acquaintance said, "Religion [and Direct Marketing] should be treated like your penis. Go ahead and be proud about it. Maybe even offer it up once if you know someone who may be interested. But respect others if they tell you they don't want to try it out. Anything more is harassment!"

I have to say that I agree. Wholeheartedly.

When did this become acceptable?

March 28, 2015

SOL 28: Tiny Traitor

Joel and I babysat our niece, Aniya, today while his sister was at work.

My first day of spring break started ENTIRELY too early. For some reason, toddlers don't get the memo about sleeping in on Saturdays.

And then...

Despite the fact that she is normally MY sidekick, this little girl decided today that she was going to be ALL ABOUT Joel.

I felt like chopped liver!

The one thing I WAS allowed to do today (besides be the official diaper changer) was help her make some artwork for our refrigerator. If you know me, you understand that this was a HUGE step for me because I HATE CLUTTER. I;m usually 100% opposed to anything on the refrigerator because I think it looks messy.

But that's how much I love this little girl!

The rest of the day, she was pretty much glued to Joel's side. She even had to go on a "walk" with him down to the mailbox because GOD FORBID he walk outside without her!

We took her to a salad bar for lunch. I thought I was doing such a good thing by putting a little bit of SO MANY COLORS on her plate. She ate my croutons instead.

And then we came home for "nap" time, which meant snuggle time with Uncle Joel while we desperately tried and failed to get her to take a nap!

I know I will be sleeping like a baby tonight!

March 27, 2015

SOL 27: Teachable Moment

At tutoring yesterday, my student was telling me about being bullied in class.

"Who's bullying you, buddy?" I asked him.

"The fat girl!" he replied. 

As soon as the words left his lips, I covered his paper with my hands. I needed him to focus on my words because this next lesson was WAY more important than any math problem.

I explained to him that it's NEVER okay to comment on ANYONE'S body in a negative way. Even if that person is being a bully.

I told him that he could respond, "I don't like the way you're talking to me!" or "That's not nice!" but that he may NEVER, EVER call anyone fat.

Or too skinny. Or too tall, too short, etc... too DIFFERENT.

This is an important lesson for him because HE is different than most of his peers. His family is Indian and Islamic. Certainly, he does and will continue to encounter peers who don't understand his culture. People can be cruel. And that's not okay. But I needed to show him that he can do BETTER!

I asked him if he would ever call me the fat lady.

"No, because I respect you!" he insisted.

"That's good! And you need to show everyone that same respect, even if they aren't being respectful toward you. Because if you do call people names or comment on their appearance, it just makes you a bully too!" I explained.

"But what about when it's true?" he asked.

And I told him that it doesn't matter. I told him how words like that can really be hurtful. I was honest about my own experiences being called fat as a child and how that language cut me like a knife. I told him I can STILL remember who said those things to me and how much it hurt, even though I'm an adult. We talked about how that words like that make people hate their bodies and themselves, and we want to be people who BUILD others up instead of putting them down.

We talked about eating disorders and other consequences of the negative self-image that comes with hearing this negative talk about our bodies. We talked about how much it would hurt him if someone said those things about his mom or sisters.

I really think he heard me.

And I hope my words resonate with him for years to come.

March 26, 2015

SOL 26: Being Different

Every day at school, I see students who are obviously uncomfortable in their bodies. I know this is common for middle school (and let's face it... adults), but it absolutely breaks my heart every time.

If you're familiar with this age group, you know how preoccupied they are with their appearance. I get it. Their bodies are changing, yet they are not quite done. Things don't exactly fit the way they have in the past, and nothing feels right.

I started to make a list here of the things I've heard them complain about. Height, weight, hair, eyebrows, skin... but the list is honestly endless.

More than anything else, my heart aches for the girls (boys too, but mostly this applies to girls) who squeeze their bodies into too-tight clothes because it's THAT important to be wearing the same labels as their peers. Who cares if the shirt is stretched beyond recognition, as long as it reads Hollister across her chest, right?

Who among us doesn't understand the pain of wedging ourselves into a too-tight pair of jeans? Do you know how many students I've had to send to the nurse for new clothes after they've bent over too far and split their pants? Or because they've been embarrassed when a peer points out the hole in the inner thigh? Chub rub is a real thing!

And the truth is that it DOES matter. The easiest way to become a target is to be different from your peers.

I remember this well.

When I was in 8th grade (where I was the new girl in school), there were three girls on the cheerleading squad who were my same size. The problem was that there were only two skirts left. Our coach ordered a new skirt, but of course, it didn't look the same as the others, which were probably decades old.

I'm not sure how I was selected, but I ended up being the girl with the different skirt.

I tried SO HARD to pretend like it didn't bother me, but the truth is, I was mortified. I was convinced that every spectator was focused on my "wrong" skirt. I was certain they'd assume my uniform faux pas was my own fault rather than a lack of supply. Even though no one ever said a single word to me about it, I made all sorts of assumptions about what they were thinking.

There were tears. Oh, there were tears. Often. When I knew no one was looking.

So I know my students are shedding tears too. And I wish, more than anything, that I could say something to give them the confidence that things will get better. I wish I could get them to see themselves the way that I see them.

But I'm also very aware that my saying anything will only make them more self-conscious. Because it's confirmation that someone else notices what they don't want anyone to see.

So I say nothing. And I cry on the inside for them. And for me.

March 25, 2015

SOL 25: When School Fights Happen

I broke up a fight at school today.

And this time, unlike last time, I didn't get hurt in the process.


When a verbal altercation escalated to the point where one student shoved the other, my protective instincts took over.

I guess this is how you know I really do love my students. I say over and over again that I will never step into the middle of another fight, and yet...

I guess I take my role as "school mama" pretty seriously!

As soon as her hands made contact, I lunged for her. I wrapped my arms around her, as if I were hugging her with her arms at her sides. Then, I basically picked her up like a chess piece to remove her from the situation.

This student is EASILY six inches taller than me!

I mean... I can only imagine how hilarious this must have been for the 200 kids watching this interaction.

Please let me know if you see any videos go viral!

Thankfully, the altercation was quick and the other student didn't retaliate (for which I give him a ton of credit because this he is a child who struggles to make good choices much of the time), which made it pretty easy to intervene.

This is the FOURTH fight I've seen in the past three weeks in my building. There was actually another one at dismissal today that I didn't see. And just so you don't think this is normal, I'm fairly certain these are the only ones we've had all year.

The natives are restless!

Two more days until spring break, my friends!

March 24, 2015

SOL 24: Why I Avoid Heels

Do you ever have those days where you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a mirror and think, "Damn... I look good right now!"? I'll admit these days happen few and far between for me, but this story takes place on one such day.

It was date night. I was feeling good in my new, sexy-yet-casual top, trouser-style, cuffed jeans and pointed-toe, killer stiletto heels. (I didn't realize how long ago this took place until I re-read that line. Trouser jeans? I don't think I've worn anything BUT skinny jeans in years!) After a delicious dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, my then-boyfriend drove us to the mall where we planned to see a movie. 

The theater at this particular mall is pretty much the only thriving business. Most of the stores have closed, so it's a pretty safe bet that anyone here is going to see a movie. This is important for my story because you have to understand that there was a sizable group lingering around the ticket counter. Things are always more interesting when there are witnesses.

As we started walking toward the theater, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was looking into the lines ahead, half trying to decipher which line would be quickest and half hoping at least someone would look my direction and acknowledge how cute I was looking in that moment.

Somehow, as I strutted down my little "runway," the heel of my stiletto got caught in the cuff of my jeans. Before I even knew what was happening, I was sprawled out on the cold tile like a drunken bum outside a bar (and no... I had not been drinking).

There was no way to recover gracefully from this fall. I wanted to shrivel up into a ball and DIE! Thankfully, the bruise on my ego was far worse than the one on my knee.

Thankfully, I haven't seen any video evidence circulate on the Internet! Though, I would totally laugh at myself if I saw one!

March 23, 2015

SOL 23: Spring Break Countdown

How you know it's the week before spring break:

Joel and I go grocery shopping together every week. We scan through our mental rolodexes and agree on four or five dinners we want to eat, and then we grab a few snacks and sides. Lunch has become much easier for me since I gave up my traditional turkey sandwich route and simply throw leftovers into a container each night.

Sometimes, the dinners we pick are chosen for necessity. Twice a week, for example, I tutor after school and get home two hours later than normal. By that time, I'm always starving, so starting a complicated meal just doesn't work for us. Instead, I need either a crock pot meal or something I can throw together in 20 minutes. Anything longer causes me to get really HANGRY (hungry + angry), and then bad things happen to good people.

Case in point, I was really hungry when I got home today and kinda crabby because of a stupid sinus headache from this sickness that just will not quit. Joel offered to throw some chicken nuggets in the oven for us, and I may have started to cry because there was no way I could wait that long. I knew it was irrational as it was happening, and yet there were tears falling from my eyes. Over chicken nuggets.

And that's when he looked at me sideways and put my portion in the microwave.

I love how he doesn't try to fight with my crazy!

Anyway, the real point of this post was about our grocery shopping and how it's the perfect indication that the spring break countdown has begun. Yesterday's shopping cart included chicken nuggets (which we NEVER buy), fish sticks (which I have not eaten since childhood but I was sold on my Costco sample and decided we needed a bag), stuffed peppers (Can I make delicious ones from scratch? Yes. Did I buy them prepared from the deli instead? Also yes.), and salmon (which I immediately portioned and marinated so we only have to throw it in the oven).

I love how we both just knew this would be a week where neither of us would care about making a real dinner. Why try to fight it?

(Don't worry, Mama, I bought salad, mangoes, asparagus, and eggs to balance it all out. That makes it all better, right?)

The goal for the next four days is survival!

March 22, 2015

SOL 22: Not What I Paid For

Joel and I went to Costco today for our weekly stock up. There's something about that store (maybe... possibly the samples) that makes me SO INCREDIBLY THIRSTY.

Every time we go there, I feel like I'm crossing the Sahara with the worst possible case of cotton mouth, which is actually odd because they offer plenty of mouth-wateringly delicious foods. At the very least, you'd think the saliva thats produced from my Pavlovian response should make the trip bearable, but not so much.

We decided to stop at the gas station for a drink. I try not to drink pop. I worry about the acid on my teeth and the fake sugars (because I only drink Diet Dr. Pepper) being really bad for me. That being said, this was an EMERGENCY! OF COURSE, though, the gas station was fresh out of DDP. My only source of recourse was Starbucks drive thru for a green iced tea.

I ordered a Venti, which you can clearly see on the label.

Does that cup look like a Venti to you??

Me neither.

I want my money back!

Actually, that's not true I just want the rest of the tea I paid for.

I wish I had noticed this while we were still sitting in the drive thru. The funny part is that I DID notice that it looked small next to Joel's 44 ounce drink in the other cup holder. But I just thought ANYTHING would look small next to that!

And don't mind the clear appearance of the liquid in that cup. It IS, in fact, water because I finished off the green tea in that "venti" cup in 3.5 seconds and was still thirst. Because it was like 90% ice. So, I had to refill it when we got home.

So... who is bringing me another green iced tea????

March 21, 2015

SOL 21: Makeup Gone Wrong

I've never been the girl who needs to put on a full face of makeup and styling my hair just so before leaving the house. I can pull myself together just fine for a job interview or date night, but when it comes to the daily grind, sleep always wins out over waking up earlier to primp. I go through these little spurts where I vow to make the extra effort to tend to these things because I really do notice that I feel cuter and more confident with a little swipe of mascara and coat of lipgloss. But the truth is that this never lasts long.

After more than a week being sick, I decided to make myself look cute today. Not because I had anywhere to be but more of a "Fake it till ya make it!" mentality.

So, I stuffed some Kleenex up my nose (because the dripping is still a thing), which was actually wise because it hides the raw appearance of my columella (I had to look that up. That's the name of the piece of skin between your nostrils. Mine is currently peeling... cute, huh?), turned on a podcast, and made myself comfortable on the bathroom counter for a zoomed in view of my face in the mirror.

I think I was a little overly ambitious in my beauty attempts because not only did I attempt to use my eyebrow kit for like the third time ever and master the smokey eye once and for all, but I was also determined to master the fake eyelashes I've been toting around in my makeup drawer for YEARS.

I was blessed to be born with very long eyelashes, but they're pretty sparse. I love the lush look of a full eyelash set, and how it makes me feel so glamourous. I've worn them a couple times, usually for Halloween, but I've never been able to apply them myself.

But THAT was going to change... today!

Now, I've spent countless hours watching makeup and hair tutorials on YouTube. In fact, if watching videos was the secret to success, I would be working with A-list celebrities and hosting my own show on the Style network right now.

Unfortunately, though, watching videos does not always translate to successful application.

Can anyone explain to me why the lash glue, which promises to dry clear, never actually turns completely clear? I always look like I took a bottle of Elmers to my eyes. What am I doing wrong here???

And why is that ONE corner ALWAYS lifts? Always! Are my eyes a wonky shape? Are the lashes made for aliens? I'm always pushing down one corner, praying it will stick, but they appear work like a teeter totter. As soon as one side goes down, the other side rises up!

I thought maybe I needed to trim them a bit. Like maybe they were too long to follow the curve of my eye. I've seen like a hundred YouTube tutorials on this, and it seemed pretty foolproof. But YouTube lied. It did not help. In fact, it made it look cheap and like it ended too abruptly.

Even though I wasn't satisfied with my lashes, I thought I'd move on the rest of the eye. I thought that maybe it would come together with some eyeliner and shadow. I think you're supposed to use liquid eyeliner with false lashes, but that's WAY out of my league. I learned this after too many tears in high school. No need to relive those moments. Pencil would have to do!

Somehow, I must have gotten the eyelash glue in random spots on my lid (that somehow DID dry clear because I didn't know it was there). And as it turns out, eyeshadow looks different on the lid itself versus the glue on your lid. The purple color I was using looked blotchy and made me look like I lost a fight with Mike Tyson.  

I truly regret not taking a picture for you all!

An hour later, I resigned myself to the fact that I will never be Michelle Phan and reached for my jar of coconut oil.

If there's one thing I CAN do right when it comes to makeup, it's remove it! Coconut oil is my FAVORITE beauty product. It's a great moisturizer, makeup remover, hair mask... basically my go-to product.

I'm sticking to lipgloss and mascara, people.

March 20, 2015

SOL 20: Writer's Block

For hours today, I've tried to figure out what slice I could share, but I've come up with nothing.

The truth is, nothing overly interesting or worth contemplating happened today.

Except for my writer's block.

Which made me think about my students and how they must feel when I ask them to put pen to paper daily.

What if there's just nothing to say?

How annoying would it be, right now, if I had a teacher standing over me, demanding (albeit nicely) that I start writing RIGHT NOW when I can't think of a topic.

And how cliche would I sound if I explained, "I'm thinking!" for hours on end?

But it's the truth!

Even when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. I'm more aware of my daily interactions because in my brain is a little black notebook that holds a list of blog-worthy moments. I look for ways to tie them together and make them engaging to my readers. I reflect more.

And I read the writing of others. Oh, do I read the writing of others! I admire their styles and tones. I search for inspiration in the words they create, both in craft and content. I ponder their questions and connect their stories to my own life.

This is how I am different today because of this challenge.

That's actually pretty powerful. And to be honest, I didn't expect it to change me at all. Not any more than participating in the monthly Currently party or sharing a book review.

But here I am writing every day. Not because someone has a linky party for me to address or some other weekly commitment I feel obligated to fulfill. I write because it feels cathartic. Because I'm accountable to my readers. Because it helps me to be more reflective of my world.

And I think this is what good writers do.

Although I've been a blogger for years, this is the first moment I've truly felt like I could authentically call myself a writer.

And I have to say, it feels really good to be sharing parts of myself aside from my life as a teacher. I feel like it allows me to connect with this writing community in deeper ways.

Thank you for being a part of mine!

March 19, 2015

SOL 19: When Your Ex Calls

The other night, I got up to go to the bathroom and found the following text from a number that was not listed in my contacts:

Usually, I would just chalk it up to being a wrong number, but there was something familiar about this phone number that had me pause. After thinking about it for a minute, I realized I knew EXACTLY who that was.

And my skin crawled. 

Why, dear God, is he reaching out to me after more than a DECADE????

You see, back when I was young(er) and dumb(er), I dated this douchebag. I could honestly write a book about the reasons this guy was a jerk. Number one on the list would be that he would have underage me come over on his weekends with his son, and then he'd go off to the bars with his boys while I babysat. I was the one who dyed Easter eggs and made gingerbread houses with his kid while he would sleep off his hangover the next day. See? I picked a real winner there.

And the truth is, I knew it from day one. But I didn't believe, at the time, that I deserved better.

Also? I really liked his kid. I had more fun hanging out with his kid than him!

When our on-again, off-again relationship finally ended for good, we parted ways and haven't spoken since.

And then I wake up to this text at 4:30 in the morning!

I debated, pretty much all day, about how and if I should respond. So many options crossed my mind:

I mean... the possibilities are endless, really. But after consulting the experts, I decided to be mature and say nothing.

Being an adult is NO FUN!

And then last night? He texted me AGAIN!!!! Same text. Different spelling. Because he clearly hasn't learned a thing in the past eleven years.

And this time... the jerk had the nerve to wake me!

I still haven't responded... because I'm trying to be an adult even though my inner bitch is dying to unleash the library of snarky memes I have saved on my phone. I have no one else to use them against!

So, tell me... would you respond???

March 18, 2015

SOL 18: What I've Learned About Blogging

I checked my blog statistics for the past couple weeks and saw that my readership has actually DECLINED (pretty dramatically, actually) since I started this Slice of Life Challenge.

So... um... maybe I'm not a very good writer after all. Maybe I should stick to sharing teaching tips and book reviews?

Welp, I've made a commitment, so you're stuck with my slices for a bit longer, people.

Sorry... I guess!

If it's any consolation, my blog was never really popular to start. Not long ago, I hosted a giveaway for a FREE UNIT, and not one person entered. I couldn't even give away my product! And it's a darn good product, if I say so myself!

I've also hosted linky parties where only one or two people will participate.

I'm like the kid at lunch no one wants to sit with! Bahahaha! I promise I'm laughing at myself about this because I don't feel this way IRL at all. Apparently, I'm much more appealing in person that online.

And speaking of linky parties, I'm participating in exactly ZERO this month because they don't count as slices, so I'm not drawing in new readers through any of those. Truth be told, I'm kinda okay with this part, though, because I think the linky parties can get a little out of control. There are SOOOO many, and I sometimes feel they take away from the authenticity of writing... but that's just my two cents.

As my student recently said (to a peer), "You're always trying to give us your two cents. Don't none of us want your money!"

The truth is, blogging is a lot of work. You have to commit to writing regularly, which means you're always looking for new topics. And I've learned that it definitely helps to have a focus, which I think (somewhat) explains part of the recent decline since my SOL posts have little to do with my teaching life.

Like anything else in life, the relationships really matter in the blogging world. You have to build relationships with your readers because people want to connect with you as a writer. They want to feel like they're on the journey with you, and this is why I like to reply to comments via email. The few people who have commented through this challenge have all been no-reply commenters, so I can't email them a response. That part makes me sad because I can tell I really like some of these people but don't have a good way to keep the conversation flowing! Because nothing is better than watching an online friendship blossom into a real life friendship. I've honestly met some of my favorite people through this little blog.

Blogging, for me, has brought out all of my insecurities. I feel like I'm back in middle school, not quite sure how to style my curly hair and terrified that my peers will spot the giant zit on the end of my nose. But it's also pushed me to put myself out there in ways I never thought I could. I guess this is why I can never really walk away for good. I take breaks from time to time, which is probably natural when you've been blogging for YEARS like me, but I always seem to come back to it.

March 17, 2015

SOL 17: No More Runny Nose

You know what's the greatest thing since sliced bread?

The Neti Pot!

Do you have one because O.M.G. this baby is a game-changer!

The flu that I seemed to have all weekend somehow morphed Sunday night. It was an unexpected and pretty violent transformation, I have to say. Without warning, my sinuses became my sole focus because it wasn't just uncomfortable, it was painful. The pressure was UNREAL, like a car compactor at the junkyard had somehow found its way into my sinus cavity and decided to play an evil trick on me.

And then someone decided to turn on the faucet, on full blast. I'm talking well beyond an annoying drip here, people.

I finally pulled out the Neti Pot last night with the hope of finding some relief before bed, and I have to say, it was pretty much instant.

Full disclosure: I've owned this Neti Pot for a few years now, but I don't recall it ever working this well in the past. But this time, I was able to fall asleep breathing through my nose and without toilet paper crammed up each nostril!

Oh... don't pretend you don't do the same thing!

Pretty much any time I get a runny nose, you can expect to find me walking around the house looking like this:

Sexy, huh?

I only wish it were appropriate to do this in pubic as well because I single-handedly used half a Kleenex box today, and my poor nose looks like Rudolph and feels so raw!

The first thing I did when I got home this afternoon was fill up my Neti Pot for round two. 


I don't even have any Kleenex in arm's reach right now, and I've typed this entire post. That may not sound like much, but TRUST ME... this is what #winning feels like!

I better check the package to see how often I can do this because I can definitely see how this can be addicting!

March 16, 2015

SOL 16: Don't Eat Me!

Joel and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful 75 degree weather this afternoon and went for a walk along the prairie path by our house. At one point, we found a little clearing that led to a lake and stood there for a while, admiring our new neighborhood.

The grass was still pretty soggy from the great thaw, so we decided to walk up the hill back toward the sidewalk since my Crocs (don't judge me for comfort) were making my feet all wet and muddy.

As we continued our walk, we greeted some neighbors.

"Did you see the coyotes?" one asked.

"Um... what coyotes?" we asked.

"Oh, there's a den of them like right where you were standing. I was going to say something, but..." he started to say.

"You thought... this is WAY too entertaining! Let's see what happens!" I interrupted!

"I figured you were adults and knew what you were doing," he laughed.

"You were right on one account, but thanks for the heads up! We'll stay away from there now that we know!

Apparently Joel and I have a thing for attracting wild animals. Remember when we were almost shark food?

This is why I don't go camping, people! I'm CERTAIN I would be mauled by a bear!

March 15, 2015

SOL 15: The Annual Suburban Pilgrimage

I don't know how it works in other cities, but it's common knowledge that here in Chicago, people from the city do NOT enjoy the suburbs. I realized this to be true when I moved back home after college (in the city). If I wanted to see my friends, my ONE choice was to shlep into the city because it's honestly like pulling teeth to get them to come visit me!

"It's too far!" they complain without recognizing that the distance is EXACTLY the same when I drive to the city to see them.

"There's nothing to do in the suburbs!" they whine! Uh... we have pretty much everything you do. Bars, restaurants, parks, theaters... what are we missing? Traffic, no parking, and high taxes!

Today, though, some of my favorite city friends (whom I've known for 15 years now) make their annual pilgrimage to the suburbs to hang out with me for my birthday. Just like last year, we spent the afternoon reminiscing and laughing as we prepared and ate a meal (unstuffed cabbage, potatoes, kale salad, and carrots) together.

And Matt brought pie because that's what he does best!

It's honestly one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Good food, good company, and good conversation.

It was the perfect way to end our not-feeling-so-good weekend.

March 14, 2015

SOL 14: Sensory Play with Bobas

The flu has definitely hit our home! Aniya got it first, and was a miserable, poopy, pukey mess for a couple days. Luckily for us, she sickness has made its way to the rest of us.

Unfortunately, it's made for a pretty boring day around here. I tried to do as much cleaning as possible today, assuming the house needed a good disinfecting.

And then I had the bright idea to make us some smoothies. Smoothies make everything better, right?!

Remember when I talked about how we were on a Boba Search last weekend? I tried round two using a different package I purchased at the Asian market (I bought three because I wasn't sure which was best). This package cooked up quickly and got nice and chewy, just like it's supposed to.


I added it to our homemade smoothies.

And then they immediately hardened again to the point where we were spitting them out of our drinks.


Joy Yee Noodles needs to hurry up with their renovations and open their doors again. This is NOT WORKING for me!

The good news is that we were able to reuse the bobas as a sensory activity (thanks, Pinterest) for Aniya, being that they are completely non-toxic. I just threw them in a sturdy bowl with some water and let her splash around after dinner!

She LOVED them!

She liked squishing them in her fingers, stirring them around in the water, and throwing them ALL OVER THE FLOOR!

At one point, she dumped out half the bowl onto her tray, which the thought was REALLY funny!

Oh, that girl!

I tried to capture her fun on video to share with you all, since this was the most exciting thing that happened in my day, but my battery died before it could finish.

March 13, 2015

SOL 13: It's the Freaking Weekend, Baby!

Today is Friday the 13th. If you have children or work with children, you know EXACTLY what this means!

Fridays are hard enough.

As are seventh graders.

Especially on a Friday.

And this week? The snow FINALLY melted in Chicago, which means we're ALL itching to get outside and enjoy the warm weather.

Cabin fever is real, guys! It's real AND fatal.

I survived the week, but just barely. This whole Daylight Savings Time thing kicked my big ol' booty like it's never done before. It's only ONE HOUR! How can one hour have such an impact on me whole week?

It didn't help that I had a terrible stomach ache all day today. Bad enough that I wasn't interested in eating. And if you know me, I'm ALWAYS interested in eating. Even if I just ate. I'm one of THOSE girls.

I'm glad I made it through the day, but I'm even more grateful that it's Friday. I'm going to take a nap now, and if it lasts until tomorrow morning, I'm TOTES okay with that!

March 12, 2015

SOL12: A Day Without My Phone

When my alarm rang this morning, I didn't have a job for today, which hasn't happened since January. Of course, getting all that work is AWESOME for me, financially, but I REALLY wish school started later in the day. I wish the districts around here would jump on all the research indicating how late-start schedules lead to better learning. Sleeping-in is hands-down my absolute favorite thing about weekends, so I was kinda excited about the fact that I could turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.

Except that I got called-in just six minutes later. Those six little minutes, though, had a HUGE impact on my morning! It was enough that I ended up walking out the door with wet hair, a disgusting lunch that I couldn't even eat, no breakfast, no tea from Starbucks, and NO PHONE!

Does anyone else feel completely naked without access to their cell phone?

I'll admit that I even had a slight moment of panic about how I would get through the day without my phone. I mean... how would I entertain myself at work (my classes watched The Little Rascals today) without access to Facebook and Instagram? 

And then I realized I wasn't going to be able to call my boyfriend to tell him because I can't remember his number.

Because it's 2015, and I couldn't even tell you the last time I had to dial his number into any phone. Probably when I added that contact information!

Thankfully, I remembered that I have a (really old and temperamental) iPad in my bag. Hello, Facebook!

But then all through the day, I realized how dependent I've become on my phone because I kept finding myself in need of things I couldn't fix without a phone. And then I would think about what I had to use in the past for such things. 

We definitely had to be better planners when we didn't have access to smartphones. Need directions? MapQuest the address and print out the map before you leave! Need the time? Wear a watch our buy a clock (and, for my students, learn to read one)! Want to call your boyfriend? Memorize his number!

Thankfully, I made it through the day unscathed! 

But nothing important that I had missed. Not an email, text, or phone call. Nothing. Apparently I'm much more important in my head than in reality. 

And now I'm painfully aware that I have an iPhone addiction and probably need some sort of intervention. From all technology, really.

It's a good thing it's finally getting warm because I think I need to spend some time outside!

March 11, 2015

SOL 11: My Principal was Talking About Me

I think it's safe to say that my biggest priority as a teacher has always ben to build relationships with my students. I believe that my students don't care what I know until they know I care. This is especially true for those who don't get that kind of love at home.

I've seen too many students act out because they're simply desperate for attention. In my experience, it's better to give them positive attention than to have them act out to get it later. And when I say positive attention, I'm not talking about praising them for good behavior or academic progress, I mean talking to them about their lives, showing interest in their activities, hearing them out when they have something to say. 

This mentality has served me very well, especially when working with underprivileged children. The "bad kids" are usually some of my favorites because they respond once we've established a relationship. 

Do they still try to push boundaries? Of course. They're teenagers! But they also respect me when I set limits because they know it comes from a good (and necessary) place. 

Last week, my coworker, whom I sub for often, told me she and our principal were talking about me. Of course, a statement like this always makes my heart flutter with anxiety. I think it's PTSD from the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad principal I had several years ago. 

"Don't worry! All good things!" she assured me.

She said they were talking about how she's been out so much this year due to illness, meetings, and professional development, which she feels really guilty about. And then she expressed her relief in being able to ask me to cover for her because she knows her kids are in good hands. 

This is the conversation she relayed to me:

Coworker: Thank God for Erin. It's so great that we have her. The kids really like her!

Principal: They REALLY DO!

Coworker: Even the bad kids. They act like jerks everywhere else, but when Erin is here, they're awesome!" she replied.

Principal: I've noticed that too!

Coworker: It's too bad she doesn't have a job. She needs to get hired. She's so good for the kids!

Principal: I agree! We're working on it!

Of course, this made me BEAM with pride. I knew what my principal thought of me when I was in my long-term position, but I had no clue what she saw/heard about me since that ended. Principals spend so much time in meetings or out of the building that it's hard to figure out what they know. It makes me feel really good to know that she sees the relationships I've built with our students and that the tough kids respond well to me.

She's told me before that she's willing to make phone calls to recommend me for any opening, but I also know vacancies are limited. I've been hearing things through the grapevine that there may be an opening in my building for next year. It hasn't been announced yet, but I'm holding on to that piece of hope.

Cross your fingers for me! This could be my year!

March 10, 2015

SOL 10: Love is...

Love is...

My middle school students dressing in "Bears and Bling" just for me

Gift bags full of candy, partially-used body lotions, and sparkly accessories 

My boyfriend cooking me a comfort meal of burgers, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese when he dislikes all three

His sister bringing home a turtle cheesecake even though she only likes it plain

His brother (and his girlfriend) staying in tonight to eat and hang out with us instead of going out with their friends

Endless baby snuggles and kisses

Cards with hand-written messages that make my eyes a little teary and then fill the room with laughter

A phone call from my BFF whose two year-old twins said my name for the very first time

Public declarations from my parents that today, I am their favorite 

Shout outs and well wishes on social media from friends and family, near and far 

It was a good birthday, indeed!

March 9, 2015

SOL 9: My Favorite Drug

I'm not typically a coffee drinker. I will drink it on occasion, but only under the right circumstances.

Hot during winter, usually from Dunkin.

Iced in the summer. McDonald's is my favorite (don't shoot me).

ALWAYS flavored, preferably french vanilla.

None of that dark roast, French press stuff that Joel drinks. Yuck! It tastes like battery acid! I don't really enjoy the flavor of coffee itself. Hence my preference for that french vanilla creamer!

Thank you, Dunkin Donuts, for providing my much-needed caffeine fix this morning FOR FREE!

This year's birthday perk came at EXACTLY the right time!

I managed to finish my cup before the end of second period, which is extremely unusual for me. I usually sip on my beverages until lunchtime, but today, I would have preferred my caffeine in IV form.

I'm insanely jealous of those on spring break right now. I would LOVE a week off to adjust to this time change. Until then, I shall be relying on caffeine to get through my mornings. It's a good thing Starbucks also sent me a free birthday cup!

My students, however, don't seem to be having ANY difficulty adjusting to Daylight Savings Time. Aren't adolescents supposed to need more sleep than adults? Not one of them appears groggy today. Not one.

They should really work on bottling "YOUTH" and offering that intravenously. That's kinda like caffeine, right?!

March 8, 2015

SOL 8: The Bubble Tea Mission

I have exactly ONE Korean friend. Her name is Sunny, and I love her to pieces. We used to work together, back when I worked in Corporate America and have stayed friends for more than a decade now!

Sunny LOVES sharing her culture with me, probably because her white friends all come from work. No seriously. Her wedding included more than 500 guests, and she told all her family to be nice to the white people because those were her coworkers! That still makes me laugh!

Another thing about Sunshine (as I love to call her) is the fact that food is kinda what makes the world go around. On her honeymoon in Hawaii, I think 90% of her photos were of the meals she and her husband ate. Because of this, though, she makes a great travel companion (I spent a week with her in Atlanta and never ate so well in my life) and can recommend restaurants practically anywhere!

Last year, Sunny met up with Joel and me for dinner at a local Pan-Asian restaurant with the goal of teaching us about some new foods to try. Everything she recommended was drool-worthy. She is probably the person I trust most when it comes to trying things outside my comfort zone... and we're talking about a very small circle there. This restaurant, in particular, has become one of our absolute favorite places, and we always order the exact dishes she recommended.

After dinner, she took us to the H-Mart, which is an Asian market. We walked up and down the aisles, where she taught us about all sorts of foods with labels we couldn't read! haha By the time we left, we had a bag full of all her favorite childhood snacks because she insisted we try them. I'm not ashamed to tell you that we sat on our bed at midnight, devouring taste-testing everything in the bag. As usual, she was spot-on!

Today, Resha and I were looking for toddler activities we could do with Aniya, and one thing we found on Pinterest included edible water beads, which you make with boba (tapioca pearls) used in bubble teas. This led to a discussion about how much we L.O.V.E. the bubble teas (or... technically freezes) at this restaurant.

And then Resha revealed that she didn't even know what we were talking about.

In intervention was 100% necessary!

So, we grabbed Aniya and took a family trip to the restaurant. And then were sadly reminded (by the empty parking lot) that it was closed for renovations.

Backup plan: there's a place at the food court in the mall that sells them. They're not AS good, but they will work in a pinch.

And then I had the brilliant plan to stop at the H-Mart across the street to buy bobas there. Then, we could make our own at home! Also, we needed some for the water beads activity.

Resha and I ran into the store while Joel waited in the car with the now sleeping toddler. We were supposed to "hurry up," but I couldn't take Resha to H-Mart without introducing her to our favorite Asian snacks. So, of course, I had to buy them all.

They were a hit. Everyone loved them. Aniya especially enjoyed the Banana Kicks. They're the exact consistency of Cheeto Puffs, but they are banana flavored.

I know... that sounds absolutely disgusting. That's what I thought too.

But Sunny recommended them, so you know I'm not lying when I say they are FABULOUS!

We stopped at the mall for our drinks, only to be told they were all out of Bobas for the night. The people in line before us were the LAST customers to get it. I tried pleading with our cashier, telling her that we had a boba virgin who NEEDED some pearls in her life.

No dice.

So, we got the freezes anyway and decided to add our own bobas at home.

Because all the directions online said they only take 5 minutes to make in a pan of boiling water.

Except that the Internet is a bathroom wall (a saying my high school English teachers ingrained in my mind) and FULL OF LIES.

Our bobas were not done in five minutes.

Or ten.

Or even thirty.


It took 1 HOUR AND 20 MINUTES for our bobas to be the wonderfully squishy balls we desire.

And when we added them to our drinks, the consistency somehow changed. They weren't as squishy anymore.

It's a good thing I bought two other brands because WE are on a mission, people. Resha NEEDS some good bobas in her life!

March 7, 2015

SOL 7: My First Mean Girls Experience

I was in fifth grade when I experienced mean girls for the first time. Not the movie; that didn't happen for more than a decade more. I'm talking about when girls form cliques and can be downright nasty to those not in their group.

For some reason, during that year's cheerleading sign-up, they ended up with enough girls at my grade level to make two squads (every other grade level only had one). I remember this being a very big deal because we literally camped out all night in the parking lot of the park district office to reserve our spots in a registration line that rivaled Black Friday. We brought snacks and took turns sleeping in someone's car until morning. It was all very exciting.

The park district decided that all the fifth grade cheerleaders would learn two routines for a "tryout" to decide on which squad to place each girl. Placement not only determined which squad you competed with but also which squad you cheered with on the sidelines of the football games. This was a VERY big deal to the ten year-olds in my suburban town. It was all anyone talked about for weeks.

I remember ALL of the girls practicing during recess for days and discussing which squad we hoped to get. I can LITERALLY still do the cheer and dance from this tryout. That's how ingrained it is in my mind!

Since I had been a dancer since age two, so poms was my natural inclination, but after a conversation with the coolest girl in my class, I changed my mind.

"We're all going for cheer!" she told me.

Of course, I wanted to be with that group, so I practiced my cheer night and day. I taught myself to stiffen my moves rather than flow like a dancer. I had that routine DOWN!

On the day of the tryouts, they brought us into the room in groups of three. The girl who told me all her friends were trying to get on cheer threw me for a loop when she flat out didn't say any of the words during the cheer. When the coaches stopped us and asked her what was wrong, she told them she had forgotten the words.

She knew the words. I knew she knew the words. had practiced with her daily.

In that moment, I knew she had lied to me. I knew she wanted to be on the poms squad and, for some reason, didn't want me to be part of it with her.

I had known this girl and played with this girl since kindergarten. And now, for some reason, I was being ostracized by her and her group.

I said nothing, but I know my jaw was on the floor. I continued with my tryout and then went back to the group of girls waiting in the hallway. I remember trying SO HARD to convince myself that those girls didn't matter, but in reality, I was crushed. And embarrassed. And confused.

When I was placed on the cheer squad, I should have been celebrating. I worked my butt off to earn that spot and thought it was THE place to be. Instead, it felt like a consolation prize. One by one, the mean girl and her group shrieked with delight when they learned they were poms together.

Twenty-plus years later, I still think of this when she crosses my path. Although we are friends on social media (despite my moving out of that town just two years later), I can't help but wonder if she even has a clue what she did to me back then.

It's so true what they say about people forgetting what you say but always holding on to how you made them feel.

Try to remember that as you go about your days, especially if you work with children.

March 6, 2015

SOL 6: Supersize Nothing

I spent this past week subbing for the health teacher in my building who was out for surgery. We started the nutrition unit, which included watching Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me. This wasn't my first time watching the documentary, but I guess it resonates with you even more when you have to watch it five times a day.

After 30 days of eating only McDonald's, Morgan gained 24.5 pounds. It took him 14.5 months to lose that weight again. That's a L.O.N.G. time!

No wonder people give up on diets!

Speaking of diets, Jared from Subway is featured in the film. I had to pause the film in every class and explain who he is. This made me feel ancient.

They've never even heard of the Subway diet.

Nor did they know the big mac song.

I made the fatal error of mentioning that when I was a kid, many kids had birthday parties at McDonald's. They looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. They simply couldn't fathom a birthday party at a fast food establishment.

In hindsight, they are totally right. What were people thinking in the 80s? Must have been all that aerosol hairspray that got to them!

A few kids told me, throughout the week, that their parents tried to take them to McDonald's for dinner, and they were very uneasy with this option. One kiddo was very proud to tell me that he convinced his family that McDonald's was too unhealthy, so they went to Portillo's instead.

My favorite moment of the week, though, was when we were discussing a clip in which an "expert" compared smoking to obesity. He was trying to say that if it's okay to shame smokers, we should be able to shame fat people for their food choices.

At least that was my takeaway.

One of my kiddos saw it differently and wasn't afraid to say so.

"I think you're interpreting that wrong," he told me before he proceeded to tell me his interpretation. It was SO CUTE! And SOOO Common Core!


After he explained his thinking, I told him I understood his point but still disagreed with the original statement

"But you're not mad at me for disagreeing with you, right?"

I assured him I was not. lol

It was the highlight of my whole day!